352 Inc. / Digital Strategy / January 15th, 2010

One Week Digital Detox

For the last week, I have been in the middle of a Digital Detox. After spending the last decade working on me, I wanted to spend the next one working on my relationships with others. Although the flurry of social media sites has allowed us to be instantly informed, in many ways, it has pushed us further apart. Personal connections are binary. True emotions are lost in 140 characters or less. So, after reading this blog post, I thought I’d give the One Week Digital Cleanse a try and begin really connecting. Here were the guidelines:

*read and  write email only from laptop or desktop computers

*cell phones can only be used to make calls, and no text messages or e-mails are allowed – if you receive a text, you must reply in voice over the phone. E-mails must be returned from a laptop or desktop computer.

*no use of Twitter or any other social networking site – this includes reading as well as posting.

*no visiting of any entertainment or gossip sites. (No need to detail which ones – you know what they are.)

The Digital Cleanse began 9am on January 1. The first few days were pretty easy. When someone started to text me, I called them back. It was pretty effective and in many cases more efficient. However in one instance, at the end of the conversation, one small detail wasn’t decided yet, so I got another text from my friend following up on that detail. What was I supposed to do, call back just to say “Ok. Sounds good.”? This was my first glimpse into how technology has actually made our lives easier. However, it was only day two, and I was determined to keep up the cleanse. Towards the middle of the week, I could definitely feel the urge of logging into Facebook and Twitter. It wasn’t easy to quit cold turkey. Those sites do allow me to keep up with what’s going on with people I don’t see every day. However, the point of the digital cleanse was to actually talk to these people to find out what was going on. So, I picked up the phone and called a few friends I haven’t spoken with in a while. It felt great! Although, I do have to admit it was a little awkward at first. We both had to get over the very obvious ‘out of the blue’ moment we were having. But once the surprise wore off, it was nice to catch up. Overall, the Digital Detox was cleansing and refocused me on my relationships. However, I don’t think the notion that technology and social media has completely removed us from real connections  is entirely true. Overall, they have added great a convenience to our lives. Texting, Facebook, Twitter and the like have allowed us to easily communicate and keep in touch with distance friends and family. I do believe though, that we have grown too use these virtual pathways a little too much. We depend on them. We use them as a crutch. We assume that a quick “Hey! How it’s going?” wall post every 6 months keeps a relationship alive. Not so much. Our contact with one another shouldn’t be entirely through typed words. To really have meaningful connections, we need to use our other senses. We need to pick up the phone, go out for coffee, and spend time physically together. So while I will continue to use virtual means to briefly communicate with friends and family, my relationships will be embellished and not dependent on cyber connections. Interested to try the One Week Digital Detox yourself? Go for it, and let me know what your experience is like. Don’t think you could ever give up Facebook or only use your Blackberry just for calls? Let me know that too. I’m interested to hear other people’s takes on the Digital Detox idea and on how social media has or hadsn’t made us more connected.