Log Out. Turn Off.
Time Magazine did a piece today called ‘You Asked : Am I addicted to my Phone?’ . It said that the line between addiction and overuse is grey. I guess its a bit like the line between being a hard drinker and an alcoholic.
Around New Years Day one of my friends suddenly became unavailable on her mobile phone for a good 2-3 days. I attributed it to the small town in India where she was for her Xmas holidays, thinking to myself that perhaps 3G services may be not be as good as we think in this land that is boasting of a billion mobile connections and over 220 million smart phones.
When she re-appeared and I asked her where she had been ( 3 days of silence from our what’sapp group? ) she said she was doing a Digital Detox.
Before the age of the mobile the idea of a retreat has been pretty common place. in most faiths. Spiritual retreats are an integral part of many Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Sufi ( Islamic ) communities. A retreat can either be a time of solitude or a community experience. Silence is a common feature of many retreats.
Mouna, the vow of Silence
Mouna ( silence ) in yoga is supposed to calm the mind. When we talk we expend a lot of energy. By maintaining silence we curb our thoughts which in turn refreshes us. It makes us serene and calm. It makes this busy and bubbly mind of ours, to calm down and become mindful again.
The Wikipedia defines Digital detox refers to a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic connecting devices such as smartphones and computers. It is regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.
Digital Detox helps in much the same way as how the retreat or mouna helps us. It calms the mind, it makes our mind silent, and thereby reduces stress. But most importantly it changes our experience of the world.
How Digital Detox helps
An electronic withdrawal also liberates you from the stress of being on call to anyone who might want to ping you. Social media, google, email are all conversation killers. Not to mention Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter alerts and all the uncalled for beeps on your phone. So when you are going through a digital detox you are likely to become unsocial on social media but actually become more social with your family, less distracted, and more engaged with the people around you. Resulting in relaxation. Because you are not going to be reminded of your latest whatsapp message, the like on your Facbook page or the ping of your Twitter feed.
2. Better Focus
Digital Detox can increase your focus and concentration. Because your mind is now constantly distracted your phone, computer, or tablet it is actually never able to focus like it used to. Rosser Reeves one of the old time advertising greats in advertising in his book ‘ Reality in Advertising’ explain how focussed one should be at work. He said its like the magnifying glass, that under the sun when properly focussed can even burn a piece of paper.
And one of the big reasons why your mind can’t focus is because of constant distraction.
Change the way you experience the world
Many years ago while pursuing a spiritual bug I was holed up in an ashram at the foothills of the Himalayas. I was asked to maintain silence for 3 days ( mouna) a difficult task because I was sharing a room with my best friend. On the first day at the ashram, I gave my jeans dirtied from an 48 hour train ride from Mumbai along with the wallet inside to the local dhobi. ( In India it means a washerman ). But because I was not supposed to speak I couldn’t tell anyone about my predicament. Somewhere along the way I finally forgot about it. When the honest dhobi returned with my washed jeans and also returned my wallet it set me thinking. Just as much as I couldn’t have experienced my pain over the last 3 days, neither was I able to express my joy at having found my wallet back.
The same Time magazine article quoted above says ‘Withdrawal is a big one. If you feel anxious, irritable or uncomfortable when your phone isn’t within reach, that’s a red flag.. that ever-increasing dose of smartphone is akin to substance users, who build up tolerance to drugs or alcohols’.
So if you are exhibiting any of these symptoms, beware. You are ready for a digital detox like my friend was around New Year’s Day.