A few weeks ago, I had been feeling unusually tired. It was a week where there was simply too much negativity on social media.
In my free time, and lately there hasn’t been much of that, I “live” on Facebook. I like to reconnect and touch base with friends old and new. I enjoy posting my thoughts and reflections. Sometimes, though not very often, I rant. I try to keep my wall as positive as I can, but the last few weeks in February were such a challenge.
One day, I just decided to shut everything off. I did something I had never done before—I quit FB and all other forms of social media for a full 24 hours. For me that was a big deal. I thought I wouldn’t survive the day without cheating, but I did.
There was just something inside of me that said, “Quit it.” And I ended up having the best 24 hours of my life spent away from all my gadgets—yes, including my phone because the people who mattered the most were with me that day. It was wonderful!
Forbes Magazine writer Frances Booth says, “By doing a digital detox, we give ourselves the chance to step back temporarily. When we return, recharged, we’re more productive and have a different perspective. We’re also likely to have at least one great idea while we’re ‘not thinking about it.’”
And she was right. After 24 hours I felt refreshed, invigorated and more peaceful. I slept better that night, ready to face the new workweek. I did my detox on a Sunday.
Rhythms of nature
Booth says that a digital detox gives us a chance to get back in tune with our own rhythms and the rhythms of nature, rather than trying to “keep up” with the pace of the digital world. “It lets us dictate how we spend our own time, rather than spending all our time answering other people’s demands.”
I wasn’t as confident that I would last, so I committed to the bare minimum of 24 hours. Some detox experts say the ideal would be 72 hours, or even more if your life will allow you to.
Weekends and holidays are the perfect time to do a detox. Some people attempt it for the entirety of the Lenten season. I laud them. It isn’t as easy, especially if your phone or tablet is like your appendage. I wanted to do a detox because my inner compass was telling me that my gadgets were contributing to my stress that particular week.
There are many reasons why people do a digital detox. For some, it’s to recharge; for others, they need the quiet space away from the connected world so that they can be alone with their thoughts; while others just want quality time with people who matter.
‘Head to the beach’
My friend, Dr. Edwin de Leon, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices in Newport Beach, California, often prescribes this to parents of troubled teens: “Go to the beach, or to the mountains, for a full weekend with your child, and leave all your gadgets at home. If at most, just bring a phone for emergency calls, but let them be highly restricted.”
He adds that the method has yet to fail, and almost all parents he has suggested this to return from the trip with a renewed relationship with their child. Connecting, unhampered by gadgets, is sometimes all that it takes to touch the heart of another.
The method can be used not just with children, but also with spouses, partners, friends, colleagues. Mealtimes must be nongadget zones whether at home or when you are out for business or on a date. It both saddens and annoys me every time I’m out and I see a parent more connected to his/her phone than to the child across the table.
Plan your digital detox. Choose a time that’s realistic for you to switch off for 24 hours or more.
During my digital detox, I was able to focus on conversations a hundred percent. I caught up on my reading, spent half an hour longer at the gym, slept more soundly. There was no urgent need to “share” or shoot an Instagram-worthy picture of the moment at hand. All of that could wait when I was done with my 24 hours of peace and quiet.
Like any detox, there will be a sense of initial unease. Just ride it out because the feelings pass. Before you know it, after you have focused on your other plans and activities that do not require screen time, the 24 or 48 hours you’ve committed to detox will be over.
Unplug and really connect
Now that I’ve survived the initial detox, I plan to do it on a more frequent and regular basis, and will attempt to go a full long weekend just being still.
We owe it to ourselves, to our families and important relationships to unplug and truly connect.
I love what book author and Huffington Post blogger Tamsen Fadal wrote in her piece “Eat, Pray, Unplug”: “It’s OK to just be still, to unplug and enjoy yourself. You are going to be with you for a long time, and the sooner you get to know yourself the better off you are. If you are going to be moving forward with renewed energy and strength and clarity for a restart on life as you knew it yesterday, I found that to unplug helped me tremendously.
“It allowed me to be still and it allowed me to look around at what I like to do: read, walk, explore, organize, and most importantly have some quiet time to get ready for new challenges. Once you know who you are, you will know what you can and cannot accept for the future.”
Sometimes there is just too much going on in the world, in our personal and professional lives. How do we regain that balance? A digital detox can provide clarity and answers.
Prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can’t imagine.
Looking forward to more unplugged days ahead.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cathybabao.