A 48 hour technology detox - has life seriously got to this?
By Amy Crawford
Many people (my parents included) may scoff at the idea of a technology detox. That is unless of course they were living with me and could see how many hours I feed into technology every single day, from the very moment I wake to the very moment I go to sleep (and there are hours in between). Many of you would know that I announced a tech detox last Friday that would last for 48 hours. I dare say some of you are wondering why I didn't commit for longer. The fact is this was a very last minute decision and I wasn't organised enough to do so. Technology now forms a huge part of my life and to enable things to tick over in my absence a little prior planning is definitely required.
To cut a long story short I had no choice but to do this - for too many weeks (actually lets say months) I have been pushing, pushing, pushing - filled to the brim with adrenalin and the excitement of putting together my first recipe book and finding a career that ticks all of my boxes and makes me feel like I don't do a day of work in my life. Nothing has been able to stop me. I have never felt such passion and it feels truly amazing. However, as many would understand such passion can come with its challenges and those I now understand. Fundamentally it doesn't matter how much you love your 'job' every single one of us needs down time. Stillness. Rest. Every single one of us (if I could be honest, I often find that fact a little disappointing, sometimes I very much wish I was that one person who didn't). The outfall was the return of the virus I had been battling with for twenty years pre CFS. All the proof I needed that I had to STOP (again).
The birth of a technology addiction.
I should say that the 'beast' that created my technology addiction is most certainly my 18 year recruitment career and a real desire to provide personalised, exceptional service. It's always been about surpassing expectations. I had rules that were instilled in me - every phone call was responded to same day, every email within 24 hours, there were no exceptions. I'd reply to an email in the bath at night if I had to. I was service driven and still am. The problem however is when you try to take those same rules to an online community (including many thousands of people), many of whom are not expecting same day replies. It becomes totally unrealistic, as I have found out only too well. These rules most definitely require a softening. I am human and I have the same number of hours in my day as the next person.
A new 'online' career.
My 'world' is now hugely online. I have a blog where I share my life and my thoughts and the services I provide. Said posts generate interest in the form of blog commentary or daily emails direct to my inbox. I receive daily emails about the services I provide; I have an instagram feed. I nourish and nurture this feed on a daily basis and whilst I no longer have the time to invest in it that I once did, I truly love the engaged nature of this community. Without instagram I would not have my eBook, A Nourishing Kitchen, nor would I have the engaged following that I do; I have a Facebook page that I also nurture on a daily basis and this too creates further online communication via news feed comments or direct emails to my inbox; I have a Twitter account that I am trying to nurture (though can't quite get my head around Twitter!); I have a (previously mentioned) recipe eBook that is online and therefore requires marketing via online activity. This eBook in turn generates a whole host of emails on a daily basis - tech support questions that I had not previously envisaged, questions about future books, hard cover books...you name it...my inbox is typically bulging (and don't get me wrong, I am full of gratitude for it).
A day in the life of technology.
This online engagement has been starting as soon I wake in the morning. I was checking and responding to instagram as soon as I woke - if I leave it too long commentary runs off the bottom of my feed and I have found real discomfort in not being able to acknowledge someone who has replicated one of my recipes. It would continue through breakfast (as I photograph my food for instagram). It continues across all mediums all day, in between my therapy business with a real emphasis around meal times (and food styling!). My inbox screams at me if it has too many unread messages so I work at it all day to keep it to a minimum. My respite is the therapy I provide that is typically 2.5 hours with each client and without a computer in sight. The worst offending technology habit that formed was the bed time habit and with that the demise of my love of reading. For as long as I can remember I have gone to bed to read before lights out...until about 6 months ago when my iPhone and instagram account took place of the book.
Exhaustion and a marked lack of boundaries in my new working life. That's about the extent of it. I have become so constantly engaged within this space that I have left little room for stillness and rest - not physical rest so much, but rest for my mind. For a few months now I have been getting little signs from the universe that I need to slow down, take a day off (just one!), do a little (or a lot) less. I have been getting those niggling feelings that a cold is coming on so I chug down an extra green juice and go to bed a little earlier. That was doing the trick until the big V (virus) stepped back into my life. Me all of all people should have known better.
So how did it feel to be on a 48 hour tech detox?
Amazing. Instantly calming. I felt like a different person. All of this pressure to be engaged, to be communicating, to have to 'check in' totally dissipated. I had this absolute sense of freedom and space in front of me to fill my hours doing whatever I chose (and I had so many more left in my day). I felt so much more mindful and engaged with every activity I undertook - I wasn't trying to comment on instagram whilst watching my favourite TV show and checking my FB feed. Just sitting at my local cafe and drinking coffee was an entirely different experience - I sat and simply watched people (on their phones) and the world go by. I noticed stuff. I found time to read and get truly excited about going to bed to read (To Kill a Mockingbird - how wonderful is that book?!). I even lay on the couch in the sun on a chilly afternoon and read my book - how on earth could I have let that beautiful habit slip? What became evident most of all was the total control technology now had over my life. It had slowly infiltrated every part of my day.
Well, I know what I need to do. I need to set some boundaries. I haven't yet decided exactly how this will look but there are a couple that are glaringly obvious:
- No social media within half an hour of bed time and NO social media in bed. I am typically a good sleeper but my wired brain has been finding it much harder to wind down.
- No social media as soon as I wake up! My daily ritual is to get up and walk Wilson, after I have checked my phone. No more. It can wait. If I lose commentary off the bottom of my feed the world will go on.
- AT LEAST one technology free day per fortnight. I would like to move this to 2 but with the recent launch of my eBook I will commit to 1.
- Stop filling my 'down time' (eg morning coffee at the cafe, time on the couch after lunch, during my favourite TV show) with social media. Down time is to be exactly that, down time. Disengaged, rest time for my brain.
- Give away with the need to respond same day, I am not savings lives here (well, I hope that in some instances I do..but you get my drift). My own life will not be at risk if I don't (will it?).
This is just the beginning, it's a step in the right, mindful direction. I am sure I could do more and I would dearly love your input. Please...if you have any advice (from experience) I would dearly love to hear it.
How do you manage your online world?