It's almost half-term over here in Blighty. That means for many of our readers an opportunity to plan, mark and catchup on schoolwork. We know that work for a teacher never ends but have you considered taking a few days to just unplug from the tech-driven world? This article looks at the benefits of a #DigitalDetox (and brushes past the irony of how you are reading about it 😮)
A world of digital
We live in the digital world. That is simple, pure fact. Statistics show that large percentages of the world regularly use a digital tool in one way or another. In fact, in a world closing in on 7.4 billion people, 3.4 billion of these are internet users. That is a phenomenal 46%. Yes, 46% of the entire world is using digital in just one form.
These statistics continue with their craziness. In 1995, for example, just 1% of the world used the internet. Admittedly these were dark ages of internet connectivity; the days of dial-up modems [shudder].
Numbers continued to increase rapidly, in fact they were up tenfold between 1999 and 2013. The first billion users were reached in 2005, the second in 2010 and the third in 2014. That is 2 billion more people using the internet in less than 10 years!
Time for a break
So, with so many of us glued to our smart phones and computer screens is there a point where we should just take a step back. A point where we remember what life is like, you know...out there (and no, sorry people, Pokémon GO does not count)?
Enter the Digital Detox, a term filled with unerring irony but one of notable consequence! Why ironic? Well, let us tell you! We are willing to bet that less than 1% of people who have heard this term heard it through organic word-of-mouth. The other 99.9% read it online somewhere. On 5th August 2016, the term began to trend on Twitter. Companies who offer genuine Digital Detox retreats and treatments all advertise online. Google images is awash with pictures of trees, beaches and sunsets pasted over with inspiring Digital Detox quotes. The plain truth is that being able to switch of from digital requires you to be plugged in first.
Why we should Detox from tech
But what is a Digital Detox, really? You'll be pleased to hear it doesn't mean you'll be chugging pints of apple cider vinegar, honey and cinnamon or eating a pallet of go-go-gadget berries. No, it isn't that kind of detox; though chances are you will be slightly healthier afterwards. The Oxford Dictionary coins the term as:
A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
It may not seem like much but how many of us can say we absolute clarity the last time they went without using their phone or computer, telly or games device, or even their Casio Calculator watch for longer than 24 hours? Probably not many - let's be honest.
So with digital taking up so much of our lives - one study suggesting that surfing the web on devices can make up 25 hours a week for a majority of people (more than: One. Whole. Day!) - perhaps no time is better than now to say:
I am done with digital. No more shall I be a slave to the machine. No more will I buy shoes from my bed or tell my nan over in Oz that she has a painted her front room a bonza shade of blue. No! Today marks the last day digital has a say in my life...well, for a little while anyway.
Excellent, feeling excited? Nervous? Should you quickly Google sweaty palms and palpitations? No, it is fine. You'll be fine. Honest. So, let's go...Oh wait. What do we do?
Put the phone down - it will all be OK
Well, the answer to that is surprisingly simple. Sure there are guides, and suggestions, and blogs, and all sorts out on there on the digital waves. But let's make it easy:
DO WHAT YOU WANT...
...minus the need to Tweet about it or trying to squeeze it between Netflix and email replies. This is a chance to reconnect with the physical world and the people you know and love. Grab the kids, or your parents, or your friends (whoever they may be) and take them on a walk through your closest woods. If you are lucky enough to be near a beach take a stroll along the shoreline. No woods or beaches? Fine, find a field or a nice hill to leave you breathless. Heck, explore your neighbourhood. Go for a coffee in that place you walk past everyday but have only just noticed the name. Look! Did you know your neighbour had a palm tree in their front garden? No? You've only lived opposite them for 8 years.
Don't wanna go outside? It's ok. This is all about de-stressing and finding yourself in a world that is larger than a screen that fits in your hand. Drink tea. Read a book. Knit. Do yoga. Take arty photos on that dusty old analogue camera (just make sure it has film). It is all good and it is all for you.
The bottom line is this. Yes, we are more more social. Yes, we are more connected. Yes, we are a breath away from being on the pulse of pretty much anything at anytime. However, we are falling headfirst into the risk of becoming dependent on these factors. Studies show that phones are the first thing 80% of people check as soon as they wake up. There is something really quite scary about that number! Put it into perspective. There are 50 couples. Each morning 80 of those 100 will go straight for their phone while just 20 will perhaps give each other a cuddle or chat to one another when they wake up. For all the social connectivity digital allows there is a worrying trend that simple, face-t0-face connectivity is taking a hit.
So, do you feel that there are some truths to what you have read? Could you do with a little detox and experience reality again for just a little while? It doesn't have to be dramatic or for life. But it could have a really positive effect on your day-to-day life.
We would love to hear your views about this blog piece and your experiences or thoughts of Digital Detoxes. Please comment below.