Our inability to disconnect from the Internet and the social media overalls, can often leave us feeling so empty as to have forgotten what compels us; what drives us to engage with the world, which is certainly far beyond the bits. Transfixed by the digital-glow, we remain convinced we are somehow less than the woman with the perfect body and angel face, less than the man with the Ferrari and less than the successful employee with several awards and the big house in California.
Smartphones are never far away from our fingertips and in this digital world most of us cannot function without them. So how often do you use your phone? How many times during the day do you swipe, use apps, check social media, send messages or even just generally handle your phone? How have we become so obsessed with the digital world, and is it time to unplug ourselves from the mindlessness it provides us?
It’s not uncommon to overhear virtually any conversation and receive the words, Facebook, Instagram, Google, email – or text message. It is 2019, and billions of people across the globe are now virtually and digitally connected to one another. In so many ways, this has been a great time saver. (Or has it?) This new way of living has made things like keeping in touch with family and friends, managing businesses and gathering information on the go a breeze. Many people really believe in how life has been simplified by technology. And much like any of the new modern conveniences that have come our way over the past 50 years, once you have joined the technological highway, you may wonder what you would ever do without it?
Of course, not all this digital media is always golden dust. For many people, being connected is easy, but on the other hand disconnecting is nearly impossible. In fact, doctors today are finding that people deal with an Internet outage, or a dead phone, or the lack of being able to login to something as trivial as Facebook, can cause full-blown onsets of anxiety from people of all ages and walks of life.
We’re all so dependent on technology that we rarely disconnect. Whether we’re spending hours in front of a computer for work, checking our phones, surfing the Internet or watching TV, it’s hard to get away from digital distraction.
You may have attempted to go phone-free or deactivated your Facebook account in hope of a “matrix detox” and we all know it feels good but only for the short-term. Before long we’re running to see what we’re missing; what people is planning and we don’t know yet. In other words, as I was implying, we’re severely addicted.
Many of us feel like our phones are another organ of the body; a lot of our lives revolve around social media and instant messaging, so without this, we can feel secluded, alone and sick.
I have a strong personal opinion with the idea of leaving technology of all kinds, in a long term, it’s ironic because my own career relies on it and my job as well, but while I see it as a very useful tool, I am also cognizant that technology has transform us into actual “digital-puppets”, human beings whose abilities and emotions have been destroyed. The very real danger is that as we progress deeper and deeper into the offerings of this charming treat, many of us, perhaps our future sons, will be completely cut off to the experience of living in the real world.
The more time we spend glued to our entertainment cubes, the more time we spend imbibing ideas about our own insufficiency. Systematic disconnection from technology is as necessary as our integration with technology; particularly since we are standing at the very threshold, and certainly nowhere near the end, of technology's advance.
What's the point you ask? Why arrest the rate of progress? What's the value of divorcing oneself from the digital advantage in the first place? A lot of reasons come into my mind: losing touch with simple human experiences like conversation, solitude, reflection, intimacy or feeling the awesomeness (today nothing, almost nothing makes people feel mesmerized). Additionally, each time we go on a search engine, use Spotify, or watch a video on YouTube, we are being sold something and 99.9999 percent of the time, it's nothing we need and nothing we want.
Insidiously with every keystroke, marketers are watching us and gaining a keener understanding, not only of what we aspire towards, but ominously, what we lack.
But my real interest in the questions of technology detox, what is increasingly called, voluntary online disconnection, came through observations with older people. They were all 65 or older, some had Internet access at home, some did not, but in the majority of cases, they simply claimed they had no interest in engaging in online activities, such as social networking. In the majority of cases, Internet access was not an issue, but rather the nostalgia for slower, less distracting life, ‘as in the old days’. My informants were particularly upset about the change when it comes to social interaction in public spaces, such as buses. Previously, one could enter a bus and start chatting with some passengers. “People barely speak to each other these days, they stare at their phones instead”, was one of the reoccurring answers.
This longing for a life without Internet resonates well with the recent trend for “offline romanticism”, temporary media refusal or detoxing. If for older people this means going back to something familiar and known from before, for the younger generation it often means entering a new, unknown territory. The omnipresence of digital networks and ubiquity of computers have made the digital, to some extent at least, invisible. In such new terrain of the eternal offline, the digital is noticed mostly by its absence. Twenty years ago, going online was an act of escapism, seeking a refuge in the analogue; currently the world marks an era of “hyperconnectivity”, social acceleration and distraction. Going offline, albeit temporarily, is a response to the effects of online addiction, social isolation and deteriorating mental health.
A digital detox can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, reliance on technology, fatigue and information overload. By creating healthy relationships with our devices, developing new positive social standards and etiquette, and changing the way we build and design our digital technologies, Digital Detox promises to shift the course of human history. The camp is popular, in particular among the digital pioneers of the Silicon Valley. The question: to what extent the way technology is designed actually can change with yoga or walking in a flower camp? Because, when you go back to your computer in the “real world”, don’t you think you will easily fall back into your old patterns?
The types of technological innovations we have experienced in the last twenty years have come fast and evolve so often, that we’ve yet to really define how we work with them, rather than these controlling us. As in any good relationship, you need a framework of trust and boundaries.
The big thing I don’t see from people is setting boundaries with their use of technology and understanding the physical and mental issues that can arise from such intense experiences. We only have to look at the increase in reports of phone addiction globally to see we have a problem, we even have rehabilitation centers now that specifically focus on social media and technology addiction, due to the out of control relationships we have with these products. Who would have thought these would be the problems we face, twenty years ago when the cellphones started to appear?
Eventually we will need to find a better balance or become absorbed by an abstract entity as the Digital World. But in the meantime, while we struggle with the side effects of living in a hyper connected world, we shouldn’t forget that as of today approximately only 49,7% of the world population has access to the Internet. Slightly more than half of the world population is still not online. Offline is not a new luxury, as some offline romanticists try to claim. Online is a luxury. Offline is the problem arising from that luxury.
We have lots of opportunities to help yourself and others in creating healthier relationships to enable a culture of “sane connection”, not one of disconnection through the realms of the digital world.
- Focus more on your real life, not just your Facebook/Instagram profile.
- Meetup with friends and family in the real world, not just through your phone screen.
- Define the relationship you’ve created with digital services/platforms and find a healthy way to manage it with set boundaries.
Ultimately, the digital world and all the cool innovations we have access to, are amazing, we all love them, but it’s clear that we need to evaluate our relationships with these things to make sure we aren’t disconnected too. We have a big world out there, and remember you are still in “control”. And you just might find that a little disconnecting, helps you do some connecting of your own with the people that you care the most.