A Digital Detox? Spare Me! I Have Bigger Plans Than That…

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It’s about half way through the 21 Day Meditation Experience. Today is Day 10, I’m on Day 8.Yes, that is a confession – I missed last Thursday and Friday. But I had already made the decision not to be hard on myself if I did miss a day, as that defeats the purpose of meditating in the first place. So I’ve just picked up where I left off and it was so much easier to continue on when I didn’t have his negative self-talk going on.

But missing two days got me thinking. Last Thursday and Friday I did manage to check my emails. I also managed to look at Facebook (more than once, on both days), I think I also managed a glimpse at Instagram, so why did I not find the time to meditate?

Arianna Huffington, in Thrive, talks about a study done by James Roberts and Stephen Pirog on technological addiction. According to this study we check our phones 150 times a day, which averaged out to checking it every six minutes. Now I don’t think I’m as bad as all that, but it was a statistic that left me reeling. I immediately thought ‘so if we are so distracted by our phones, what other projects, hobbies, people, are suffering because of this lack of complete engagement?’

Light bulb moment! Ahhhh, that would be my meditation practice – for one. There is also a pile of new novels sitting by my bed (they’ve been there for more than a year), so yes, reading for pleasure is another. More importantly, I confess, shamefacedly, my children have suffered because of this. (Don’t judge me, please!) It is not uncommon for my poor children to have to repeat what they have said to me two, sometimes three times before I comprehend because I’m distracted by my iPad. Linda Stone  coined the term ‘continuous partial attention’, the concept both shocked and resonated with me.

But the battle is not a personal one. I’m not a disengaged person – in fact, the opposite, I’d describe myself as an extrovert. I feed off the company of others, I love conversation, but we are fighting a global battle against the rather crude FOMO! For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a Fear Of Missing Out. But our fabulously modern age perpetuates this – there is an undercurrent of fear that something might happen and you won’t witness it. It is completely irrational, but nonetheless, it is there.

But worse than that, oh the pain… when you realise you have missed something! Because there it is, on Facebook, unfolding before your very eyes, and you are stuck at home!!

The FOMO in all of us, realise it or not, has left us in a permanently elevated state of anxiety – hence the compulsive checking of social media and use of technology. Arianna Huffington explains that technology ‘crowds out the time and energy we have for real human connection’. It is affecting our ability to connect with real people and have real and meaningful interactions.

The downside to continuous partial attention is myriad and worthy of an entire separate post, but I am just considering a fraction of its negatives and I am going to attempt to do something about it.

I hate the term ‘digital detox’ because it suggests that just taking a break from technology will fix things. And then you can switch everything back on and ‘retox’. It suggests that we live in desperate deprivation of our technology, only to be counting the days till we can switch back on. But I’d like to reset my patten of engaging with technology.

I’ve read suggestions to check social media for just one hour a day, but applying these limitations only makes me edgier in my hour ‘on’, then more desperate to get back on for a sneaky ‘Facebook binge’ in the evening.

So I am switching off everyday, at 6pm, for a month. The plan is that it will reset my neural pathways and then if I want to look at social media after 6pm (after my month of retraining), I can do it without angst or guilt. I’m hoping I won’t be that interested; I’ll be too busy meditating.

Have you retrained your neural pathways regarding your use of technology? I’ll report back in a month and let you know how things changed for me.