Peeps, we need to talk about phones! I’ve done it on numerous occasions: leaving my mobile switched off on travels that weren’t work related. And you know what? I didn’t have a problem with it at all; I didn’t miss refreshing my Gmail inbox every five minutes or responding to WhatsApp messages on the go. But equally, when switching it back on after my plane had touched down in Berlin, I went back to my old smartphone habits. Nothing’s changed. My last digital detox was in Iceland where I managed to leave my phone on flight mode for eight days straight. It felt like a holiday from reality, but the effect pretty much wore off as soon as I emptied my suitcase.
So, what’s the ultimate solution? I guess when we crave a digital detox (and judging by the amount of articles surrounding the issue, all of us do from time to time), we crave a life that feels a bit more like one, we crave minutes where we aren’t controlled by the usual suspects (Insta, Gmail, Maps), we crave a life where we decide how to spend our time and not let the next message be in charge. We’ve all had smartphones for too long to not be aware of some of the side effects; to not sigh mentally when looking around the train or bus and every single person stares at their screen. After digital detox, the next level is handling it responsibly. Here’s how I handle the whole phone issue now (on the good days).
After that Iceland experience (don’t get me wrong, being offline was great), I stopped making such a fuss about digital detox. I stopped messaging friends and warning them about my online absence but I also made a huge effort to minimize my activities. The truth is, it’s not like phones or apps are bad – they in fact make the whole organisation surrounding trips so much easier – you just gotta learn to use them wisely and unfortunately, that’s not something that’s taught in schools (yet).
Digital detoxing is overrated because there will always be a time after that detox and it will most like involve going back to normal. Normal meaning a frantic human being that spends way too much time looking at their notifications. Know what? They won’t have changed in two hours. It’s enough to check them three times a day, not 300.
So, no. I don’t think you should leave your phone switched off when you’re having a good time. But I do think traveling is a great practice to have set slots for Instagramming and leave it on flight mode for the time in between. It will sharpen your senses, make you pay attention to people you would otherwise ignore, force you to listen to new languages and fuel your creativity. When you return to your “old life”, you will have learned to truly switch off and be more switched on in a lot of ways when opening your inbox. These are really small measures but they will have a huge effect, just think about the amount of time you pull your phone out and unconsciously decide to ignore the world around you. Traveling is about diving into the world, getting frustrated, bored, inspired, all of these things – and then grabbing them and incorporating all these experiences into your personality and daily life. Wouldn’t it be a lot better to replace all those phone memories with real emotions?
Let us know what your experiences with digital detoxes are below!
All photographs taken by Caroline Schmitt