The four unexpected benefits of a digital detox
From the crack of dawn news scroll to that final check of WhatsApp after lights out, my phone and I have had a passionate love affair for, oh, the last decade or more.
It’s been there for me for all the key moments of my adult life – wedding planning, holiday booking, home decorating, becoming a mother (and frantically typing, ‘how to change a nappy’ into YouTube).
In recent years, my phone has also been my portable office. As a freelance journalist I’m well used to firing off pitches in the coffee shop queue, or taking work calls in the H&M fitting rooms.
Recently, though, our relationship has turned a bit toxic. I’m now joined at the hip with – or glued to the screen of – my battered old Samsung. Checking Facebook in bed when I should be unwinding. Googling ‘do thong bikinis cause thrush?’ during Love Island ad breaks, when I could be enjoying an interesting chat with my husband.
Yes, the digital age has given us instant gratification, but sometimes the notifications, the uploads and the constant messaging all get a bit… deafening.
So, I’ve decided to cut the cordless. To revisit a simpler time when people spoke to each other IRL and going viral meant you’d picked up an STD in Santa Ponsa.
I’m not going full Tom Hanks in Cast Away here; just taking a one-day digital detox to reduce stress levels and be more mindful. How hard can it be?
Jeananne, the night before her detox
Benefit 1: Family bonding
I enjoy spending time with my children. I love them so much that I sometimes want to eat them (is that just me?). But I’ll be honest: occasionally in their company – usually after the 14th rendition of Baby Shark – I find myself stealing a glance at my phone and firing off a few messages to friends.
Not today. Unfettered by digital devices and buoyed up by some soft play centre coffee (which actually tastes more like gravy than coffee, but hey), I’m bringing my parenting A-game. Shoehorning my adult-sized body into a toddler-sized Wendy House. Whirring up the ball pool like it’s a turbo-charged jacuzzi. Bouncing on the trampoline, while making a mental note to work on my pelvic floor exercises.
Yes, I’m now knackered. Yes, the other parents think I’m the crazed lovechild of Mary Poppins and Mr Motivator. But I’m beaming, and so are my children. Job done.
Benefit 2: Community spirit
Nowadays, about 90 percent of my grocery shopping is done online. This afternoon though, I’m armed with a real shopping list, not a virtual one. After some rooting around for a pound to put in the trolley (like the Queen, I don’t really carry cash these days), I’m all set.
Aside from the benefits of being able to hand select your own produce – and a gorgeous midi-skirt from the clothes aisle – I also bump into some familiar faces: my lovely former primary school teacher, and a neighbour I’ve been meaning to invite over for ages.
As much as I love our Tesco delivery man, I think I’ll be coming here more often.
Benefit 3: Relationship goals
At the end of the evening, my husband and I usually collapse in a heap on the sofa to watch something undemanding. It’s fair to say that we both have a wandering eye: me for Instagram and ASOS, him for the BBC Sport website.
Tonight, we’re on the digital dry. No eyes flicking to phones and tablets, no rewinding of complicated plot twists. In fact, we switch off the TV completely, and just chat, about everything from old memories to future plans.
OK so, we’ve missed Dinner Date AND Match Of The Day, but it’s actually been lovely.
Benefit 4: More shut-eye
After reading a couple of chapters of my new book (the excellent This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, if you’re interested) instead of disappearing down a Twitter rabbit hole, I definitely find it easier to drift off to sleep.
Admittedly, I have hankered after my phone a bit today. And no, I won’t be going cold turkey for good.
But I’m resolute that from now on, I will rely less on digital devices, enjoy some phone-free quiet moments, and make more visits or voice calls to those I love, instead of just on-the-hoof texts.
Because every so often, it’s time to stop scrolling, and start living.