Last Sunday, I turned off all my screens. A complete digital detox. With the growing technology, we have been consuming too much digital content and spending too much time on our phones and laptops. This is degrading our health over time. So finally, I decided to force myself away from all the screens for at least 24 hours. This post will take you through the entire experience, covering my preparations, execution, and effects after the detox.
Over the last year, I have significantly reduced my social media consumption on mobile. So, being unable to open Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp is easy to deal with. Anyway, I started observing my time on screen. I realized that I use my TODO list and my water intake tracker. Both can be done on a piece of paper for a day.
On the other hand, my digital consumption on the laptop is still high. Being in the computer science field, a lot of my work requires access to a laptop. So, I scheduled the detox day on a Sunday. Since I strongly follow my work-life balance rules, I would not need my laptop for work on Sunday. Also, usually, I don’t get any important calls on Sundays.
But what about the entertainment part? I have a habit of watching YouTube or Netflix while eating (and sometimes after eating as well). This is hard to get rid of. An internet outage in Montreal last Thursday helped me a little. But that wasn’t enough. I took something from my external hard disk and started watching that when there was no internet. Clearly, this habit is going to hurt during detox.
Finally, I called my home (India) on Saturday to inform them about my detox. Just so they don’t worry if they can’t reach me. Listed down a few activities to do. Mainly included cleaning the house, reading a book, reading a paper (non-work related, of course!), walking outside, and juggling balls (haven’t done that in a while). Hopefully, that should be enough to cover the day without screens.
The execution started on Saturday night. I turned off my phone, laptop, and tablet. I am allowed to use Kindle.
Finally, it is Sunday. The devices are off. I am up. I have no clue what time it is. I don’t own a clock in my house. Looking at the sunlight, it looks like I woke up at the regular time. I can’t check my emails. But that’s fine. I start with my usual morning routine. Have breakfast without my laptop. Surprisingly, it isn’t that hard.
I usually vacuum my house on Sundays. I start my detox day with that. I have more time (since I have nothing to watch on my laptop), so I thoroughly clean up the house. Now it is time to read the paper I printed last week. Finished it. What time is it? I realize I use my phone too much to check the time on other days. Never mind, looks (and feels) like it is lunchtime. Let’s have lunch. Post lunch, it is time to start reading the book I planned (hard copy). I can’t read for too long continuously. Let’s juggle balls in between for breaks. In the past, I used to juggle for up to 20-25 throws. But I can only do 4-5 now. A little practice, and I am back to the 20 range.
I now realize that I can check the time on Kindle too. I look at my Kindle, and it is just 3 PM!!! The time is passing too slowly. I am basically forced to spend time with my thoughts. Well, it is kind of like meditation. Most of my thoughts are about the MIP competition and my career. The career-related thoughts are because of the book I am reading. The MIP competition thoughts suggest I am quite interested in this area. I should look for potential research topics related to MIP solver improvements after my Ph.D.
Anyway, I go out for a while to my previous house area (which is more lively). Can’t use my phone, but I know which buses to take to go and come back. Sometimes people are playing chess in that open area. But not today. I come back and continue reading the book. Looks like it is evening now. Time to go out again to buy dinner (I don’t cook on Sundays). Yet another meal without a screen. Kind of used to it by now. The day is almost over. Let’s finish reading the book and go to bed.
The execution was successful. I was more relaxed during the day. I liked it. The book I was reading was 80000 hours. It is like a career guide. I will write blogs covering the topics from that later. I spent quite a lot of time thinking about my career options during the day.
The next day I checked my emails. There were a few more than usual but not a single important one. As expected, the world can totally survive in my absence.
I was expecting a total relapse the next day. Since I was away from the screen for the entire day, I was expecting to make up for all that by watching extra YouTube and Netflix. But that didn’t happen. On the contrary, I realized I am spending too much time on the screens. I can totally survive without that. I usually take multiple weeks to finish a book. I can get so much done if I don’t spend time watching TV during and after meals. This entire week I haven’t watched anything on my laptop while eating. Haven’t opened Facebook and Instagram. I can use them only to share my posts. I am now more mindful of my time on my phone and laptop.
I expected mental torture during detox. But, it was the opposite. The entire experience was pleasant. It increased my confidence. I can proudly say that I can comfortably live without screens for more than 24 hours, even when I have complete access to them. I wonder if it would be more challenging to do this without actually turning the devices off.
In the future, I will perhaps do this again. Maybe once every few months. Or maybe even more frequently with partial days without screens. In any way, I absolutely recommend doing a digital detox at least once in your life. But make sure to prepare well for that. If the internal desires are not controlled properly, it might feel like torture, and you might relapse after digital detox.
Video: How to optimize your brain (Ali)
Quote: “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows.” ~ MICHAEL LANDON, retrieved from The millionaire fastlane by M. J. DeMarco.