What exactly is a ‘digital detox’? And what are its essential ingredients?

Othona 2-day Digital Detox, 9-11 November 2015
Othona 2-day Digital Detox, 9-11 November 2015

Summer is almost at an end for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and if you’re thinking about holidays you might be wondering whether there’s still time to try a digital detox. But what exactly is that?

The first definition to come up in a Google search says it is “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.”

Ok, but what about using your device for activities like reading, mapping, listening, photography and so on, which may entail no social interaction, and where the pleasure of using them can also reduce stress? Is that ok? What if you use it to help you meditate? Or track your steps, or your diet? Look at pictures and videos?

If all of that is not ok, and you really must leave your phone in a safe when you arrive, what about using your car to actually get there? Your torch to find your way around? A  microwave oven to heat up a meal? Et cetera et cetera. You get my drift. Where does the boundary line fall?

In June I spent four days at a retreat where there was no wifi and mobile signals were flaky or non-existent. But I used my phone to take photos, listen to music, and take notes. Does that count as a digital detox? It felt like one, because I was pretty much offline except for the occasional message that managed to wriggle through the ether. And what about my Kindle? If I had left it at home and taken a print book instead, is that better for my well-being? And if so, why?

I’m suspicious. But I’m also curious.

So I’ve signed up for a two-day Digital Detox at the Othona Community in Dorset, England, 9-11 November 2015. They offer “a serious break: time out from emails, tv and any device you’re prepared to leave at home or switch off, plus the chance to reflect, with others, on the challenges of the high speed hi-tech lifestyle”.   You will, they promise, “feel yourself slowing to a more natural rhythm”. What I like about this approach is that they leave the decision on what to give up down to each individual. I haven’t decided on my own choice of poison yet, but the process of selecting it will be interesting in itself.

The dancer and craftsman Paulus Berensohn once described his work like this “it’s not a way of making a living, it’s a way of making a life”. I think the same of digital technology. We use it for making a living, yes, but we also use it for making a life. That’s why it feels rather pointless to turn your back on it. But I’m willing to give it a try. We’ll see.

Anyone want to join me in a Digital Detox this November? Find out more here.

But meanwhile, what do you think are the essential ingredients of a Digital Detox? I’m curious to know.


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