Digital Detox

Back in January I wrote a post about living with "Less Stuff in Life" which was much better received by my film audience than I had expected. I was pretty excited to read all the feedback from those on a similar journey and encourage you all to keep writing. Anyhow, the first section of that post entitled, Return to Analog, was inspired by a book I was reading, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter as well as this post by my friend, Cody Priebe, who did a near winter-long experiment on disconnecting.

I discussed in my article that I was decluttering and unplugging more and more from the world through a reduction in phone dependence, email dependence and social media use. Since then, I have gone further to remove my personal Twitter account (@zen_bones) and only to concentrate on the weekly Physical Grain and monthly SALT accounts. But, more on that down below.

In the past couple of months, I have made more observations on my digital behaviors and the next phase I want to enter is based on digital detoxing, egged on by a challenge from the folks at Punkt.

The Mind Crutch

I am sure I am not alone in saying that my cellphone has been my mind crutch. It's an unlimited supply of knowledge and information that makes it simple not to think. For example, watching a movie and seeing a familiar actor flash across the screen. Rather than using my head to think of what else he's been in, I fire up IMDB and get my answer - taking my eyes off the movie I am enjoying for a few minutes - maybe more.

My wife gives a glance and a "are you watching this with me?" look and realize I was disconnecting from time with her to look at my screen.

I also found myself standing in line at the store, grabbing the phone to look at Instagram, BBC or Twitter rather than saying hello to the people standing there with me.  OK, they were on their phones too, doing the same thing and it would have been rude to interrupt, right?

Don't get me wrong, I love tech. I live and breathe it. But I need to remember, there's a time and place for it. Like trying to replace the fuel pump on my tractor over the summer and having YouTube running up on the engine block with instructions. 

My Growing Problem

So, this latest phase of my "digital detox" or simplifying started one afternoon while sitting in my recliner, iPad on my lap with Netflix running some documentary and my cellphone in hand. Here's a rundown of the thought process that led me to wanting to step up the game.

The phone kept beeping and buzzing with notifications from several social media accounts, text messages from friends that were sending nothing but meme's, shipment notifications from Amazon and eBay, and email notifications popping up from work and personal circles. That particular day just seemed relentless and I honestly had no idea what was happening in the documentary - or in my living room for that matter. 

None of these apps really needed my immediate attention, yet I was giving it to them, especially when waiting for an important text/email from someone (in this case, I was waiting for some film scans to be ready for download, so every PING got my attention). Picking up the phone was just opening up the rabbit hole of wasting a lot time online.

As I said in the previous article, I had been using the app, OFFTIME  (Google Play / iTunes), up until this point with some success, but was annoyed with myself that I could easily bypass the settings when I really wanted to. (You can read that as total and complete lack of self control). It was easy enough to brick the phone every afternoon, but I felt myself getting lazy about it, wanting to quickly just check this or that. 

You know how that goes, checking one things quickly leads to another and that rabbit hole has you.

Swiss Simplicity

This problem (lack of self control, remember) got me researching "dumb phones" that would force my hand - and I am not talking about those 90's throwback phones with terrible cameras and a slew of apps - I am talking minimal dumb phones that I would be happy to use.

One of the first ones that came to mind was the Light Phone created by Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang. I had seen it on Kickstarter and knew Cody was playing with one, but for me, that was one step too far. I loved the idea of single purpose, like my cameras & Kindle - but I was thinking more along the lines of a single purpose texting phone, not so much with the talking here. So, I expanded my search.

That led me to the MP01, a sexy dumb phone created by Jasper Morrison for a Swiss tech company called Punkt. This, I loved. The idea of a "weekend" phone that couldn't do data, yet still call & text friends and family when needed.

I loved everything about it - just wanted to research more and test the waters on how I would do with a texting/calling only phone. After all, I am currently due for a new phone.

Screen Challenge

As I said, I wasn't quite ready to commit to the phone and was continuing to research them when I came across a Digital Detox Winter 2017 Challenge on Punkt's website. While deciding on the phone, I thought, hell, why not start now?

For this challenge, I decided to make it about screen time. Not just email / social media. As a Technology Director, I can not do a cold turkey cut and needed to draw a line between work and personal screen time.

So, my challenge is an after-hours detox and to stop all internet-connected activity during these non-essential times:

  • Monday thru Thursday: 5:00 pm-6:00 am
  • Friday 5:00 pm thru Monday 6:00 am

Now, I say internet-related as I will still take phone calls and text messages from work, friends and family during those hours, but I will not check social media, emails and so forth from any device. That leaves me just an hour per weekday to work on my blog or post to Twitter / Instagram. If I can't fit the "personal" stuff in during that time, it'll just have to wait until the next day.

As for my Nexus 6, I installed a launcher that allows me to hide all my apps. I've hid everything aside from texting / phone apps during the off times and have a folder of "work apps" that I can enable during the workweek. It's not a perfect solution, but it's more of a challenge to fire up gmail, Instagram or Chrome for instance (I've uninstalled Twitter all together on my mobile devices).

This is why I am hoping to pick up the MP01. Force that hand.

Further Social Media Trimming

I mentioned above that I further trimmed social media, so more on that here. Yes, @zen_bones on Twitter is no more. But it's still an account on Instagram (@zen.bones there). The IG account is the only place I will be posting anything at all personal.

I am keeping the @physicalgrain and @read_salt accounts on both Twitter and Instagram going, as they are there to share latest posts per account. Those are not about me, but about the photographers being featured. Physical Grain is monitored weekly, though not a super active account. SALT is even less so - as that's monitored monthly as new posts go live on the website.

The future success of these accounts will determine if their social sides will stay active. Considering they are low maintenance and do not need much attention, I don't see why not.

Extra Time

With my freed up time, I plan to do more walks with my dogs, read more books, and get in as much quality time with my wife and kids as I can. This means simple things like hanging out by the fire, playing board games, doing puzzles or just enjoying each other's company. As for my detoxing challenge, we'll see how that goes day by day. I am hoping I can add the MP01 to the mix in the near future, as I really see that pushing things along.  You can follow my progress with it (off and on) here and with my Instagram account if that's your thing.


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