This post is part of a series about a 30 day digital detox series I did with my friend Amanda. Be sure to click over to Out Like Bandits and read her reflections on unplugging. Click here to see a list of all my detox posts.
When Amanda and I decided to start our 30 day Digital Detox, we didn’t sign an official contract or anything, but we definitely had a verbal agreement with each other about how this was going to go. We both agreed that as hardcore iPhone and social media addicts, just cutting back a little bit wasn’t going to suffice. We would have to make some pretty drastic changes if we were going to treat this like the elimination diet it was.
We each abused the internet in various and sundry ways, so we had different changes we wanted to make. Here’s how my rules played out for the month:
I backed up my photos and then deleted my account. Yep, deleted the account, not just the app. The temptation to “cheat” by easily reinstalling the app was too much to just delete the app off my phone. This decision is irreversible (you won’t get your username back, either). Instagram was a big problem for me, so I felt like this needed to be done. Result: I stayed “clean” for the full 30 days.
I deleted the Facebook app from my phone long ago and turned off all notifications, but I really wanted to withdraw for a while. The only problem was that I have fan pages that I manage for several clients, so I do have to use Facebook for work. The solution I came up with: create a dummy account (my name, but with another email address, profile not filled out) to manage the pages, then go in with my main account and make the dummy account an admin in each of the pages I manage. Then I deactivated my account. Since the dummy account had no friends, it wasn’t tempting to linger on Facebook. Result: I stayed “clean” for the full 30 days.
I didn’t sink a lot of time into Twitter (mostly because I had followed too many people and my feed was way too much noise vs. signal) so I just decided to keep my account, set the @reply notifications to go to email, and delete the app from my phone. Result: I didn’t spend any time browsing Twitter, but did interact when I got @replies. I was happy with the amount of time I spent there.
Ooh, pinterest was such a big time suck for me. This is another app where I’d fall prey to the infinite scroll. I decided to keep my account since there were things I’d bookmarked that I wanted to refer back to, but I deleted the app off my phone. Result: I stayed “clean” for the full 30 days.
I had just installed the shiny new Flickr app on my phone, but since it wasn’t part of my “routine” I wasn’t abusing it yet, only checking it from time to time. I decided to leave Flickr as is, but keep an eye on things and if it became a problem, I’d delete the app. Result: I didn’t use Flickr much, the app stayed on my phone.
Email was and still is definitely my biggest problem. I check it an embarrassing amount of times per day, despite there never ever being anything urgent in there. I really wanted to limit myself to checking email twice a day, or using some of the zen habits email hacks that force you to take action right away, but I didn’t do so great with my goals.
I tried to cut back by turning off notifications, removing it from the bottom bar of my iPhone, and hiding the app icon all the way on a third screen. I did cut down on email checking a lot just by virtue of being on my phone less, but I still fought the impulse to check, and lost at least once or twice a day. I did make progress in that I stopped replying to email on my phone, and only did this from my laptop. Result: the compulsion to check email is something I will continue to struggle with until I can really ingrain the habit of only checking at certain times and keeping my inbox clean.
Netflix & Youtube
I have this weird thing where if I do get some downtime I like to bury myself in a TV series while crafting. I like the background noise and something else going on while I’m knitting or embroidering. Netflix instant view is so dangerous for this, because I can catch up on all the old episodes of any given series, and the next thing I know it’s Sunday evening and I’ve watched 7 hours of TV. Ouch. I decided that weekly shows that were currently on like Downton Abbey were okay, but no past series or multiple episodes of any given thing. Result: I stayed “clean” for the full 30 days.
I decided that if a text conversation went beyond 5 messages, I would stop texting and call the person, both to save time and to connect voice-wise. I’m happy to say I mostly stuck to this.
Phones were banned in the following ways:
- No phones in bed
- No phones at meals
- No phones in the bathroom
This ended up being pretty easy because with the lack of social apps on my phone and the infinite scroll banned from my life for the month, there wasn’t much to look at anyway! I have to say, it was difficult a few times when I was with someone at a restaurant and they were on their phone but I was not. I felt a pang of, “Am I missing something on the internet?” It also magnified how annoying I found it that someone would rather stare at a screen than have a conversation with a person of my stunning caliber (heh…) and I had to remind myself that #1 – they didn’t commit to this detox, I did, and #2 – I needed to remember how this felt so I didn’t fall back into that habit once my 30 days were up.
Notes from the field
I made some notes as the detox went along, and this is from my notes on day 2: Today I have found myself opening my phone screen out of habit and just staring – like… wait, what was I doing? Why am I here? I keep forgetting there’s nothing to look at! I didn’t sleep well last night. I realized this morning that it might have been because I was anxious over not checking on things. It has subsided a bit. I am so much more productive already. I had time to read and write and clear clutter this morning. I am still checking email – not responding, but just looking.
More to come
That sums up my digital detox rules. Amanda’s were slightly different. We’ve got lots more notes on our reflections, realizations, and deep thoughts on what came after the detox. We’ll be writing a series of posts recapping some of our discoveries, and we’ll even be releasing an inexpensive workbook to help you organize your own 30 Day Digital Detox (all proceeds will be donated to a charity TBA).
If you’re interested, sign up below to get notified when one of us makes a post about what we learned during our digital sabbatical, and to be the first to know when we publish the Digital Detox workbook.
What do you think of my rules?
Would your detox look different? Were you surprised at any of the steps we took? Tell me in the comments.