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Switching off from digital: I did a digital detox for 48 hours, here’s what happened


by Melissa Finch | 18 June 2018

When I found out I would be taking part in a digital detox my first thought was bring it on! I don’t think I spend too much time on social media, and I welcomed a break from those pointless #goals posts I normally roll my eyes at. I really didn’t think anything would change too much, I only check my phone a few times a day anyway, detoxing would be really easy…well I was in for a rude awakening.

As a Marketing team we are always having creative meetings where we each bring different ideas to the table about our next campaign. We decided that we would have a Power of Digital theme, and one idea was for everyone to complete a digital detox. The detox would help us realise how far digital has come, and how much we actually rely on it every day. Now these meetings are held months in advance, and so I thought that it was something “future Melissa” would worry about. However, as the days grew closer, I realised this wasn’t going to be as easy as I initially thought.

The rules

We were presented with a list of rules to follow, and the one thing I didn’t even think about was television. We are only permitted to watch channels one to five. At first I was thinking no problem, I don’t even watch that much television, but then it dawned on me. On Monday 4 June 2018 the new series of Love Island would be starting on ITV2, not only this but I realised I only ever watch catch-up TV. I would miss Pat Phelan’s demise on Coronation Street, and I would have to wait two full days to find out if Mike Ross is exposed as a fraud on Suits! My partner was ecstatic, I wouldn’t be able to watch Love Island, and it meant he would have my full attention instead of me sat in front of the TV upstairs on my own. He refuses to watch Love Island and thinks reality programmes like these encourages people to filter their lives and airbrush everything, making no one unique or different. He has a very good point, and maybe my detox will stop me comparing myself to the Instagram models not only during the 48 hours but long after this too.

My friends said I was crazy for agreeing to do it, especially on the Love Island launch date, and they couldn’t believe I had agreed to lock my phone in a safe for a full 48 hours. This is when I realised I actually rely on digital way too much. How pathetic that I was worried about missing out on watching a reality TV programme I could easily catch up on in 48 hours, it’s not the end of the world!

Getting on with my detox

I started to think about the smaller things I would need to give up, my alarm clock I use on my iPhone, the digital train ticket I use on a daily basis to get to work and my actual day-to-day work such as emails. We are only permitted to check our emails up to four times in one day. As a digital marketer, how am I going to complete my day-to-day tasks!? It was time for me to get organised. I pre-booked my train tickets and had them printed off at the station – the “old fashioned” way. I spoke to people to pre-arrange the dates and times of meetings, and if they wanted to cancel then I would only find out when I get there and no one else turns up. I swapped my Netflix Suits episode for a free Metro newspaper on my commute to and from work. (I particularly enjoyed the “rush hour crush” section).

I was starting to look forward to this detox, maybe I would notice more on my daily commute. Maybe I would wake up and hear the birds chirping in a morning instead of the annoying sound of my alarm clock blaring out at 5am every morning. This was going to be a challenge, but one I was ready for.

At 8:27am on the morning of my digital detox I sent one last message, this was it I had officially started my detox. I was expecting my morning to be really productive at work, I would get loads done without checking my phone every 30 minutes. However without the distraction of my phone I was just distracted by the fact that I wasn’t distracted by my phone, if that makes sense? It was on my mind that I wasn’t allowed to do certain things, don’t forget you can’t go on LinkedIn I would tell myself, and don’t forget you can’t keep checking your emails. I didn’t know where to start and all I could think about was what was going on in the digital world, was there something I was missing out on? However after our weekly team meeting I was back on track, I had my trusty desk diary with all my projects and to-do lists.

For the rest of the 48 hours, I actually forgot about my phone during work. I did end up getting more work done, and I wasn’t as easily distracted by messages or emails popping up. I didn’t respond to emails immediately like I usually would, and the world didn’t end. Everything still got done in a timely manner, and I was more focused on work projects. I actually felt more organised without my phone. I couldn’t cancel on my gym sessions last minute, which meant I actually went to them, and instead of ringing my partner on my lunch hour like I usually would, we spoke about our day over the dinner table in the evening. I really enjoyed this time we spent just talking and catching up.

At home I usually check my work emails in the evening, however being unable to do this made me completely switch off from work, and just enjoy being at home. I did find it really difficult to not put Love Island on, I was so tempted and almost talked myself into watching it without telling anyone. I can honestly say I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. I would only have let myself down, and I knew I would have been really disappointed in myself if I had. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, I didn’t miss out on much because I didn’t have updates on my phone from friends with conversations of what was happening.

I wish I could say I slept better without having my phone, but the truth is I didn’t. I was so worried I would over-sleep that I was constantly waking up and checking the time. On the second night I had my partner set an alarm on his iPhone, I wasn’t sure if this is classed as cheating, but I really needed a good night’s sleep.

By Wednesday morning I was ready to get my phone back, I wanted to reconnect with the world. My commute was boring without my phone and I missed the efficiency of my train e-ticket. I think this was the only part of the detox I found the hardest. Being at work without my phone was easy as I had things to get on with, but it was the 50 minute train journey I dreaded. It didn’t help that my trains are regularly cancelled or changed at the last minute, I had no choice but to sit and wait for another one where usually I would have messaged friends for a lift.

Throughout my detox I learned that digital in our everyday lives is neither good nor bad. Digital isn’t just about social media or television but about making our daily lives more efficient. The thought of living without it seemed unthinkable, but the problem was not to do with digital at all but how we control the way we use it. Similar to a balanced diet, it’s best to have everything in moderation. After my digital detox was over I went back to using my phone just as I did before, however I now limit how often I use it during work and I make sure to leave it in another room during dinner time in the evening.

Would I do it again? Maybe, but it would need to be as a set challenge, had it not been a task for work I probably would never have done it. I learned that I don’t have to be connected to my device and I can live without digital…I just don’t want to.

Get involved: are you going to challenge yourself to a digital detox? If so, feel free to send in your experiences to us and see if you can live without digital.