It has been approximately two years and three months since I deleted my last standing social media account, Twitter, and embarked on living without social media.
While I am by no means an expert on how to maintain an exuberant social life, I have managed a modest social life post-social media despite not being so good at maintaining constant communication with people.
These past few weeks, I gave myself permission to cave into my digital addiction while going through many unpleasant life changes.
Practicing digital wellness requires mindfulness, discipline, and dedication, which I felt I didn’t have the energy for. So, I held on tightly to my phone and binged on the internet day after day to escape the discomfort of dealing with my reality.
The internet provided an easy and fast escape from my emotions.
I unblocked Safari. I binged on articles, blogs, forums, and YouTube videos for hours. I stayed up all night on my phone until I fell asleep from exhaustion. I relapsed to being an information junkie.
My phone became an emotional crutch, dutifully providing comfort and escape, one article (and another inspiring blog post!) at a time.
I wouldn’t have been inspired to write this post if it didn’t dawn on me yesterday that I’m experiencing physical effects from my excessive digital use.
My eyes feel strained. I feel lethargic. I have constant minor headaches. I feel aimless if I’m not glued to a screen. I can’t fall asleep without my phone. Few of the many reasons I have been practising digital wellness for the past few years.
A digital break can be extremely helpful for people who feel like they are always on their digital devices being constantly bombarded with notifications, or feel that they are hopelessly addicted to their black screens.
Time is a precious, nonrenewable resource. Being aware of our digital consumption is not just an aspirational lifestyle choice for the riches.
Why digital break?
In a previous post, radical digital detox ideas, I mentioned that taking a break from the digital world is something I’m working hard to implement into my daily routine to avoid wasting time online.
Whenever I feel negative emotions creeping up, I find myself looking for escape by seeking distractions. Usually, these distractions come from browsing the Internet.
My favourite escape is reading comments on online forums, mostly reddit, and getting lost in other people’s stories, opinions, and ideas. It might have something to do with the fact that I find how humans interact with the social world extremely fascinating (hello, Sociology major).
However, escaping from uncomfortable feelings and emotions via the digital world almost never solves the issue, but simply prolong the feelings.
This is especially true when we are also avoiding taking care of our responsibilities. After hours spent escaping into the digital world, the real world still awaits us. The dishes remain undone, the dog unfed, the deadlines approaching, and the house disorganized.
Whatever we escape into is also almost always pointless crap, because moments later we have no recollection of whatever it is that we just watched or read to distract ourselves.
It is simply escapism.
From personal experiences, getting away from digital distractions forces us to avoid escapism and confront whatever feeling we might be feeling, wether it is boredom, sadness, or anxiety.
The best escape is to get busy with the activities and responsibilities we value, and be in the moment.
Spending time online must be an elective experience rather than a default setting.
While there are many ways to incorporate digital breaks into our routine, and is unique to each individual, here are some ideas I have found to be useful for taking a break from the digital world.
Daily Digital Breaks
Right after waking up, do not use phone, laptop and other digital electronics for at least an hour, or until after leaving the house. After work, put all digital stuff away and out of reach for a couple of hours. This practise is truly a bliss, especially, if your work requires staring at a computer screen every day.
Weekly Digital Breaks
Once a week, unplug from screens and go offline for a whole evening. Indulge in offline activities that make your life better, such as reading, getting creative, cooking and cleaning.
Monthly Digital Breaks
Once a month, take a day off from your smartphone, laptop, tablets, tv, etc. and do things completely offline. Another challenge is to put phone away for a whole weekend and do productive and fun activities in the offline world.
For me, the word radical describes a person, an action or a thing that is especially impressive, inspiring, extraordinary, revolutionary, visionary, exciting, remarkable, exceptional, amazing, marvellous, sensational, incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, spectacular…
You get the point.
Naturally, some of my approach to practicing digital detox have been extreme, like quitting social media altogether, and trying to flush my phone down the toilet* (spoiler alert: iPhone 4s doesn’t flush).
However, I still struggle with spending WAY TOO MUCH time mindlessly browsing the Internet, obsessively checking my phone for messages, and compromising my productivity because of digital distractions.
Below are four radical digital detox ideas I have been trying to implement for digital wellness.
1. Delete your data subscription
The first time I downgraded my phone plan to a basic text/call only plan was back in 2015 after being introduced to frugal living, and everything seemed to be a waste of money. The online frugal living community was in agreement that paying for data was a waste of money.
Since I spent most of my days on campus or at home, which meant access to wifi most of the time, and I was also a typical broke college student, it made sense to cancel my data subscription.
For over two years without data, not only did I miraculously survived, but it made me realize that 24/7 internet access on my mobile device wasn’t a necessity. Some of my best days during those times were when I spent a full day without wifi access.
However, living without data required some pre-planning.
For instance, for GPS, I’d take a screenshot the routes on Google Maps when I have wifi access and save it to my photo library. I’d download music and podcast episodes for offline access.
An unintended outcome of not having online access on the go was that it limited me to whatever was available for offline access on the go, minimizing the paradox of choice.
I recently cancelled my data subscription once again to minimize online distractions.
You are an impressive, inspiring, extraordinary, revolutionary, visionary, exciting, remarkable, exceptional, amazing, marvellous, sensational, incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, spectacular individual and do not need social media to validate your existence!
Personally, when I had social media accounts, I had a personal rule that I could only have a maximum of two social media accounts at a time.
You can create a personal rule(s) to manage your relationship with social media, instead. What would be some rules that work for your lifestyle or needs?
3. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, infinitely
My phone has been on Do Not Disturb setting for years now. Except for phone calls, my phone doesn’t vibrate or ring for notifications.
You ever hear/feel your phone vibrate or ring, but when you check it there are no notifications? It blew my mind when, after a few months of putting my phone on Do Not Disturb, that feeling completely went away.
That alone is honestly so amazing.
I truly enjoy not being constantly startled by the buzzing and beeping sounds of my phone.
If it is something urgent, people will call, and if I ever need to turn notifications for texts, I can simply turn off Do Not Disturb.
For now, I don’t own my phone constant attention.
4. Schedule digital breaks
This is something I haven’t really done but would love to make part of my digital detox plan.
The idea is very simple. You schedule a time frame in your day, week or month to take a break from all digital stimulation. During these breaks, you unplug everything and then you go out into the wide wild world to find something to do… *gasp!*… offline.
This doesn’t mean you stare at a wall until the time is up.
This would be a great time to spend time with… actual… humans, read that novel you have been meaning to finish (a physical copy, of course!), and take a three-hour long bath just with your thoughts.
P.s. If you are feeling for some next-level radical-on-crack ideas for digital detox, check out 15 Ways to Digitally Detox, a hilarious guide to step away from it all.
P.s.s *To be fair, I only did that cause I couldn’t stop obsessively texting a person I no longer wanted to contact. That says more about me than the phone though. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯