A Digital Detox

January 17, 2019 · Print This Article

Something different is happening on one of our university campuses, today. De Montfort University, Leicester, is…get this…switching off their social media channels for the next 6 days! No more Facebook, Instagram of Snapchat posts!

A detox indeed! Maybe withdrawal symptoms are kicking in already; weaning your thumb off its obsessive-compulsive disorder of flicking and clicking on the latest update may be hard. But before you start getting withdrawal symptoms, let’s consider why this might be a good idea.

Posted on Facebook (oh, the irony!), the Vice-chancellor of the university shared his thoughts on conversations he had with students: “I’ve been really struck and shocked actually by the degree to which their over-engagement on social media is having a negative impact on their mental health.”[1] He noticed students want a different kind of relationship with social media. Maybe we do too.

It’s not about Armish-ly giving it up, but “recalibrating” the relationship with it so we are in control of our availability, not other people. Certainly, that’s what I find difficult: it comes down to the lack of boundaries inherent in technology – I find that I am constantly available, the ping of my phone demanding my attention. I’m not virtue-signalling, this is a real-world problem.

If we wake up in the night, we check our posts. In the morning, too. Then there’s the real bad stuff: Facebook shaming, concerns about not having enough Instagram likes (something Josh from Love Island has recently expressed feeling pressure over), and lets not forget the Twitter trolls. Is it time to look up? From our phones and computers?

Over the next six days, maybe we should look up. Look at the beauty in the world; the beauty of the people around. Some of whom need us to be physically present. Look for real conversations and connections, reconnecting with some real-life face time. Maybe even taking time to think about our spirituality. Pause. Reflect. Notice.

Is it time to incorporate a digital sabbath into our life – a regular, time-out from our online world? Because we have thoughts and emotions that are waiting to be disentangled and processed. A processing that can’t happen when we are saturated by on-line stimulation.

I have not yet gone for the full 24-hours without my phone. But here’s what I have done:

First, unless I know an important call is coming, I have my phone on silent. A small change started last month has made a big psychological difference: now when I work, I am not distracted or tempted to go to my phone when I get a message or email.

Second, at work I keep my phone locked away until I finish the day. Ok, this may be a tad unrealistic as most people need their phones for their jobs, so how about putting it away for your lunch break?

It has been said attention is the mind’s most valuable resource. Let’s not give too much to social media.


[1] https://www.facebook.com/dmuleicester/videos/357374025078486/


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