Digital detox – is it really time we all switched off?

Kari Shephard

Kari Shephard on Aug 4, 2016

Digital detox

This morning, Ofcom published it’s annual Communications Marketing Report, an insight into how the British public use digital technology.

And their headline finding is that 15 million internet users have taken a “digital detox” in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen.

The findings are interesting with many saying the internet helped them to stay up to date on current affairs and others had been inspired to try new things.

However, 59% of internet users consider themselves hooked on their devices with a third (34%) saying they find it difficult to disconnect.

What the juice is a digital detox?

The term “digital detox” isn’t new and has been bandied around for a number of years now, particularly among comms professionals who typically spend a large amount of their day using the internet.

In its most basic sense it means to switch off from technology.

Whether that is literally turning your smartphone off for a period of time or giving up social media for Lent.

Personally I’ve had several “detoxes” since I began working in comms. Some of those have been unintentional – leaving my phone at home, post-flat-move lack of internet, dropping my laptop on the patio…*sigh*.

But others have been completely intentional: road tripping through the Yorkshire Dales in a total mobile signal deadzone; holidaying in remotest Japan; leaving my phone in my bag all day etc.

Interestingly, some of the unintentional times I’ve “detoxed” have been incredibly liberating and often reminiscent of times pre-digital. Remember when you’d arrange to meet friends “uptown” and had to rely on everyone being there at the pre-arranged time or *shock-horror* actually having to wait for your friends to turn up without the luxury of “on my way”/”running late” Whatsapps.

On the other hand, I’ve also had bad experiences of intentional “digital detox”. Like none of my family being able to get in touch me with about a family death or being unable to tell my family I’d got engaged.

So my experiences of a digital detox are fairly mixed.

Should we all have a digital detox?

Yes, I think it’s great to take some time away from a screen – blue light insomnia is a very real problem, and when you’re not paying full attention to your friends because you’re obsessing over choosing the “right” filter for your Instagram photo it’s time to take a rain check – Gin Tub have done us all a favour.

However, I work in digital. And because of that I’m probably more “always on” than others so can appreciate the importance of being connected all the time. We use a variety of digital tools to make our lives and jobs easier (Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, Asana…).

And in my personal life?

Most of my breaking news comes from Twitter. Facebook helps me feel connected to my cousins’ lives in America. Instagram lets me see how much my niece changes every day. I buy 90% of “stuff” from the internet (food, clothes, books, holidays etc). I use internet banking to keep an eye on my finances. I use Whatsapp to get pregnancy updates from my best friend. I listen to podcasts to learn and feel inspired… and so on.

So my recommendations?

Take a break for sure. Particularly if you’re one of the 16% who suffer serious FOMO.

You know when you’re trying to eat healthily and you start spouting “everything in moderation” to anyone who’ll listen. Well I think that applies to digital usage too.

Too much will make you fat but too little will make you miserable.

Work out the right amount for you to have a better tech-life balance.

If you want to see the findings in full check them out here.