Digital detox

Yoav Hornung

Yoav Hornung

I’m on day five of my digital detox. When I told the kids what I was doing, instead of the usual ‘whatever’ response, they were visibly shocked. 'WHAT!!?? Your giving up the internet? No way!'

I'm not giving up the internet. I am temporarily giving up facebook and all social media, online news and using the internet as 'entertainment'. I still use the internet for work and for streaming audio and movies. Also practical things like checking the weather, (which I now do 5 times a day, helps with the 'cold turkey'), checking when the bus is going to come and how many steps I've done!

I don’t want to completely give up social media, but I do want to be free of the compulsion. I’d like more time for other things, to be creative or to go deeper. This past year I stopped having my phone in the bedroom and I’ve been able to read so many more good books.

Both artists and meditators need to guard their time. Not only do we need to carve out a space to do these, seemingly non-essential, activities, but we also need some time around them where we are doing nothing. 

I decided to join in with Cal Newport’s experiment. If you don’t know him he has a great blog Study Hacks, and writes about how to do deep undistracted work. He’s asked people on his email list if they would like to take part in an experiment.

The idea is that you take a break from optional digital technologies throughout January. In that time, you, hopefully, discover which of those activities really added value to your life and which just suck up your time without much reward.

I've followed the instructions in the first email, how to decide what to give up. I've taken all unnecessary apps off my phone and deleted the bookmarks in my browser. 

I'm now twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the email that helps you discover what else you might like to do with your time. 

When the month is over he’s promised to help you reintroduce the things that you really missed.

Things I’m not doing this month –

Other social media
Reading News online
General surfing

What I’m doing instead –

Listening to the radio and podcasts
Reading books
Taking photos

I've noticed how my use of social media and news is a way of me ‘taking a break’, though ironically sometimes it is a break from computer work. If I want a break it is easy to find something to do for 20 mins, I can read my book, repot a plant, make some hummus. 

But what makes a really good 3-5 minute break? What can I do while waiting for the kettle to boil? 

The answer came to me this morning. Nothing. Have a break by doing nothing for a few minutes. It seems radical, to be standing on the edge of the abyss, that is 3 mins of doing nothing at all. If you tried it, and survived, let me know!