A brief introduction
Various aspects of the Challenge launched by Punkt. were of significance for me:
When I heard about this project, I just knew I had to apply. So here I am, to tell you about my own personal digital detox experience.
I will begin by saying that I carried the detox out over a weekend; it wasn’t easy deciding when to do it and it is no coincidence that I chose a weekend, when I’m not working and therefore under less pressure from deadlines and other commitments.
The first thing I noticed was the drastic reduction of sounds coming from the phone. Using a basic phone, such as the MP01, made me realise how much the introduction of smartphones has significantly reduced oral communication in favour of messages, emails, and notifications from social networks and apps. This made me think how direct communication, listening to voices and the interaction that comes from listening to one another, is being lost to a form of communication shielded by a cold screen on which we send written messages, or worse still, emoticons.
The initial consequence of using the MP01 was the exclusion from social networks, in particular from WhatsApp. Being part of various groups with friends or family, I found it difficult to keep up to speed with what was going on around me. Nevertheless, I survived! It may seem a trivial consideration but not being part of these WhatsApp conversations was not such a big deal, which therefore made me ask myself: are we certain that all the information we get from our smartphones is so important? Are we sure that knowing what a family member is cooking for dinner or what our best friend is going to wear on a dinner date is so crucial? I don’t think it is: before the arrival of the smartphone, we didn’t receive constant updates on what was happening in the world and life went on all the same, with all its ups and downs…
Another consequence of using the MP01 was that I had more time available: not constantly staring at my smartphone screen left me with more free time that I used mostly in two ways: 1. dedicating more time to myself; 2. dedicating more time to those who are important to me. And it wasn’t just the amount of time but the quality of that time. For example: the Sunday lunch gathering, which in Italy is traditionally a family affair at “mamma’s” house (not being there is tantamount to a declaration of war) certainly benefitted. I connected more and participated in a less distracted way to the dynamics that evolved during the meal. I then experienced the delight of deep listening, when what the other person is telling you becomes cause to reflect and reconsider your own life because it connects directly to your past and experiences.
I also found my friends’ reactions interesting when I told them that I was taking part in this project. Their reactions varied: some thought I was crazy and said that they would never have taken part in such a Challenge, while others really got the essence of the project and fully supported me. Some even enquired about the detox when it was over and the question that struck me the most was “how did you feel during the detox period?”. This question made me reflect on just how important technology has become to us and how significant it is in our daily lives to feel constantly connected, almost out of a fear of missing out on something important, which often isn’t important at all…
Being offline during the detox helped me get better in touch with myself, with my fears but also with my most hidden resources. It helped me understand that being constantly online is, on one hand, reassuring because it covers up our insecurities and gives us the illusion of belonging in the world. On the other hand, however, it creates a dependency that prevents us from being completely free to manage our lives by following our most hidden desires and our deepest necessities. The danger is, that an ever more forceful presence of technology will become a gilded cage that doesn’t allow space for originality, freedom and uniqueness but makes us all alike, “forcing” us to seek out the latest device that becomes a status symbol rather than a means of communication and nothing more.
What will happen in the future? I don’t know. After this experience, I imagine I will use both my smartphone and the MP01. I consider the latter more and more as my little desert island that I will turn to whenever I want to enjoy disconnecting and focusing on “real” interaction that comes from facial expressions, an embrace, a touch and a human warmth that no piece of technology will ever be able to give.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay