I'll admit it: I'm a little obsessed with my over usage of social media and the internet in general. It goes beyond a need to understand everything regarding security on the internet. It's mainly because I know how much of a time suck that social media can be.
And my obsession isn't just because of myself alone. I see within my husband and children how technology (namely the games and Netflix) are designed to be additive. And when I see my family struggling to get enough sleep because of the addictive nature of devices, I'm going to take active steps to try to do something out it.
I have tried multiple times to put the family on Device-Free days, only for the idea to fail abysmally. And in all my attempts, there is one thing that I have learned: I can't control the actions of the other adults (and even though my youngest is 16 years old, she's effectively an adult). BUT, I can make other adults feel guilty when they see the results of the minimal device usage life.
For that to have the impact I want it to have, I need to get my own dependance on devices and the internet under control.
To that end, I have started a #DigitalDetox challenge.
The #DigitalDetox Challenge
I found this book (shown in the picture) in my favorite stationery store (Typo). It's actually a coloring book for adults, but there are 100 digital detox challenges in the book. So, for the next 100 weeks (yep, near on two years), I'm doing one challenge a week, starting at number 1 and working my way through to number 100.
Yes, the irony of reporting my progress on these challenges on social media and my blog is not lost on me, but with all the challenges, I'm choosing to look at them as a way to reconnect with inner self and the world around me. It is not an attempt to move completely away from technology, but to find a way to not let the technology rule my life, sucking up my precious writing time.
I suppose some could say that by doing the challenges, I'm still sucking up my precious writing time doing something that is possibly useless, but we all have to recharge somehow. It's part of self-care. And I chose to spend some of that energy rediscovering sides of myself that I have forgotten, and moving a little outside my comfort zone in the process.
So, I've decided to start each challenge on a Sunday. Ideally, for the sake of science, I want to spend some time every day for a week on the challenge. Some challenges will mean that I repeat it multiple times throughout the week, and some challenges will involve building a plan for something that will take much longer than a week to complete. (I took a look and one of the challenges was to learn another language. There is no way that I could learn another language in one week. Not happening.)
The first challenge was take a walk with no technology. And the week was meet with an interesting discovery.
Sunday, I was a coward. It wasn't the walking without technology that I was afraid of. It was walking in the pouring rain and turning into a drowned rat. Besides, Sundays are my days to try to spend time with the hubby and kids. And they all chickened out of a walk in the rain too.
BUT I did get myself some coloring pencils and had fun coloring in the coloring page with the challenge. While everyone else in the house was on their devices, I was coloring.
Not the Mona Lisa, but it was still fun to create something else besides a bit of prose.
For those of you wondering what the note in the book says in the photo, it says: "This is not far off of what I do every morning. 5 AM and I'm out the door for a walk in the wetlands, enjoying the last of the starlit sky and the songs of the morning birds. I normally take with me my smartwatch to count my steps but no headphones. It's about me, the birds, and my own thoughts."
Day 2 (Monday)
In the spirit of the challenge (and for the sake of science), I went for my morning walk with no cellphone and no smart phone.
I should mention that it is part of my daily routine to go for a walk shortly after I wake. It was something that I started back in April 2020 and have integrated into part of my self-care practice. I read it somewhere that one of the reasons why those who work from home struggle is because they don't have a commute to work. So, by going for a walk, I am forcing myself to not only get dressed for the day, but to also physically leave the house and return to work. And the general practice is working. It sets me in the mood to sit down at the computer and focus. (Now, to solve the next issue, which is to focus on my writing and not email and the such—but I have plans for that too.)
Now, these morning walks are typically at 5 AM every morning. You read that right, folks. 5 AM.
I'm a morning person, so getting up that early is no problem for me. But at 5 AM, the sun isn't up yet. Being in the middle of winter where I live, the sun isn't rising until 7 am, though it will be earlier and earlier now that we've passed the solstice. So, at 5 AM, I'm walking in the dark. And my favorite place to walk is in the wetlands where it is just me and the birds. (And nope, not all the birds are asleep at 5 AM.)
So, for my morning walks, I have always walked with no audio playing in my ears. For my safety, I need to be aware of my surroundings. I need to hear when and if there is someone coming up behind me. I need to be focused on the ducks that decide to suddenly fly across my path. So, walking without technology wasn't much different to my normal routine. EXCEPT...
Yeah, and it's a big EXCEPT.
Without my watch on, I found myself no longer focused on my surroundings like I prefer. Instead, I was counting steps, mentally tracking the loops on the track, and trying to keep mental records of how fast I was walking. I become distracted, because I didn't know the time. And at 5 AM, I wasn't able to use the passage of the sun to track time either. It threw me and made me very uncomfortable.
On my smart watch, I have a fitness timer that has been set to 30 minutes (the minimum amount of time that I want to be out walking for, but roughly the amount of time I allow for in the mornings). At every kilometer, there's a buzzing at my wrist and the computerized voice that tells me how fast I'm walking. I do wish that I could disable that notification, but if I do, then I don't get the next one, which is at the halfway mark. At 15 minutes, I get another buzzing at the wrist and the voice telling me that I'm halfway there. At approx 28 minutes, I get another buzz and a voice telling me that I'm almost there. At that point, I know it's time to head home, because by the time I get home, I will be well and truly over 30 minutes.
Without the watch, I found myself mentally doing those calculations instead, and I couldn't relax and enjoy the walk.
So, for my second walk of the day, I chose to go with the watch only, leaving the phone at home. And I was able to relax.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
On Tuesday, I walked again with just the watch during my 5 AM walk. And I was much more relaxed and able to enjoy the walk in the pouring rain. I came home and was completely soaked. But it was a completely different experience to the tenseness without the watch.
I didn't get a second walk that day due to all the Zoom meetings I had.
Day 4 (Wednesday)
I never made it to my 5 AM walk, because it turns out that the device addiction of my family meant that no one had done the dishes for three days. I wasn't exactly happy about that.
But for my second walk of the day, I decided to walk again with only the smart watch to keep track of my time. And it was fun to watch the hawks flying overhead.
Day 5 (Thursday)
On Thursday, I decided to go back to my previous routine of the cellphone in the pocket and the smart watch on the wrist to see if there was any difference. I still felt as free and relaxed as usual. And the birds were extra loud on my third lap of the wetlands.
Day 6 (Friday)
It's now Friday as I write this and my conclusion is that walking without technology is something that I can easily do, but not at 5 AM. I need that watch to keep track of the time. If it wasn't so early (and so dark), and if I wasn't on time constraints for that first walk of the day, then it likely wouldn't be an issue. But walking with just the sounds of my surroundings and my own thoughts for company is something that I have always enjoyed and will continue to do so.
Others Doing the Challenge
A few of my writing buddies have opted to do the #DigitalDetox challenge with me—sort-of.
One of my writing buddies said that she couldn't bring herself to leave the phone at home, but she did go for a walk without the earbuds in and enjoyed it.
Another buddy quickly realised that going for a walk without her phone would mean that she would need to take her children with her on her walk—so that's what she did. I haven't spoken to her since then, so I'm not sure what the experience was like for her, but I'm looking forward to hearing about it.
And several other writing buddies have all said that they are interested in doing the #DigitalDetox challenge too, but they haven't shared whether they've achieved the first challenge yet or not.
Next Week's Challenge
So... Looking at the trust book, Challenge #2 is Write someone a letter.
I will remind my followers on social media what the challenge is come Monday.