It first happened by accident a couple of years ago. It was late summer and me and my partner went on a driving holiday to Scandinavia for 2 weeks. I took my mobile phone and iPad because I can’t be away from them. But because we were camping for a large proportion of our time away, there was no WiFi, and I hadn’t bothered to buy a bundle of data for my BlackBerry. As a result, other than the few nights we planned to stay in hotels, my phone was used solely as a camera and my tablet as an eBook reader.
We had been camping in the middle of nowhere for five nights before driving to Stockholm and checking into a hotel. I immediately unpacked my tablet and mobile, dug out their chargers, plugged them in and hooked my iPad up to the hotel’s WiFi network. It’s what I always do. I still had my coat on. What happened next surprised me – as almost a week’s worth of emails, Facebook updates and Tweets starting pinging and peeping and parping at me I realised that I was back in my digital bubble. And I felt really disappointed. Like my holiday was over and I had been jettisoned back to reality before I was ready.
I found myself disconnecting from the same WiFi network a few seconds later and just like that-I was on holiday again. My shoulders sort of ‘un-tensed’ (and I remember that actually happening) and for the rest of the holiday, my phone was used solely as a camera and my tablet as an eBook reader.
Last year we went camping again (in West Wales) and I made a conscious effort to untether myself from technology again. It could have been more tempting to use my phone, as there was a signal and no extra data costs as I was still in the UK. But it really wasn’t too difficult. Indeed, it felt like a relief to just unplug and relax. Like being on holiday when you were a kid.
In a couple of days we are going on holiday again, and again we are going to Pembrokeshire. This year I am going to leave the tablet at home and take a couple of books with me. I’m going to leave my phone behind as well. I am even toying with the idea of taking a sketchbook and seeing what rubbish scribbles I can make.
Naturally, I assumed that what I have been doing was something revolutionary, but this is called a ‘Digital Detox’, and it’s been an official ‘thing’ for a while now.
There are weekends and retreats popping up everywhere offering device-free yoga, meditation, art and hiking and articles such as this one from The Telegraph urging us to have regular, gadget-free evenings or weekends. It’s even in the Oxford Dictionary:
Digital Detox: A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
But the term ‘Digital Detox’ seems to me a little harsh, as it suggests that technology is poisonous. And yes, I guess too much of anything can be toxic (celery?), but it still seems a bit negative. I’d rather this was a ‘Technology Untethering’. Something that doesn’t imply going cold turkey and having withdrawal symptoms of Nick Cottonesque proportions, but letting go, relaxing those shoulders and allowing oneself to be unreachable.