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Life without digital – my 48 hour digital detox


by Michael Macfarlane | 10 July 2018

When I first floated the idea that myself and my team should do a digital detox as part of our ‘power of digital’ content campaign it was met with mixed reactions. Some of my colleagues decided the 48 hour detox would be easy, while others tried to forget the idea was even mentioned! If I am honest, after looking into what the detox would have to entail I was definitely thinking the latter. Having to hand over my shiny iPhone X seemed like a torturous task, whilst my own rule of only watching channels one to five on terrestrial TV filled me with fear. However, as it was my idea I quickly realised I would have to suck it up and get the planning underway.

Prior to getting underway I scheduled everyone’s detoxes in-line with their diary commitments taking into account birthdays and other events whilst ensuring mine was last on the list. I decided if I was going to do it I wanted to see how everyone else got on first – there was always the opportunity to pull out… right? Wrong, each of my colleagues took part and succeeded to my dismay which meant there was no way out. I had to take part!

Looking back however I am not sure what all the fuss was about, as with my colleagues I took part and succeeded – albeit with a few minor slip ups. The most surprising thing I found about the whole experience was the way I acted prior to starting my detox. I honestly acted as if digital was going to die, or I was being sentenced to some sort of life without digital. The experience in reality was fine, and I actually didn’t find it very difficult in the end! I had a fairly uneventful 48 hours that surprisingly didn’t kill me or impact my life in the way I thought it would.

Here is my experience of giving up digital for 48 hours…

The weekend before!

The weekend before my detox was due to commence I clung on to my phone as if I were about to lose it forever! I checked social more than usual, I constantly looked at the weather for the following week and I took the decision to message almost every contact in my phone – no matter how long it had been since we had been in contact. I even messaged my partner (who was sitting next to me) just to try and get some level of sympathy, which I didn’t get.

The quickest weekend in history, or at least what felt like it, ended with a Netflix binge and an above average number of Instagram posts just so my following wouldn’t miss me whilst I was incognito for 48 hours. The lights went out, and that was it, my final night of digital (for 48 hours)…

Getting ready to hand in my phone was quite upsetting. I got the tram to work, thinking about my digital tram ticket that is stored on my phone. I listened to Christina Aguilera and realised I wouldn’t be able to watch her latest live performance that was due to take place that evening. But worst of all I realised I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with anyone… What if the tram broke down and I got stuck? What if someone famous came on and I couldn’t take a selfie?

I arrived in work early at 08:10am. Looked at each of my social media platforms, sent another message to key people in my life, had a final check of the weather, and handed my phone in to reception at 08:29am. That was it, digital was gone.

Detox day one

After handing in my phone I got back to my desk, I had a quick moan to my colleagues about having to hand my precious iPhone into reception and I started to get on with my work. The next thing I knew it was lunchtime. It might be quite sad to say but I was proud of the fact I hadn’t even thought about my phone for a whole four hours! I thought to myself that this might not be as bad as I thought! I got through the rest of the day and left the office feeling great. I bought my tram ticket home, admittedly I did pay via contactless without even thinking about it, and arrived home with a slight spring in my step after having such a productive day.

The difficulty came when I got home! I walked in the door and there was my partner watching a series we were meant to be watching together on Netflix. I closed my eyes, and ran to the hall, angrily shouting in the process. I then realised that everything we wanted to watch was either pre-recorded or on Netflix, something I did not consider the night before. It made me realise just how little I watch TV as it was first intended. Instead I sat in what was left of the sun, watched Emmerdale (including the adverts), sorted my lunch for the following day, and after what felt like a very long and uneventful evening I called it a night (at 9pm) and tried to get to sleep in my oven of a bedroom.

Detox day two

Day two arrived, and I awoke groggy having had hardly any sleep. I am still not sure if this was down to my worry of not waking up without an alarm or the insane heat in my bedroom, either way the spring in my step was gone. I used my lack of sleep as an excuse to skip the gym, but really the thought of going without Spotify put me in a really bad mood. Instead, I got up and headed into work, buying yet another tram ticket – this time using cash I stole off my partner (sorry Gareth). My journey to work was also fine, I rarely get the chance to read or do anything on the tram as it only takes 12 minutes for me to get to work, and it is usually that packed it is difficult to move. I did however take great enjoyment in watching everyone avoid making even the slightest bit of eye contact with anyone else.

Again I had a fairly uneventful day, however I was not as keen on the 56 emails I came into. The majority of these were non important, but I would usually filter them the evening before to make my workload a little lighter the next morning. I told myself that I wouldn’t fail on day two still worrying about the fact that I used contactless, so I found it quite entertaining not doing things that would even slightly involve digital. I couldn’t turn the air-conditioner down (keeping me nice and cool), I was unable to help refill the printer with white paper (that’s a digital tool right?) and I decided to use the stairs instead of taking the lift (making me feel much better about not making the gym).

I did however have one minor slip up. As part of my role I look after social media, and I needed to get onto the company Facebook page which I can only access via my personal account. I loaded it up intending to look away, but I got sucked in by a post by my idol Christina Aguilera and clicked through. Does this mean I failed? I hope not.

Night two was where I struggled a little bit. My partner was out for the evening and I had to muster up all of my strength not to watch Queer Eye on Netflix. The whole world it seemed was watching some European team play Columbia in the World Cup, instead, I decided to put Wimbledon on and fell in love with Maria Sharapova all over again. Following an intense rally, and lots of grunting (from the TV I promise) I made lunches for the next day, packed my bag for a trip to London later that week and decided to call it a relatively early night at 10:05 pm.

My detox experience

So overall, my digital detox experience was fairly uneventful, and I got through it very much unscathed, despite the drama I made it out to be beforehand. I had a very productive two days at work, I wasn’t constantly worrying about other people and I actually managed to survive not looking at any form of social media (apart from a few work related posts which was allowed as part of the rules). The only negatives I can think of are the backlog of programmes I now have to catch up on (totalling seven hours) the inability to track my mum’s birthday gift delivery (which is another story altogether), and the £10.60 I had to spend getting to and from work.

At 08:30am exactly on Wednesday morning I picked up my phone, turned it back on and braced myself for the barrage of messages. Alas, I had four, three from my Mum. One wishing me luck, another wishing me luck again and one asking me if I had my phone back, and one from my Dad simply saying, “hah I’m using my phone”. I put the lack of messages down to me being very thorough and letting people know I wouldn’t have my phone. My partner on the other hand just told me that people didn’t care. Rude.

My top three tips for getting through your detox!

Don’t think about it too much! – I worried way too much about how I was going to handle my detox when in reality is was totally fine! Yes it made me realise I probably use my phone way too much, but it also made me realise I can live without it which is more important.

Use it as an opportunity – use your detox as an opportunity to connect with friends, get your head down and make the most of things around you. Not using digital made me take advantage of the weather and I feel much better as a result. Now when the rain arrives at least I will have some sort of colour, even if it is red.

Try not to take it too seriously – have fun! The reason you are doing this detox is to unwind and relax. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up a few times, and be sensible about what you class as digital. That way you can enjoy the benefits, without hindering you or others around you.

If you think that you could take part in a digital detox you can check out the rules I followed here. Remember to let me know how you got on by emailing me on michael.macfarlane@sellickpartnership.co.uk.