Why don't you? - Digital detox 2

Why don't you?

Why don't you?

Thirteen days into a digital detox I woke up this morning singing the theme tune to the 80's kids programme that we used to call 'Why don't you'. It's full title was rather longer, 'Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead?'

Kids these days

It's not like in our day is it? When we used to 'play out' from dawn to dusk. Good wholesome fun, like the electricity game - where we all hold hands and then the person on the end grabs the electric fence and we see how many of us the current passes through. 

It is a fact that today kids are in far less physical danger than they were 40 years ago, you can’t come to much harm lying on your bed with your iPad, not physical harm anyway. But some reports say we are on the verge of a youth mental health crisis. 

What about us adults now? What's the adult equivalent of 'playing out'? 

I've been trying to find out. I’m on Cal Newport’s digital detox for the whole of January, giving up social media and online news, as well as no longer using the internet for ‘entertainment’. 

Here's how it's going, so far

The pavlovian response of reaching for my phone each time there is a moment of boredom, has gone. I do notice a strange sense of ‘limbo’, of being in some in-between place. Which feels so odd that I’ve been wondering what to do about it. But then realised it is just 'the gaps between things'. There are now short gaps between one activity and the next! Not really a problem perhaps?

I think my mood has improved.

I’ve have missed Facebook, a few big events have happened with friends and I live far away from most of them, so I realise there is a real value to facebook for me. I'll reinstall it, in a limited way, at the end of the month. 

I’ve not missed the news. In fact I think that is why I feel better, removing the constant drip of bad news into my mind. I've been listening to the headlines on the radio once a day. 

Playing out for adults

Cal Newport sent out his follow up email this week, how to find out what you want to do with all this reclaimed time.

He’s been researching a chapter on leisure for a book he’s writing on digital minimalism and says -

...if you put in the effort to cultivate high-quality leisure pursuits in your life — activities that are deeply satisfying — it becomes much easier to resist the allure of low-quality digital distractions. The latter, it turns out, are often used to paper over the void created by lacking the former in your life.  Once you figure out what you really like to do with your free time, the empty-calorie diversions suddenly seem superfluous. 

My recommendation is to therefore spend some time this month rediscovering the types of old school, dirt-under-the-fingernails, defiantly analog activities that used to fill our most satisfying leisure hours: learn how to swim well or play an instrument, join a volunteer trail clearing club or a local maker space, give in to the cult of CrossFit, start a book club, knit, hike, invite friends over to listen to a new record, and so on.
— Cal Newport

 So the next step seems to be starting up some new habits.  

Ignition cost

Thanks to Cal I’ve knitted 90% of a woolly vest, but you won't believe the effort it took to get started! Gretchen Rubin calls this 'ignition cost', the expense of energy that it takes to start something new, something that is not yet a habit. 

I'd been knitting this jumper when my mum was ill and dying, and it was her that interpreted the pattern and reminded me how to cast on and cast off. More crucially it was her that fixed my mistakes. For two years it's sat in the drawer, despite my loving the idea of being a knitter. 

The ignition cost was massive, but once the knitting was in my hands I just knitted, no problem (or at least no problem that couldn't be solved through a youtube tutorial). 

This idea, that so many things are easy once it is started, is almost a cliche. But that's why it is a cliche, it's so so true! 

That’s why good habits are so good, no ignition cost. Then doing all sorts of amazing things takes the same effort as going to the bathroom and cleaning your teeth!