Till about a year back, my smartphone and I were joined at the hip (Quite literally on some days!). During face-to-face conversations, I would reply to an email or two, respond to WhatsApp messages and refresh my Facebook news feed in between. There was never a moment when a single email or text message was unread. I would wake up in the middle of the night and end up checking emails like my life depended on it.
The worst part was I thought this was perfectly normal till the ‘unthinkable’ happened: my phone crashed and I was forced to stay disconnected for three days. Although I could have used my tablet during those days, I decided to forsake all electronics and went on a digital detox instead. Without any distracting pings, I automatically got plugged into the environment around me.
It was the perfect energy boost that I needed. I caught up on long pending household chores and other matters which needed my attention. I carried a book everywhere and took notes in my favourite dog-eared diary. Although it was just a matter of three days, it worked wonders for my mood and the following week at work didn’t seem manic at all.
Digital Detox, a term in The Oxford Dictionary, is now being recognized as one of the best ways to combat stress, social anxiety and work-life imbalances. From Baratunde Thurston who successfully unplugged himself from the internet for 25 days to Arianna Huffington, who enforces email boundaries amongst her employees, the practice of disconnecting oneself digitally is catching on. There are even tech-free retreats, camps and vacations, ironically only a click away.
A study by psychologists at the University of Utah and University of Kansas concluded that unplugging from devices also improves creativity. The researchers found that backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronics. The psychologists posit that the benefits come from increased exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing. Our cognitive functions are also sharper when we aren’t attending to sudden events, switching amongst tasks or stressed by upcoming tasks.
One of our engineers, Cyriac Thomas, says he would recommend a digital-free holiday to anyone who has an inseparable relationship with their smartphones and tablets. He shared his 6 day digital detox in the Himalayas and all I can say is that one more item just got added to my bucket list!
In Cyriac’s words, “There is nothing more liberating than a tech-free vacation. For someone who was constantly on social networking sites or email, I could not have asked for a better break. I only had my digicam and a simple cell phone which I used just once in a week to be in touch with my family lest they get too worried.” According to him, the pros outweighed the cons so much that it ended up being one of the best trips he had ever taken.
“I realized that I could survive without email, social networking and all things digital. I was able to get over the habit of looking at social feeds on a constant basis. It was a great exercise in improving my levels of concentration. When I came back after the trip, I had over 500 emails in my email inbox (personal and official), and I was able to effortlessly clear my inbox in no time by prioritizing and focusing on what needed my attention the most. You realize your efficiency levels have shot up! In fact I disabled auto-sync (email) on my smartphone after the trip. Most importantly, now I am confident to let go of things that don’t matter.”
Whether it is within the comforts of your city or in the wilderness of the Himalayas, from our experience, a Digital Detox
- Helps you de-stress and reconnect
- Accelerates productivity
- Encourages real-life conversations
- Fights inertia and lack of concentration
There is no denying that technology is here to stay and condemning it is never a solution. But for the majority of us, the boundaries between living digitally and living seem to be blurred and before we know it we are addicted to our devices.
When was the last time you enjoyed a cup of coffee and a good book all alone without glancing at your smartphone even once? If the answer is “I can’t remember”, then maybe it is time to ‘consciously uncouple’ from your smartphone and treat yourself to a tech-free break!
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