A few weekends ago several members of the Ai-Media UK team took part in Scope’s Digital Detox. The aim was, in Scope’s words, to spend 48 hours with “no phone. No tablet. No Facebook. No Google Maps. Nothing with a screen for a whole weekend. Just real life.” The Detox aims to help people unplug and reengage with real life, while raising funds to support Scope’s work with persons with disability.
Sounds easy, right?
Not quite as easy as we expected. For a couple of our colleagues it was genuinely impossible to stay offline, despite their good intentions. Peter Provins, Business Developer Manager UK, barely got as far as floating the idea; “My kids tried to lynch me when I mentioned it!” he said, before adding that the venue for his family’s summer holiday “plays music in the pool through an iPad connection and the wonders of Wi-Fi.” That’s right - technology is now so ubiquitous that it can literally talk to us underwater.
Digital Detox was clearly going to be tougher than we’d expected.
Some had more luck than others. Some did find it difficult “not being able to take photos or tell the time,” but found she had more time for “reading and day dreaming.” On the face of it, day dreaming might not sound like much of an achievement, but considering how little time we probably spend nowadays with our own thoughts, maybe that is a victory after all.
Rémi Coventry, Captioning Manager UK, was away on holiday at the time, so you might expect he would’ve found the Detox a breeze. “TV was actually very easy to do without, as I was on the beach during the day and on the balcony or in the bar in the evening,” he said (with a hastily added “not to rub it in”, of course).
But if avoiding big screens was relatively simple, avoiding the little ones was a lot trickier. As Rémi put it, “it became clear that I have some weird instinct to reach for my smartphone during conversations when there’s something no one has an immediate answer to, such as translations, sports scores, tomorrow’s weather.”
While Rémi didn’t miss some of the less interesting social media posts (haven’t we all scrolled speedily past a friend’s photo of their lunch?), overall he felt “really detached from everything, not being able to use the internet.” Of his overall experience he said, “I wouldn’t be against doing it again, but I’d certainly like to choose when to do it.”
Having quit Facebook a year ago, and having planned a weekend of outdoor activity, I naively thought the detox would be easy. On Saturday I checked out the British Library’s comics exhibition. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, but it did require a lot of effort to dodge all the tablets providing interactive information that were dotted around the room.
By Sunday I’d managed to control the urge to continually pat my pockets in search of my phone, and was able to enjoy a coastal walk in Hastings with some friends. It was only at this point, about 36 hours into the challenge, that I understood how enjoyable it could be to stop worrying about what was happening online and just concentrate on what was going on in front of me.
So, were we a successful bunch of Digital Detoxers? Overall I’d say we were, but it was a far harder task than we’d expected. Credit must go to Scope for setting the challenge because, despite its toughness, it did allow us to re-establish awareness of our immediate surroundings, something that ultimately had a positive and de-stressing effect. It really brought home how embedded we are in our digital environments, perhaps without even realising it.
Did you participate in Digital Detox?
Written by Martin Cornwell, Captioner