Digital Detox Weekend

Phone off for the weekend

Like a lot of people I know, I’m attached to my phone. I know it’s around me 24/7 so I decided to take a short digital detox from it over the weekend. Recently, I have been slowly letting go of my near-obsessive quantified-self activities and I thought this would be a helpful step in that direction. Up until recently I have been tracking everything from my heart rate while running and cycling (Moov/Strava), my weight workouts (Notes), my brain waves (Muse) and timing (Insight Timer) when meditating, the micronutrients in my diet (Chronometer), my blood markers with the help of my doctor, regular vitals like weight (Apple Health) and of course the quality, quantity and meta data around my sleep (Pillow). We all track all these right? Since almost all of these are on my phone I had to give all of them up. Not a small thing as I tend to give in to the “streaks” I’ve been so fond of. It was time to let go. On a somewhat related note, I’m not much of a social media hound, but I do browse Instagram and Twitter at times. I have all my notifications off so I only check it when it strikes me so not huge loss here other than (TMI Alert) going to the washroom.

Another reason I was conducting this experiment was to try to do one thing at a time. This is an extension of my meditation practice during which I only focus on the breath in order to be more present in every encounter and event in my life. There are data that suggest that we are truly dumber when our phone is in the room so I chose to leave my phone in my bedroom and powered off.

Even though I knew I used my phone too often I was still surprised at how many times I had to resist going for the device that wasn’t there. Things like my morning alarm as I like to wake up early for my morning routine. I used a battery operated clock we have in our kitchen to time my meditation. Throughout the day I would tap the top of my thigh on the pocket to check if the phone was there as I often do. It wasn’t which reminded me what I was doing and made me happy every time. Not that many people are doing this, but I was using the timer on my phone to time my cold water sessions for my Wim Hof Method course.

As I sat down for my morning meditation I noticed a small moving figure in my pool. It was a mouse that I was able to get to in time and save. I pulled him out by the tail and sat him down in front of me. I have no idea how long he was swimming for, but he was too exhausted to run away. He just sat on his hind feet and looked at me while he caught his breath. I took a minute and smiled at him asking if he was ok. I thought about taking a photo or video of the little guy, but that wasn’t possible and that was fine. We just sat there for a few minutes and when I stood up to go back into the house he scurried away into the forrest nearby. Some moments we can appreciate more without taking photos or videos while other experiences may even be improved. I enjoyed this one without.

There were many times throughout the weekend, like every time she’s in the room, where I would stare at my three month old daughter and want to take a photo, but not taking one and being able to be fully engaged in eye to eye contact with her was more valuable than any photo. These engagements are a big part of her brain and social development. Also, she’s just cute as hell!

We went to our new favourite spot for breakfast and though we are relatively good at not looking at our phones too much in restaurants I did find myself scribbling notes in my field notes book while my wife peaked at her device or while she rocked our daughter to sleep. I often take notes in my phone throughout the day. These could be quotes from books I’m reading, ideas for writing, work things, etc. I’m not sure if the notebook was any better than a phone. Also, note to self: LEARN HOW TO WRITE MORE LEGIBLY!

I listen to audiobooks and podcasts almost every day. This wasn’t possible without my phone. This is a big thing for me. I could have used an iPad or my Macbook, but I kind of felt that this would be cheating so I didn’t. On the positive side I used the time for focus on the moment. I usually listen while running or preparing breakfast so I simply enjoyed that time. On the negative side, I love learning and these are an effective way of doing so while doing simple tasks so I missed out a little. Striking a healthy balance here is key.

Phantom vibration syndrome or phantom ringing is the perception that one’s mobile phone is vibrating or ringing when it is not ringing. [wiki] Ringxiety is real people! I knew this existed, but I didn’t think I used my phone all that much so I didn’t think it would happen to me. Evidently, I was wrong. I swear I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket when it was nowhere near my body. It didn’t happen often, but enough that it bothered me.

I did miss out on being able to answer a random question that came up in conversation which was about the history of the anonymous mask. My wife knew it was based on Guy Fawkes and unsure how it evolved to be the face of the hacktivist group and activism in general. Turns out the mask was borne out of irony. It’s amazing how much we can learn with a simple search on a device that fits in our pocket. We take it for granted. It’s also the reason, among many, that we need to overhaul our education system, but that’s another blog post.

We had friends over for dinner that we were excited about and began prepping the food in the afternoon. I forgot that I use my phone timer to track my cooking. Back to the battery operated clock. It’s easy to not think of the phone when friends are around since we actually enjoy the time with them so that part was pretty easy.

I tend to check my social media while I watch TV. I get bored easily and sitting still isn’t my strongest skill. The missing phone just made me more bored with TV and got me to do other things. Probably a good thing. Or maybe I just need to watch better shows.

I don’t know that it was directly attributable or if it was just in my mind, but by the end of the first day I felt more relaxed and my mind very clear. I remembered and enjoyed the memory of the day’s events more vividly. Even a few days after I’m able to replay the day pretty clearly in my mind. I was also able to let go of all of the tracking and measurements while being more present in my wife and daughter’s day. This is something I’ll be focusing on more. Don’t get me wrong, I love using my phone for a lot of things and I don’t plan on getting rid of it any time soon. Having the answer to anything, directions to anywhere and communicating with anyone in the world at the touch of a button is incredibly empowering, but when I’m in the room with my family I don’t need those other things.

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