Digital Detox? Give it up for the New Year!

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan January 3, 2016
Digital Detox is all the talk of the chattering classes among the digerati. Thankfully it will all be over and done with before you've put your new gym membership away in the desk drawer...

Sheeran on the phone

Have you been making New Year’s Resolutions? I’ve never been one for that sort of thing. Resolutions are up there with the idea of dropping booze in January, the single most miserable month of the year.

But the big trend so far in 2016 appears to be the notion of the Digital Detox, which the chattering classes and liberal digerati reckon is practically de rigueur this year.

I’m placing the blame for this firmly at the door of pop star Ed Sheeran who’s been banging on about taking a break from his tech. In an announcement made on social media, Sheeran confirmed that he was disappearing from, er, social media for 2016:

I’m taking a break from my phone, emails and all social media for a while,. I’ve had such an amazing ride over the last 5 years but I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed.

To his family and friends, Sheeran apologies for “buggering off”, while for his fans, he plugs his new album (Probably best to grab the chance now, if he’s staying off the net for a while):

To my fans, the 3rd album is on its way and is the best thing I have made thus far.

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What’s particularly annoying is that people seem to be paying attention to this nonsense, at least according to a study of 1000 people by website blocking firm Stop Procrastinating.

The study found that 51% of respondents said that having heard what Sheeran is up to, they reckon he has a point and are up for following suit.

In fact, 14% of them were so excited by the idea that they claim to have already cut back before the New Year bells rang out.

People! When do we start listening to Ed Sheeran for lifestyle guidance? Haven’t we had enough of that from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop-y exhortations?


Piggybacking on this study, StopProcrastinating offers up its own Digital Detox plan. This includes:

Take up knitting, because:

Believe it or not, but that sweater you saw your mom knitting wasn’t just to punish you with a mass amount of itchy material that you’d feel guilty not to wear, but this is actually a hobby that promotes healthy brain function and doesn’t require using the Internet.

Finding something you love that doesn’t require the Internet will reawaken the notion that the Internet is not the end all be all of entertainment in your life. And remember, you don’t have your new found hobby to Facebook either.

Go Full Jason Bourne AKA:

You need to completely fall of the grid for at least one whole week each year. Jason Bourne may have had special training to help him disappear, but you’ve got something else that’s equally, if not more as effective.

A tent.

It’s the special weapon of digital detoxers who are serious about their unplugging or are on a budget. With a tent the world, quite literally, is your oyster. Maybe Ed Sheeran is planning on camping too.

Er, perhaps.

See a friend digital-free. This is essentially you staging a digital ‘intervention’ with someone locked in social media addiction:

Create a contract with your significant others and friends that states that you will have at least one time a month when you just focus on each other. When I say contract I don’t mean a creepy 15 page, 50 Shades of Grey type of contract. Something simple that states a day of the month that you both unplug and focus on each other with no devices in sight.

Nope, sorry, still sounds creepy.

There are some more down-to-earth suggestions that are just common sense. Try leaving your devices behind when you go out for lunch and don’t use your laptop, phone etc in the bedroom, especially not in the hour before trying to get to sleep. But frankly that’s just common sense., isn’t it?

On the other hand, there is a couple of suggestions designed to send Apple CEO Tim Cook into apoplexy, such as not using digital channels for music, - cut yourself a CD mixtape of all your favourite tunes instead, boys and girls! - and buying a watch that is just, well, a watch so that you don’t use your phone to check the time. (Or presumably your Apple Watch?!). And write letters. With a pen and paper! Or as the firm puts it:

If you need to automate, buy a typewriter.

To which I say, what’s wrong with a quill pen?

Take a break

Another suggestion is to take yourself off for a Digital Retreat. Now, this I could see someone like Sheeran being attracted to. Basically these are resorts that are the digital equivalent of drying out clinics for alcoholics, check in the iPhone at the door sort-of-thing.

To be fair, this is something that we could all do with doing a bit more. I know I’ve gone off on vacation promising not to check in on emails and caved in by the end of the second day.

This one’s being jumped on by the likes of holiday firmThomas Cook, whose managing director Chris Mottershead launched the company’s Beach Holiday Ready campaign with comments about:

There was a time when almost everyone's resolutions would have been to give up smoking, drink less alcohol or to lose weight. But now, with the introduction of technology related vices, there are a wide range of resolutions being made every January.

Not only does technology play a huge part in our lives, but these resolutions could also be easier to stick to than the more traditional ones of giving up smoking or drinking.

Thomas Cook’s recommendation is, of course, to go on holiday. Presumably just to be on the safe side, you better not use their app to book that holiday of course, but you get the idea.

My take

There are some valid points to be made about lessening our dependency on digital devices. Certainly I know it’s not healthy to have a mild panic attack every time I think I’ve left my phone behind me somewhere.

But this idea of the Digital Detox is just a product of the New Year Silly Season.

It’ll all be forgotten about by the time you’ve put that new gym membership card away in the top drawer for safe keeping, just until you get a bit more time to use it, you understand.