A digital detox is unthinkable! Unbearable!
Being without your personal digital connection to the world is almost impossible to imagine, even though many of us would agree that life would be better without it.
We have incredible amounts of information and access right in the palms of our hands. Digital palm trees, with branches that offer direct access to opinions, news, directions, food, transportation, and social communication. With all of this high-speed access, though, comes risk. People are taking on more tasks, inviting higher expectations, and expanding and perhaps growing beyond their physical and emotional reach.
A doctor once told me that the human brain does not know the difference between types of stress. It doesn’t know the difference between stressing over an upcoming wedding versus stressing over a big deadline at work. It’s just stress — equal opportunity stressors. And in reality, in the end, it can all lead to higher levels of physical, mental, and even emotional exhaustion. Over a prolonged period of time, that can proceed to burnout, breakdown, and even disease.
Vista photo was taken from the ridgeline of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Remote with no data service.
Forest for the trees
Society has evolved and adapted. Our smartphones were made to serve us and can be very useful utilitarian tools. They help us organize, stay on task, coordinate social appointments, listen to smart people talk, and search for the meaning of life and every word we don’t understand. But it also can be an addictive time-suck, affecting moods, posture, and inhibiting proper rest for your eyes, body, and mind. If we can’t see the forest for the trees, and all we look at is our little screens, we’re in trouble.
New research in the New York Post suggests that “Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes – burying their heads in their phones 80 times a day.” Thirty-one percent felt anxiety when separated from their phone and 60 percent experienced occasional stress when their phone was off or out of reach. Apple even admitted that their devices and operating system are designed to be addictive. Fortunately, they have plans to make them less user-addictive, including features like quitting notifications, improved Do Not Disturb functions, and applications that measure and limit how much time you spend on particular apps. I’m sure they will all work:)
Looking back onto Clingman’s Dome on the Appalachian Trail. Started the trek at the highest point in this photo. No Service the entire 70-mile trek. Bliss.
As a Digital Design Director, I have made a living designing and building products on the web. I guess I should be promoting increased digital device use. Instead, mostly because of what I do, I advocate for responsible, healthier ways to use digital devices. I’d like more people to snap out of their zombie phone-stares and look up because there is so much to see.
I do at least one week-long, back-to-nature digital detox every year. Each year I travel lighter and move easier on my backpacking adventures. I’ve learned what I need and, most importantly, what I don’t need. I bring what I need to survive. While I do bring my iPhone in case of emergency, I rarely turn it on.
On my latest trip to the Smokey Mountains (which was awesome!). I attempted to check in and let my loved ones know I was safe. But no service meant no connection and no message. They didn’t like it. But I did. The quiet, the peace, and the focus that my disconnection allowed let me breathe easier and be acutely aware of the life around me. Like, almost everything smells good in nature! I found beauty in every direction. And there were no stressors — no data, no calls, no news, no selfies.
Digital detox. Just me, my dog, and our nature. An analog trip to the real trees, even for a week, works wonders.
Smiling dog. Every time I look at this photo I realize how happy she was.