As so many of us are habitually connected to the web, it might seem strange to suggest that we would benefit from internet/mobile “holidays” or detoxes. Just in case at this point you might be strongly tempted to click out, just pause on this as you might miss out on something important for your health and well-being.
Yes, I felt I had to write that last bit as that is exactly what people do, quickly move on from something that doesn’t have instant interest. Stickability, perseverence, seeing it through, isn’t a habit the net exactly encourages. Yet, this is how we’re, very many of us, living right now: fast, now, instant, mobile, flitting. It’s a norm, such that it doesn’t occur to question it. Yet there’s lots of evidence that it can actually disconnect some of us from others, since the contact is online rather than face-to-face, a very different experience psychologically, and faciliates a form of stress that we aren’t aware of until it has really got us: tense, twitchy, irritable, sleepless nights, etc.
Thus, a web detox is useful periodically just to get a sense of what it can mean to be “off-line”. On this matter it’s worth watching this video. The journalist concerned concluded by saying he couldn’t wait to get back online, so compulsive I would suggest is his addiction, although as a technology correspondent he might have difficulty with that perception.
The point about compulsiveness, addiction if you like, is that we aren’t aware we’ve got it. “It” just runs us. However, if you read between the lines of the accompanying article to the above-mentioned video, you’ll see that he gets time to play the piano, which he usually misses, and has more time for conversation.
When I first tried a web detox, I found I needed to really focus on relaxation. That was perhaps no surprise, given my kind of work, but what I was more struck by was feeling bored. Suddenly there were whole gaps in the day that I was accustomed to filling with the myriad data of the net, and all that online interaction.
Now boredom of course is healthy, potentially that is, as it presents one with a challenge as to how to change the experience into interest. Of course I could simply be in the moment, and be present and aware. This in itself is immensely rewarding, but might perplex very many people not used to doing that and unaware of the whole background conversation around awareness and mindfulness and how useful it is. Another might be to go and meditate, also hugely beneficial. However there was for me a bigger issue to address. What were the most meaningful aspects to my life that I miss out on through being hooked up so much of the time? Like the journalist it could be neglected interests of a non-web kind and of course that vastly missing part of today’s culture, human physical interaction.
It’s worth pausing and thinking about what personal relationship you are neglecting (What are the excuses? eg.”don’t have the time”). Then there is the whole relationship with life, people and engagement. What activities could you do, involving others, that you don’t do and leave you perhaps a bit isolated.
What if the internet was suddenly unavailable to you for an extended period? And what is your life really about? Here’s the really beneficial reflection: what are you doing with your life that gives you meaning? And what could you do about that?