When I was approached by a production company earlier this year about undertaking a Digital Detox experiment for a BBC Wales radio documentary, I smugly accepted. ‘How hard could it be?’
My phone has been my companion for many years now. My legal guardian who looks after my friendships, keeps me updated with the outside world, entertains me and puts me to sleep at night. The world of Twitter and Instagram acting as my alarm each morning and tucking me in at night. News outlets would be my breakfast date, one thumb firmly stuck to the screen scrolling through the papped pictures of Z-listers and articles on a man in Sheffield who grew a potato which resembled Boris Johnson, the other hand shovelling in the cereals of which I’m not acknowledging the taste. I best get ready for the day. I jump in the shower, my right arm stretched out from under the waterfalls thumping away on the touch keyboard of my phone. Now is the the perfect time to check my emails. The conditioner sits fully soaked in my hair as I click through the link of the ASOS newsletter and end up eight pages deep on their sale section, again. *Ah I just remembered!* The Disney themed PJ’s I spot in the sale remind me of my friend who’s just got back from Disneyland. I open up Facebook and search for their profile, I must brush up on how their trip went before whatsapping them to ask how their trip went. I look down and catch a glimpse of my thighs, is that cellulite glistening amongst the suds of my shower gel? I should probably go to the gym at some point. I open up the gym’s app and scroll down through the classes. I might go to yoga tomorrow night, but I’m sure I’ve got something planned. My thumb hovers over the calendar app and scrolls through the dates- AHA! That’s it, I’m already booked. Dinner with a friend at the new Sri Lankan restaurant in town, the perfect opportunity to get some new Instagram content. Yoga and cellulite will have to wait. Maybe I’ll do some stretches at home. I step out the shower and dry myself with one hand, my eyes fixated to the screen in my palm. Google: Quick Yoga poses you can do at home. I scroll through the articles with little intent, I’m laying down on the bed, my ten fingers wrapped around the device. Ouch. A shooting pain runs through the front of my head. What it could be? I wonder if Google can answer me. Google: Sharp pain on side of head, causes. Brain Cancer. Brain tumour. Blood clot on the brain. I nervously laugh, what does Google know anyway. My phone rings, it’s mum, up pops the front camera. ‘What are you upto?’ ‘Oh nothing much really.’ We FaceTime for half an hour my mum, the dog and me. ‘I’ve got to go, I’ve got things to do’ I close down the screen and open up ‘Notes’. I’ll jot down a to-do list to help motivate me. ‘Head to the gym. Buy some food. Need toilet roll and milk. Check invoices have been paid. Book eyebrows appointment’. I think I deserve a break. It’s lunch time now, what should I make? Google: Healthy lunch recipes for one. Chickpeas, Lentils, Eggs and Salad. As if, my eyes roll as I reach for the tin of beans and sausages. Two minutes on the microwave, what do I do in this wait? I open up Twitter to have a debate. “@_JessicaDavies Are beans a breakfast food or a side dish for dinner?” I scroll through the trending. Impeach him. Man City. #MondayMotivation. PING. Thank god, the timeline had stopped refreshing. My second date of the day, and this one was hot. Beans and sausages and an Instagram bot’. I scroll through the feed as I finish my lunch, then open up WordPress ‘It’s time for some work’ I think. I type and I type, the words flowing out then my thumb reaches down and clicks out of the app. It’s reaching for Insta’, it needs to see more. A mind of its own, it’s becoming a chore. I look at the clock, it’s 1.30pm. I’ll be awake for another twelve hours, I’m sure.
Ditching social media came at the perfect time for me. I was a slave to my screen, brainwashed by the apps. My mind trained never to switch off from the online World, my thumbs muscle memory trained to automatically hover directly over the Instagram spot. I was frustrated, I was tired and I was ready to make a change. The Digital Detox saw me have all my social media passwords changed and the app’s deleted. My online world vanished in a flash. I felt a sigh of relief but also a gasp. What do I do now? How do I bide my time? When I’m waiting in a que until it’s my place in line? When I’m waiting for a mate in a coffee shop or a pub? And where will I post all the pics’ of my grub? I met professionals, professors and influencers throughout the week who gave me some tips on how not to be weak. Do I ask for a selfie? I’ve got no page to update. By the time I’m back online it’ll be four days too late. I spent time getting to know the crew I worked with, chatting and sharing our thoughts and ideas on the car journeys instead of building up an invisible wall and having my nose permanently stuck to my screen in any awkward silences. I took onboard all of the tips the coach gave me, I bought an alarm clock so my phone wasn’t the first thing I see. I felt better, I felt energised, I felt like I’d turned a corner. But just three months on from my experiment and to the digital-free world I’m nothing but a mourner.
I’ve got a new phone, its exciting and new. I’m constantly checking and swiping and scrolling and uploading. I hate the habit I’ve got back into, the addict I’m slowly becoming.
In the New Year I’ve decided to make it my goal to stick to the limiting of my social media usage. I felt so much better when I felt I was utilising my time effectively, and enjoyed engaging with social media more when it was viewed as a reward. This time around I won’t be going into the Digital Detox blind, so hopefully I’ll be able to spot the slip ups more efficiently and correct them before the endless scrolling creeps back into my life again. Do you think you could complete a Digital Detox? What tips would you give to help prepare me for my break offline?
My Digital Detox Documentary is available to listen and download on BBC Sounds here