black and white image of iPhone wrapped in locked chains

My Experience on a Digital Detox

WE Communications Blog: Technology

3/21/2018
— Liz Fletcher, Account Director 

One of the biggest trends tipped for 2018 was the ‘digital detox,’ the proposed solution to a growing societal problem of being – and feeling – accessible 24/7. We’re apparently so exhausted with the online routine of scrolling, refreshing, emailing, tweeting and posting that we’ve reached a saturation point. Time away from technology is now considered a luxury.

The feeling of being accessible – with the pressure to repeatedly read and reply – arguably stems from the rise of smartphones. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, we check our devices 47 times a day which increases to 86 times if you’re in the 18-24 age bracket. We’re not only attached to these devices emotionally, but physically. Take a moment to consider the number of seemingly normal people who fall asleep with their smartphone less than a metre away from their pillow.

As communicators, it’s important to consider what has led to such a trend. A digital detox isn’t necessarily stopping communication – it just removes technology as the facilitator. So does this suggest that people are increasingly craving a more human way of communicating?

My Experience on a Digital Detox

I experimented with my own version of a digital detox after recently reading Dave Egger’s 2013 novel, The Circle, a satirical commentary on the present-day social media generation. The story captures a society which becomes so focused on sharing moments online that nothing is undocumented or unobserved, not dissimilar in message to George Orwell’s 1984. After reading it, I didn’t use Instagram for a week as it prompted me to be more thoughtful about why I was sharing elements of my life online and who with. Instead of posting to the masses, I started to share photos or stories individually with those who really mattered and found that they were more receptive as a result. I also spent less time mindlessly scrolling other people’s content too.

The experience led me to reassess the benefits of spending more time offline to improve our roles as communicators, and how a digital detox – or at least certain elements of it – can help us communicate more effectively with our audiences. So far, I’ve noticed a few key benefits:

  • Productivity - Productivity is a term which is hugely overused, and a lot of technology is designed to help us achieve just this. However, on the flipside, the online world can transform into a huge rabbit hole for hours upon hours. Being digitally savvy is imperative in our roles, but if it’s getting to the stage where you’re refreshing Twitter waiting for something exciting to happen, it’s time to take a walk.
  • Inspiration - By all means do your desk research, but carve out time to be inspired by the experiences which surround your audience. Read relevant newspapers and magazines, check out a bestselling novel or visit an exhibit on a subject of importance to them – all of which have the potential to spark fresh ideas and conversation topics. It also makes you more interesting, which is never a bad thing.
  • Human interaction - This goes for personal as well as professional life, but digital interaction is no substitute for a real conversation. I get so much more from a half an hour call or face-to-face meeting with a client or colleague than I could ever gain from 10,000 emails.

Whilst there’s certainly a careful balance to strike (let’s face it, we cannot ignore the digital world), we also have a handy back-up in our digital technology. The desk is no longer a physical place – so if you’ve escaped from the screen, you will always have the assurance that you can quickly reconnect with the digital world via the smartphone in your pocket (or under your pillow!).