My relationship with technology is complicated. I work with it, I market it, I love it, I'm addicted to it, I'm exhausted by it....So I unplugged this weekend. No i-phone, no i-pad, no lap top, no TV. Here's what I discovered.
1. Losing My Religion - without my phone, I lost control of the music in our household. My husband hijacked the Sonos and played me music from the early 90's to remind me of a time before mobile devices when music was my obsession and passion. As I made Saturday morning breakfast to REM, I recalled a time when I did not worship at the alter of my i-phone. My fiddly fingers were twitching for my phone to check what Michael Stipe's been saying about Donald Trump, but instead I picked up my guitar and strummed along. Good result.
2. Lost Education - I realised that the way I consume Literature has dramatically changed since the early 90's. Nowadays, I am used to having my phone in my hand and exploring the wider themes and history of a novel and it's author. Google and Wikipedia are my companion readers. I wonder if modern writers are aware of that? Do they write knowing the words on Google will be an inevitable subtext to any unanswered questions that pop into the readers mind? Unable to run down the rabbit warrens of the various Political and religious conflicts detailed in the novel (The End of Days - Jenny Erpenbeck) meant that I engaged more deeply with the poetry of the language. The absence of distraction was welcome, the absence of knowledge was really frustrating. Mixed result.
3. What Time Is It? My phone is my watch, without it, I am clueless to the passage of time. There is probably some deep philosophical conclusion to be drawn here, but actually all it meant was that i finally had to learn how to set the clock on the oven. No result.
4. Family Ties - I was hosting a little tea party for my daughter's first birthday on Saturday. I had alerted my extended family and friends to my experimental unplugging, so they all knew to call my husband in case of any changes of plan to their arrangements and arrival times. Since the advent of mobile communications, all social plans can afford to be a little more fluid. All I really learned was that no one took my detox very seriously and I received a regular stream of texts all weekend with the usual questions and updates of family life. This made me happy, not only because I was able to feel slightly superior that I had indeed stuck to my guns but more because texts make me happy. It's reassuring this ambient 'always-on' connection and on reflection, I think it's a wonderful thing. Joyful (and slightly superior) Result.
5. Eye to eye - Communicating is good. My father is profoundly deaf and without SMS we would not be able to natter as frequently as we do. I think back to the letters and weekly, time rationed phone calls he used to exchange with his mother in a different country when we were young. However drained I can feel by technology, however people say it is ruining family conversation - when it comes to building bridges with the older generations, technology is a gift. The luxury of seeing people in person is even better. The result here is that I should see more or friends and family at the weekend, meaning I can disconnect more from technology to engage in face to face conversation. Healthy result.
6. Where am I? i am totally and overly reliant on Google Maps. I used to know Soho like the back of my hand but struggled to recall the location of a friends birthday dinner on Sunday night. I also felt bereft of Uber. I'm not about to study for the knowledge, there's other knowledge i'm hungry to acquire. My phone is my travelling companion. Result? In the absence of Bill Bryson, I'll take my phone.
7. Social Anxiety - When I was younger, a weekend without my phone would have sent me into a spiral of social anxiety. Urban friendships built in your twenties and thirties create a beautiful network of friends, although when it comes to romance, how much anxiety does technology create? All of the anxiety about the speed and affection of romantic communication is a horrific minefield. Thankfully, that's not in my story these days. However, when it comes to friendships, technology has helped to weave a net where we can catch each other when we are falling. On Friday, I ran into a friend in the neighbourhood who was feeling really unwell after a recent trip to Africa. I felt guilty all weekend that I didn't send a text to check up on how he was doing. Another friend's father was seriously ill in hospital and I broke my rules on Sunday evening to check in with her and extend my support. If technology helps us wrap our friends in a net of starry support when they need it, then it is a truly amazing thing.
8. commercial respite - the water filter expired and I didn't buy a new one online instantly, creating vague domestic anxiety. doubtless new products became available on all my favourite fashion sites. I didn't need to know. Not being able to instantly replenish necessities creates stress, not hunting for luxuries reduces stress. The result here is about consumption of information and product. Result - we all need a holiday.
In summary, I wasted less time looking at Twitter, watching TV and deleting rubbishy email that comes through on the weekend. There was a definite sense of liberation from disconnecting with social media. At our recent Tiny Little Trade Show we learned that we check our phones every 6 minutes on average. I need technology to do my job, but I need it less in my free time. Without technology, my time feels more like my own. Claiming that time back at the weekend builds more space to make deeper more meaningful connections. However, I don't want to disengage from social chatter with good friends and family as the weekends are all about cherishing these prized relationships. Maybe there is a hierarchy of business relationships we need to build and manage Monday to Friday using many channels. But the weekends, there's a different model to switch into. It is about creating the terms of engagement that work for you. And that is a personal thing.
In summary, I would recommend a digital disconnect for a weekend to find out how you engage with your environment minus technology
The irony of a digital marketer advising people on how to take breaks from tech is not lost on Mr Talks: “Digital marketing doesn’t have to be toxic but too often it is,” he acknowledges. One of the best-known exponents of digital detoxing is Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark, and former chief marketing officer of the social media site. She has suggested that hardcore addicts should take regular days off from their gadgets. If they do, they may well suffer from “nomophobia”, a term that describes anxiety about separation from a smartphone. In Sherry Turkle’s new book, Reclaiming Conversation , the psychologist and director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, says smartphones are killing conversation. She recommends a “talking cure” in which face-to-face conversation replaces the “failing connections of our digital world”.