This is a guest blog written for Consciously Digital by Liberty When five employees of Liberty, a digital marketing agency based in Cardiff, decided to undertake a 12-day digital detox to raise money for the homelessness charity Shelter, a few eyebrows were raised by both colleagues and friends. After all, when they aren’t tweeting and blogging online, they’re usually found with their nose in their phones or browsing, shopping and gaming using the internet.
The rules were:
No personal internet use – no email, streaming or shopping
No social media – no communicating with friends on social networks and WhatsApp
No mobile phones – no texts or calls except in emergencies
Here’s what Philip, Siobhan, Joe, Carys and Rosella (L-R) gained thanks to their journey: Better sleep. “I’m sleeping better, getting up more easily in the mornings and really enjoying the company of the people I’m with rather than the people I’m connected to online”, shares Siobhan. “I definitely feel like my head is a bit clearer”, Philip agrees. Feeling of freedom. “I’ve enjoyed the lack of a screen. Working in digital marketing sometimes it feels as though you’re doomed to see the world through a screen by default”, says Rosella. Becoming more polite. “It’s really noticeable when people are sitting there staring at their phones when you aren’t doing the same. It makes you realise how rude it actually is“, Siobhan says. “Realizing that I am probably one of those phone-starers that Siobhan talks about wasn’t a nice realisation, but if this thing has made me more sociable I’m well up for that”, Philip adds. Increased productivity. “My productivity has increased at work and breaks have become shorter as a result of not chatting on my phone.” What they struggled with However, detox wasn’t that easy. “I enjoyed nothing about it and soon gave up!” says Joe. A few other things that were challenging: Lack of communication seemed by far the biggest obstacle for a detox. “We take for granted how simple it is to speak to people across the world. Suddenly I wasn’t able to speak to a lot of my friends and family who live away from me. That was very strange”, shares Philip.“Yeah, I failed because I couldn’t speak to my parents abroad – and also I am currently selling my house and couldn’t go without the internet during the process,” seconds Joe. “The lack of constant daily interaction with friends and family on WhatsApp really made me sadder, particularly in the first week,” Carys adds. Requirement to be more organized. “You also have to organise yourself better, which isn’t the easiest. I’ve not been able to tell friends when I’m running late, which happens a lot…“, Carys says. Lack of entertainment. “I’m a bit of a music snob and not being able to listen to my favourites on demand on Spotify has been vexing,” Rosella says. “I’ve also really missed Netflix”, Siobhan adds. Shopping. “I can just about handle a supermarket without having a meltdown, but buying things in real life has been quite difficult considering it’s the festive season”, Siobhan shares. Will this change anything in the long-term? Rosella – “It would be great to focus more on single activities rather than always multi-tasking. With a smartphone in your hand it often feels like you’re looking after a needy pet”. The notifications, the endless group chats, the news, the cat GIFS you’re missing out on if you go a couple of hours without it… It’s exhausting.” Philip – “I’ve enjoyed taking a break from social media, but I will go back to it – because I do miss keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world. Nevertheless, I do hope it won’t take up as much of my time as it used to. The same is true for my smartphone usage. Siobhan – “I’m genuinely considering giving up social media. I haven’t missed it at all and feel like I’ve been so much more productive and just downright happier without it. I’m also really tempted to go back to a non-smartphone, but I think that would take more adjusting to. Smartphones are useful for things like maps etc., but I managed before group threads and Spotify mobile, so I could probably manage again!” Philip – “For me, the detox was generally a wake-up call that highlighted how I use the internet to do nearly everything I like doing. From finding recipe ideas and streaming music and films to keeping up to date with current affairs and football news, it certainly affected how I do things day to day. You can read more about Liberty’s Digital Detox or donate to Shelter Cymru on its blog today.