Digital Detox – My rules

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.

2012-08-26_1346006885When 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.

iPhone Boundaries

2012-11-11_1352648333Phones 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.

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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.


  1. says

    your journey has really stroke a chord with me, I’m actually in process of preparing a 30 day digital detox in march This is what I’m thinking to do, as I have been trying, and sometimes failing still..

    facebook: have my husband make up a new password for the log in, and he will be in partner for me on this, and he doesn’t give in to me easily so good candidate. Before changing password, change the email to an old email account that I don’t use anymore, so it would be hard to get the password.

    flickr: I don’t use it often, but its been on my list to delete or clean up. I may just delete it and start completely fresh. after 30 day, so the focus is all art and painting related.. There is a app called bulkr pretty great for back up!

    instagram: yes hard one I agree..but i’m looking into blocking my data plan from att for 30 days, and just use the phone service. I only use instagram on my phone. I actually don’t text as much anymore either. I have also met some creatives from all over that I enjoy this connection. I think I can commit to only using it 1-2 a week..

    Email has been good for me. What I did was I started a new email account, and am very careful who I subscribe to with that account, so I don’t get junk mail. If I need to give up an email for a site, I use my other emails. that has helped me TREMENDOUSLY with not having to check my email all the time.

    twitter: I’m never on it, I lost interested in it ages ago. I only got an account, cause it seemed essential, but if I really need to connect with someone with work, I will contact them directly. Its linked to my instagram updates.

    Purpose of an artful life: This is a big one here, get ready! With my new venture with art and illustration, it has created a new method of working. Instead of speeding through and slamming out things no matter what, or saying yes to all projects despite pricing compromises, etc. The over saturated graphic design that is online and every where now. Client relationship back and forth, trying to exceed expectations for them. Sacrificing personal or family time for work time because bills and excessive life style requirements. Becoming a slave rather then learning and becoming a leader. Comparing with others that are doing better then you and being overly critical with yourself ( from personal to work).. I left all that in my city life how did it creep up again here!! lol

    So with love, and the sake of a great artful life, I have been in process preparing a detox, to be a better mom, artist, wife, and friend. I hope this will give you some insight and help with the workbook so I can have a more successful digital detox soon!

  2. JJ says

    Great post, Amber!
    I noticed a lot of similarities to myself. I decided to start my digital detox today, March 1. I have 2 email addresses–I’m keeping my important one connected to my iphone. The other is usually all of the newsletters I signed up for so I disconnected that one.

    I don’t text much at all so that’s not much of a problem.

    Instagram is total time waster for me. I don’t put up a lot of photos, and never any photos of myself. I will see if I want to still be bothered with it in April.

    I have Twitter but I use it like my unessential email address: to find sales and bargains (usually for stuff I don’t need anyway). Right now I don’t check it as much as I used to so I don’t think it will miss it. Plus, I don’t really have anything important to say on it anyway.

    I LOVE Pinterest! Hehe…I’m not deleting that one because I will want to refer to it later. Once I get back on it next month I will probably remove some boards and unfollow people/companies.

    I’m hoping I can focus on making more face to face connections, bravely doing more activities alone if I can’t find anyone, reading my stack of books and getting a lot more knitting done because my Ravelry queue is begging for some attention:)

    I’m really liking this series of posts…thanks for the inspiration!

  3. says

    So far, it’s been okay. I did finally delete my flickr and backed up all my photos. Emails are manageable. Instagram, much better as my only focus with it is sharing art or about Ellie. Facebook still have issues with. But I have not been posting much just sharing info. And making sure I don’t comment. My iPhone, I love the map system when traveling so that is hard to let go of the dataplan. And oh my goodness if you do some research on giving up your dataplan with att, the craziness you will find on how the conpany Will try their best to make it difficult for you!! Or else wifi is sufficient. I’m also looking foward to Warmer weather and more outdoor things to take my attention off my phone. I would give my efforts a 7 out of 10. I feel slightly doomed though still:-( the Nokia luma is a very fun and great wifi focused phone.. I like to save money, and spend more quality time with my family in the end..