Have you noticed how much time you spend on your phone?
I certainly realised how many unproductive hours I was prone to waste and therefore was already thinking about how relevant (and perhaps necessary) a digital detox might be to me before I came across the Punkt. Digital Detox. After reading more widely and relating to my own experiences I concluded that yes, technology can indeed cause us to be less productive and become more insular. One article that really stood out to me was one about a novel by David Foster Wallace: ‘Infinite Jest’1. The idea is that ‘screens will become more fun than real life’, summed up in a quote from the late author himself:
“And the better the images get, the more tempting it’s going to be to interact with images rather than other people, and I think the emptier it’s going to get”.
How scary to think that this really isn’t all that far from the mark… and these were his thoughts over twenty years ago – even before social media existed. Let that sink in a little.
I also believe that social media in itself is an “illusion” giving us “breadth but not depth” (Levitin, 20152). While it is useful for things like organising events and getting in contact with folk, social media should only really be a means to achieve time spent hanging out in real life, and not as an alternative. We waste a lot of time on social media, whether that be cat videos or inane updates about what an acquaintance happens to be having for lunch. What good is this towards achieving our best each day?
I found a link to Punkt. whilst scrolling (how else?) and was immediately intrigued. For the Detox Challenge, I wrote my honest thoughts about tech and beauty in the real world and was delighted to find that I’d been selected for the Challenge.
I started my Detox on the 20th February 2018 for a week. I put my smartphone away in the drawer and there it stayed for seven days: no messing about, fully committing to the challenge – “Let’s see how dependent I am on my smartphone then” I thought to myself. I didn’t think I’d find it easy but knew that it was possible.
I began the week just going to work as usual. During work I used to be on aeroplane mode anyway so no change there (I keep the MP01 off during work time). At lunch break things were different however. I chatted to co-workers and when there was no one else there I called friends and had great intentional chat with them. With a smartphone at lunch time I probably would have scrolled and wasted time. Or been advertised to/had my mind filled with useless information/been distracted from my scrolling by notifications telling me that some acquaintance has liked a post that I may or may not even have a clue about – you get what I’m trying to say about INFORMATION OVERLOAD, right?
One of the biggest perceived challenges of the week was that I was travelling from Scotland to London to see a show (Lecrae, check him out) and without a smartphone handy I was really concerned about how I would be without the technological crutch. It turns out that life without a smartphone isn’t actually as hard as it seems.
I used my laptop to sort out my train tickets and simply wrote down the booking references on the reminders section of the MP01 for collection at the station. Simple. The first situation I found myself in was that I didn’t know which Edinburgh station I had to get off at to switch trains. Usually I would have just checked on my smartphone, but as that wasn’t an option I asked a real life human being. Lo and behold they informed me of the correct station and then we had a conversation. Normally we would have probably just ignored one another but being forced to communicate with another person brought me out of the bubble I would otherwise have been stuck in. It’s kind of sad in a way that this should be the way things are now, this would have been the norm when smartphones weren’t around!
During the show itself I noticed how many people were trying to record on their phones and so were essentially watching through a screen. I was uninhibited and enjoyed being in the moment without worrying about having no space left to record video or being distracted from the show.
The journey back from London coincided with the beginning of the biggest snowstorm in the UK for some years; it earned the nickname ‘The Beast from the East’. All the way up the entire country I watched from my train window that the landscape was covered in snow and was still falling steadily. Having no access to the internet I had no idea just how difficult catching my next connection may have been. I arrived in Scotland again to notice a lot of trains were cancelled but there was one going my way in less than 5 minutes. It was only when I arrived home that I learned that the weather warning was set to red in my area and that many people had become stranded that night in cars or because the trains were no longer running. I think that with the Punkt. MP01 I would have been fine had anything happened because I had a means to communicate with friends and family etc. If I had seen on a smartphone that there was bad weather and expected delays this would have just worried me and brought unnecessary stress when I couldn’t change what was going to happen anyway.
During the week I used my laptop in the house to check emails and Facebook notifications and messages twice a day and was surprised at how easy it was to not be connected to messages and notifications all the time. It seems that this constant connection in terms of smartphone usage is becoming more recognised in society. In January a BBC article3 about smartphones saw some of Apple’s biggest investors calling on them to ‘consider the impact that excessive use of smartphones have on the mental health of young people.’ The investors point to studies that suggest the link between excessive smartphone usage and concentration levels, lesson disruptions in school and sleep deprivation.
In general I have noticed that I’m far less distracted, more ‘present’ when with my wife and that we really needn’t be so reliant on our phones. We went out for walks on the beach and spent time marvelling at the beauty of the Scottish coast. Time spent in nature is very uplifting, especially when you don't have as many distractions trying to pull you away. On these walks we discussed beauty and design; can anything really be beautiful without design?
I was also generally more aware of my surroundings; I looked up more. There are some really beautiful places to walk around where I live and so thought that the Digital Detox was a great opportunity to go and enjoy the great outdoors more than I normally would.
People noticed the MP01 because it looks different. Some said a little bit like a calculator (but sadly it doesn’t do that!). I was asked about the MP01 with genuine interest by folks in my workplace, at church and people who I just met – they made lots of comments. The consensus was that it looked suave at the same time as being useful without the unnecessary distractions, had far better battery life, and served to put the mobile phone back in its place as an accessory, all while maintaining effortless functionality and a stylish feel.
Most people agreed that a digital detox sounded like a good idea and that they wish they could do it too. In most cases we both knew that was never actually going to happen however, which is quite sad. Sad because they know it would do them good to disconnect for a time yet not willing or being able to pry themselves from notification central and being subject to the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
To conclude, I would say that The Punkt. Digital Detox Challenge has been a success story for me and I will continue to use the MP01 as my main mobile phone, only using my smartphone at home alongside my laptop. The reason being that I really enjoy the freedom of being present with people without feeling addicted to looking for notifications all the time; it means I experience a higher quality of life and productivity. I’m sure that technology has its place alongside us, yet only as a tool to achieve things, where we are in control. Ultimately I believe that there is beauty in intelligent design, and we are designed for real human contact, friendship and face to face conversation. There is beauty in these real deep human interactions that no technology can ever replace.