I work from my sofa, staring at a computer screen all day. Even if I walk away, my fitness watch alerts me when I receive emails, texts and the like. Due to the fluid nature of our current situation, I check the news frequently, from numerous sources. And due to being perpetually concerned with money, (ugh, I know) I tend to check my online bank statements daily.
I am also currently in the pursuit of acquiring more freelance writing gigs, doing research for an academic article in collaboration with my brother and considering a career change/small business venture. And all of these things are done digitally. A study published in Psychological Science suggests that negative effects of screen time kick in when you spend 2/3 or more of your waking hours online. That might sound like a lot, until you realize you spend 10 hours working or procrastinating in front of your laptop, plus 1.5 hours on your phone for news and social media, plus around 1 hour for FaceTime, Zoom fitness class, or texting… And you have over 12 hours, or 3/4, of your waking time spent in front of a screen.
I told my neighbor the other night that I wanted to spend more time looking into the eyes of animals and he chuckled, calling me melodramatic. I didn’t intend to sound so serious but it occurred to me that I can’t keep this up. I need a break—more than an hour or two outside with my dog. I need a real break.
I decided to take a digital detox. No screens whatsoever.
First, I made arrangements. I let the people closest to me know what I was planning. Admittedly, I felt rather guilty. One of my friend’s grandfather just passed from the coronavirus. But I still made my digital detox work. One of my favorite mantras in life is that I can’t help anyone if I don’t help myself. And I believe that taking a day away from technology was vital.
How I spent my day
I slept in. I don’t know what time I woke up as I never checked. (All of my clocks are digital.) I went grocery shopping, got an abundance of exercise and made food on the grill. I lounged around and lazily read fiction. But then I realized I’m sick of having things to stare at. That’s what prompted my needing a detox to start! So I spent as much time outdoors as I could. I walked with Nitro. We smelled some sweet yellow flowers which left me feeling grateful. We stared at the clouds. I meditated and pondered certain aspects of my life.
I don’t know what time I went to bed that night but I slept until 10:40 a.m. the next day. Typically, “sleeping in” for me means waking at 8 or 9 a.m., so I certainly wish to attribute the increased sleep to the detox. In fact, I woke up feeling so good I wanted to continue the detox.
The most challenging part
I had no choice but to be alone with myself. I live alone during a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find a sense of connection to others via digital communications. Or even clicking around here on PD.
I imagine folks on social media could really struggle with this. But I really feel its worth it!
The most profound part
All that time “alone” with myself got me thinking about what I need out of life. I believe the time alone afforded me the clarity I needed to move forward. I didn’t have the option to seek online reassurance or validation; I simply had to reckon with my reality. I was forced to trust myself. And I’m terrified, but I know I’ve got to make some changes. If you’re feeling like you’re at a crossroads, I highly recommend taking a break from the digital realm.
Another lasting result of my digital detox is I’m less likely to text. I’ve been opting for phone calls instead. Admittedly, there is a time and place for both. But for me lately, I’m just burnt out on screens. I will definitely be incorporating digital detoxes into my life often.
Have you considered a digital detox?!
Photo: Thought Catalog via Unsplash