In my dream, there is an alarm ringing and we have to all get off the red London bus and that will make it stop.
The Mr is muttering “turn it off”. “Uh?” “The ringing. Make it stop”.
Hang on! The alarm is in the room. Like a swimmer coming up for air, I struggle from sleep to wake to make sense of the noise. I grasp around for the source of the ringing, a matt grey alarm clock and somehow I make it stop. I slump back on the pillow, drained by the act of waking up. This is my welcome to a week of digital detox. Withdrawing from my phone dependency.
The phone usually a source of soothing morning alarm sounds is tucked in a corner outside the bedroom door. I know exactly where it is. The week begins by not waking up to phone and therefore not scrolling through social media before my feet touch the floor. I offer to make tea instead.
Apparently, the average user checks their smart phone in excess of 150 times a day. I’m not sure I want to count.
The week of my detox is half term, thus I will be a more present parent. My son shows me the Minecraft world he is currently working on, it’s impressive. He is firmly not giving up Minecraft for a week.
I like my phone, I take it everywhere. It might be in my pocket but I don’t always browse it. I don’t have any notifications. I think I’m not too bad when it comes to digital dependency. My partner, the Mr, has no social media accounts. His mobile is simply a phone – you can’t even send him an emjoi. He never wastes time on random Facebook threads or disappears into the hole of celebrity instagram accounts (when he could be reading a book) instead he watches episodes of Ice Road Truckers. I’d go smug Facebook update over IRT every time.
I’ve been set this challenge by Time to Log Off they sent me the alarm clock and a colouring book. I’m doing it to just to see if I can, Time to Log Off organise week long digital retreats. Could I do an entire week with no devices at all?
It’s half term and while the alarm clock is aesthetically pleasing, I don’t use it for the rest of the week. It’s loud and goes off once. I have three consecutive alarms on my phone to prompt me from sleep. Mornings aren’t my thing.
Parts of the challenge are fine “eat your meals in a different room from all digital devices today”. We have a ‘not at the table’ rule. In the mornings, I don’t have time and at lunch I often need a break from a screen. I know if I’m on-screen all evening the quality of my sleep is poor. I know that, I don’t always do as I know.
My small boy and I are heading to London, we decided that we won’t do ‘devices’ on the train, we will do colouring instead. I feel like an A* parent, this is rare, so I share the occasion via instagram. In fact, via scheduling I don’t give up on instagram.
We are staying with my Dad who doesn’t have wifi or a computer, it’s a data draining well. I “remove email” from my phone. I need to collect emails for various projects, I end up in a cafe with an ipad. Which is a nice escape and puts that bit of the day into a neat compartment. I read more than I would normally. Bonus.
I fail at the next challenge. Phones weren’t part of my youth. I travelled on night buses and took long walks home without the reassurance of a phone. I’m supposed to leave my phone at home when I go out for the evening or a walk. I’m getting a bus and later a cab and meeting up with people. I hesitate, I want my phone. My Dad and my small boy want the option of keeping touch. There are times for disappearing incommunicado, as a parent at half time, less so.
By the end of the week I’ve reached the pinnacle of removing social media apps from my phone. I find myself hovering near a ipad. Weekends is a time when I drop off social media, parenting takes over and in the downtime I have, I’m obsessive about reading the Saturday papers, the feel of the paper between my fingers, the bubble of reading, the crossword. A lack of social media isn’t that noticeable.
Looking back at the week, like most smart phone users probably do check my phone a lot. I like how having a phone fills small gaps in the day with ‘something’. I could be doing nothing in queue at the post office, but I am using that time more effectively (I tell myself) by scrolling through someone’s weekend photos. When I see them their weekend is a conversation booster. A phone is convenient, suited to the palm of my hand, the size of my pocket, in a way only my wallet also is.
Sunday is Valentines Day, the challenge is to not look at devices at all. It seems no one else has opted in to the challenge; the Mr is reading the news on an ipad and my son is Minecrafting, he has discovered you can put a saddle on pig. Obviously, as a parent I over think my child and screen time, that wasn’t my childhood. I ran in the woods, he doesn’t have the same opportunities, my role is to find the right balance. Saddling pigs for a hour or two keeps us both sane.
Much like our usual Sunday, I potter in the kitchen. We do abstain from devices because we’ve planned a walk, followed by fish and chips. The Mr and I have a conversation about celebrity couples gleaned from my instagram knowledge. This is the sort of day that my phone would sit at the bottom of my bag. Which is how day’s like this should be, there are times and places for smart phones and the Mendip Hills isn’t that place. You don’t want to miss the details; the hollow tree that looks like a fairy house.
I like the lack of distance that social media in the palm of your hand creates, I’ve always been of the opinion it’s about balance, the week reiterated that. It is useful to pause and consider if you have the balance right. I’m not perfect, I could improve but I could be a lot worse. I’m happy with that.
Could you digitally detox?