I have seven email addresses, three Instagrams, three Facebooks, three WordPresses, two Twitters, two Pinterests, one Linkedin and about seven hundred open conversations on Whatsapp.
I have five Google Drives, Google photos and Google hangouts. I have Zoom, I have Skype, I have Trello and I have Slack. Sometimes people dial it back to the old school and I receive a good old fashioned telephone call. And every so often I receive a text message from Pizza Hut reminding me of that fat day I had back in 2017 when I ordered a large deep pan pepperoni for one.
It beeps, it buzzes and lights flash. The notifications do. not. stop.
And if there’s one thing I do need to escape this week, it’s technology.
Almost twelve months ago I attended a talk on digital distractions hosted by
Anastasia Dedyukhina, founder of digital detox agency Consciously Digital and ever since that day I’ve been conscious of my “digital twitch”.
Pay attention to it.
Every few minutes or so, maybe even less, you’ll find yourself tapping your pocket to make sure your phone is still there. Maybe you felt a phantom buzz or could have sworn you heard it beep. You might even leave it out on a table in front of you and press the home button every few minutes to look for a notification you may have somehow missed.
We’re checking our phones around 200 times per day and one in four of us spends more time online than we do asleep. Our relationship with our digital devices is not just a habit, it’s an addiction.
Following Anastasia’s talk I spent two whole weeks working against my digital twitch and being totally notification-free; no flashing lights, no vibrations and no beeps.
If I wanted to see what emails I’d received, I went into my email inbox. If I had time to check my Facebook messages, I’d log into messenger. And as for Whatsapps, I was allotting time slots to get up to speed with my two thousand messages and thirty nine GIFs.
At night I was even keeping my phone out of the bedroom and relied on an oversized analogue alarm clock to startle me into consciousness every morning.
My life was digital distraction free and I felt emancipated from the seduction of screens.
The Digital Detox
Toning down my digitals gave me instant benefits. I felt liberated and in control of how I spent my time. I didn’t have anybody nagging at me for my attention and I chose what information I wanted to consume and when.
It gave me a sense of inner serenity I hadn’t felt for a while, but it wasn’t long before the calmness was being replaced by some sort of anxiety.
What was I missing out on and what if I got in trouble for missing urgent deadlines at work? What if friends really needed me and I wasn’t there for them? What about that pile of Whatsapp messages I need to reply to at some point, how will I find the time to get through the admin?
And so one by one, those flashing lights and buzzes crept their way back into my life. I reinstalled apps, I updated my notifications and was letting technology torment me once again.
With running two start ups and a blog, plus having a handle on my own personal social media and messaging, means I’m glued to a screen more than ever before – and I’m hitting crisis point.
The pressure to keep up to speed with incoming information and the seeming urgency to reply to messages is insanely immense. The notifications are suffocating and the bombardment never ends.
I needed a solution.
Slow Down Your Digital
It just so happens that this week is Screen Free Week, an annual campaign that encourages us to play, explore, and rediscover the joys of life beyond our ad-supported screens.
From April 29 to May 5, 2019, thousands of families, schools, and communities around the world will put down their entertainment screens for seven days of fun, connection, and discovery.
And while there is no way in hell I could switch off entirely for a week, I’m continuing my attempt to develop a healthier relationship with technology by incorporating small changes that I know will last.
I worked out where I need notifications and where I can definitely live without them – nobody is going to die if I don’t read my emails within a millisecond of receipt and nobody is going to hate me if I can’t get back to them on Facebook messenger for a few weeks.
I’ve learned to accept that there’s only one me and I’m mastering the art of prioritisation. It seems a little cut throat at first – and maybe it is, and maybe it has to be. After all, there’s only one me and only so much I can humanly get through.
And right now my biggest priority is making my businesses work, in some way, shape or form. It’s evolving, adapting and growing with them. This is where the bulk of my attention needs and wants to be and this is where my cranial expansion is taking place.
Other priorities high on the list are the self-love stuff – without yoga and sweaty gym sessions I would not be mentally strong enough to cope. Socials are up there too – time may be limited and no where near as frequent as it used to be, but it’s high quality.
And so I’ve realised, or maybe rather acknowledged, that I don’t need to take on that subliminal pressure to reply to messages within an instant. I can take control of my technology rather than it taking control of me.
And it doesn’t need an overhaul of the tech habits I’ve picked up over the last decade – just a few sustainable tweaks will suffice.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – including you.Anne Lamott