Musings of a rugby-obsessed tech guru. Let's solve some digital drama!

Revelations After A 7-Day Digital Detox

Digital Detoxing

All last week I underwent what has come to be known as a “digital detox.” If you’re unfamiliar with the concept it is commonly understood as being a set period of time during which an individual “unplugs” from, or avoids using, all of their electrical devices, particularly those with Internet capabilities (Sharpsteen, 2012). While there are a variety of reasons why some people choose to detox digitally, all of them start, first, with the individual. What forced me to undergo the detox was a variety of reasons but mainly due to (a) my passion being computers and technology and (b) the fact that everything I was doing (e.g., maintaining userstyles, mastering JavaScript, keeping up with social networks, etc.) was beginning to feel “stale,” aka I was entering the first stages of burnout. Being that my goal is to one day work at Google or Apple, I needed to implement a proper “digital regiment” of sorts.

Limiting Web Access

It’s been stated, just like with smokers, that going “cold turkey” is not wise and that you should gradually detox by taking small steps (Scripps Howard News Service, 2012). That may be true for most users but if you’re like me–diagnosed with AD/HD–and you find that you spend more than 3/4 of your day on the Net, I recommend a more aggressive yet comparable approach. During my detox week, I was only allowed to access the Net once per day for no more than one hour and I could only use my phone: an outdated iPhone 3G. Additionally, I couldn’t use any apps that required 3G or Internet connectivity (essentially, all of them which is why I didn’t respond to any messages that were sent to me last week). Sorry, friends! But wait! There’s one last thing! I also chose to cut myself off from live TV as I was finding my addiction to ESPN becoming a little too strong. The only forms of entertainment I was allowed to have were books, DVDs and my acoustic guitar. Nothing more, nothing less. Did I expect it to be hard? Yes. Was I ready for what I’d discover? Not in the least bit!

Day 1: Nice Break

I must admit, the first day went rather smooth! Being that I had just spent the previous day/night online, it was nice to get away. I watched some movies that I had not seen in a while and I started reading the book my mom gave me for Christmas, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Days 2-4: How Did I Have Fun Before the Internet?

By the second day I began to notice the urge to want to get online and do the usual (e.g., Gmail, Facebook, Twitter) and catch up on rugby news–the RBS Six Nations Championship is currently underway (as of when I wrote this) and, aside from our USA Eagles rugby team, I’m a loyal Irish Rugby fan, year-round! Anyway, back to what I was saying…

Aside from the urge to want to get back online, I noticed that I found myself pacing because of how bored I was. Remember, I couldn’t watch TV, I had to wait until 2pm before I could enjoy my 1 hour of Internet on my phone and I had nothing to do…or so I thought. It was then that the thought of watching a DVD seemed enticing but even that felt unappealing because I had seen all the DVDs I own countless times. I figured there was no better choice that the Metallica documentary, Some Kind of Monster.

As I watched the DVD I found that my love for the band, while it had always been there, hadn’t felt this prevalent like in recent years. As this deep journey that the “Biggest Band in the World” was going through unfolded, I found myself wanting to learn even more about them. So, when the DVD was over, I decided to continue with another Metallica DVD, A Year and a Half in the Life of…, the documentary they made while recording and touring on The Black Album. This DVD was the catalyst for what lead me to re-discover a lost passion during my digital detox.

A Lost Passion Re-Discovered

I have been a guitar player since the age of 15. To this day, whenever I hear a song by one of my favorite bands, I don’t just hear the music, I listen to the music: the individual notes that make up the entire song. The urge to pick up my guitar to see if I can play it by ear has always been prevalent but not as much as in recent years. On that day, it was a welcomed urgency! Once I started playing, my love for my guitar felt stronger than it had ever seemed in recent years! I did not stop practicing/playing for the next 4 hours! By then, my 1 hour of Internet was underway.

After checking Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and catching up on rugby news, it was time to turn my phone off and return to my unplugged way of life for the next 24 hours until I could use the Internet again. That would be my routine for 5 more days.

By day 4, while the anxiety was building it was also quite manageable thanks largely to having my acoustic guitar with me! Another thing that really helped was that I had really begun to get into the book, Steve Jobs. I was flying through the chapters! Even crazier was the fact that I could recall everything that lead up to where I had read…and I have AD/HD! It could’ve been due to the book being the closest I was going to get to using my computer or perhaps it was learning about the “pirates of Silicon Valley?” Regardless, once I settled into it I couldn’t put it down! While I won’t go into detail about the book, I will say the following:

  • Did Steve Jobs use profanity like it was going out of style?  F— yes.
  • Did Steve Jobs exemplify “brutal honesty?” As he put it, “My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it” (Isaacson, p. 564, 2011).
  • Did Steve Jobs really take LSD? Yes. He referred to taking it as a “profound moment” and “one of the most important things in [his] life” (Isaacson, p. 41, 2011).
  • Was he anti-PowerPoint presentations? As he put it, “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint” (Isaacson, p. 337, 2011).
  • How did he accomplish the impossible with Apple? Intuition. As he said, “Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page” (Isaacson, p. 567, 2011).

Days 5-7: Feeling Unplugged

By day 5, I finally felt “unplugged!” The urge to get on the Internet or look at my phone nowhere near as strong as it was on day 3. Instead, the urge was more to finish reading all 630 pages of Steve Jobs. I had started the book only a few days earlier but I was determined to finished it before the week was up. Sure enough, I did it! After reading this book, I can honestly say that I walked away with a much greater understanding of how Steve Jobs was able to make the impossible possible! What’s crazy is that it is so logical and easy to understand! How did he do it? Read the book and you’ll find out! 😀 While I don’t agree with everything that he did, the one thing I do share with him is a deep belief in doing something because of your love for it, never the money you can make because of it! Regardless of how you view Steve Jobs, all I can say is that when I look at our society, it’s becoming even more rare nowadays to find a leader motivated by love and not money.

Final Thoughts

Re-discovering your lost passions coupled with an old-school past-time (in my case, reading) are what I found to be most vital for a successful digital detox! Not only did I really learn on how to make good use of my time, I also feel incredibly rejuvenated and can’t wait to get back to doing all of my online projects again! The signs of burnout are gone and the motivation is back at full-throttle! I will admit that although it can be quite difficult to step away from the keyboard or close your laptop and leave it alone for 7 days, the amount of energy and excitement you build during your time away not only leaves you feeling good, it also leaves you feeling productive! To top it off, you will now have a variety of things you’ll want to do that don’t involve the computer or the Internet! For those of us whose dreams/future careers involve the IT industry, or if you’re already living the dream, a digital detox is absolutely crucial for a stable career and lifestyle! I’m already working on ways to minimize my digital use in my daily life and I can’t wait to start! I strongly encourage anyone out there reading this to set aside just one week and give it a shot. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. TRUST ME ON THAT!



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