Do you need a digital detox -- and could you even if you wanted to?


Among this week's big news in tech, one company, Punkt, has a new phone on the market. But rather than a sleek upgrade to the iPhone-whatever-we-are-on-now, it looks a lot more like the Nokia your dad used to have that "just calls people"...before he decided he wanted to be able to check the latest football scores on the go. 

The Punkt MP01 isn't so much an upgrade as a step back into 2008, but thanks to the growing buzz around the idea of "digital detox," it is gaining a surprising amount of traction. 



It doesn't take a genius to see that our constantly plugged-in culture isn't doing us any favors, and multiple studies have been done that support that theory. Yeah, we can text a friend in Seattle any time of the day or night, but we seem to have forgotten how to just sit and enjoy the presence of the people around us. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and everyone is always too busy for everything, but we seem to have plenty of time to scroll Instagram ad infinitum. Our computers, our television, our phones, our refrigerators (but seriously...why?), our's all screens. All tech. And if you want to be truly unsettled as a human being, go out into the wilderness with friends for a day, and watch when you get back as everyone runs to the nearest outlet to charge their phones. 

We may not literally plug into wall sockets, but we are close enough. 

However, as a person who lives in constant tension between not wanting to be too attached to technology, and having a job that forces me to be online regularly, and a fiancé that lives eight hours away, I understand the difficulty in putting down the tech. 

So can those of us who rely on tech for our livelihood ever catch a break? Can we go on a digital detox? Or is that a fairytale life for park rangers and fitness instructors only? 

While we may not be able to eliminate the digital overlord from our lives entirely, I believe there are at least three ways that we can digitally detox: 

1. Make time for silence...and get comfortable with it

Read a book. Go for a bike ride. Meditate. Take a shower. Journal. Find something that you enjoy doing, and don't feel the need to fill the time you spend doing it with noise. You don't need a show on in the background while you read. You don't have to play music while you shower. You don't need to listen to a podcast while you bike. These are all times that you can engage with your surroundings, get lost in a story or just process your day and get to know yourself a bit better again. 

Who were you before the iPhone burst into your life? What did you love to do before you subscribed to Netflix? Reinvest in that again, and, even more, reinvest in yourself again. And as an added bonus, leave your phone on silent in another room while you do it. A perfect time to work this into your day is half an hour before bed. Get a little tech-free time before slumber, with the added benefit that a screenless period before bed will improve your sleep. 

2. Recommit to the friends who live nearby...and do fun things together.

Yes, it's an incredible thing that the advent of technology means we never have to lose touch with another friend ever again. We can stay close with people who live on the opposite side of the world for years and never miss a big moment of their lives. But I wonder if we are holding so tightly to each and every person, that we are missing the chance to build meaningful relationships with the people we can meet for coffee, go country line dancing with or invite over for dinner. 

There's nothing wrong with maintaining relationships that have some physical distance involved (like I said, I'm engaged to someone eight hours away), but I don't think we should do that at the expense of the friends we have with us now. Be willing to put the phone away when you're with people. If your relationship with the person ten states away is so strong that you need to text them all day, they will still love you after a three hour break in the text flow. 

And plan to do things together that make you want to put your phone away! If watching another episode of Parks and Rec isn't doing it for you today, play a game or go out or go rock climbing. The options are endless. 

3. Be aware of how much time you spend with screens...and why.

I think the most dangerous part of our culture's pervasive use of technology is that we don't even realize how much time we spend on it anymore. It's just so natural, and everyone is doing it, so we fall in line and play along. But the first step to fixing anything is being aware of the problem. If you truly want to incorporate a digital detox into your life, you have to be attentive to how much time you spend on technology and why. 

For so many of us, a scroll through social media has become comfort in awkward situations, and Netflix is now the way we fill empty hours. How many of us reach for our phones and check Facebook before we are even out of bed in the morning? I don't presume to say how much or how little time you should spend with your tech, nor am I saying that tech is evil, but I do firmly believe that you should be intentional about it. 

So what do you think? Is it worth trying to swim upstream against the ever increasing flow of technology? Would you ever consider buying the Punkt MP01? Can people who work in a screen-filled career even find the space to detox? I think we can, it just takes a little creativity and the will to be different.