A few weeks ago I turned my iPhone off for 24 hours. I enjoyed the feeling of clarity so much that I left it off for another 10 days (although I had email on my Mac for anything work-related). Basically I just went dark, and outside of my husband and kids, the only way to contact me was old school – the house phone or email. Instead of Google Maps I printed driving instructions out at home. I listened to the car radio (or drove in silence). I checked my calendar on my desktop instead of relying on push notifications. While working, I listened to podcasts already downloaded and only checked my email 3x a day.
At first I was anxious and twitchy, but as the days passed, I started to enjoy the complete lack of distraction. Just like going on a food fast, I felt lean and clean. And by the way, before this, I was not someone who was in the least bit addicted to my phone. I would check it maybe every couple of hours, I’d already disabled all my notifications apart from text messages, and I turned it off every night at 9 pm. So this wasn’t done out of desperation or panic. I guess it was the equivalent of someone who already meditates every day for 20 minutes but actually goes on a 10 day retreat and the experiences that brings.
It was great. I felt like my old self, I remember how it felt 20 years ago when I would be unreachable while traveling. I stopped thinking of who might be contacting me, or what would be happening on Twitter. I basically purged myself of any craving tendencies, much like someone who goes on a complete sugar fast.
I’m aware I was only able to do that because all my work correspondence is through email or apps like Trello which I can access on my desktop. But even with those, I only made it a point to check and respond once in the morning, once after lunch, and once after supper. I missed a couple of invitations from friends for an evening out but nothing I can’t live with. When I went out for errands, my husband or children couldn’t reach me, and it turns out that was no big deal. It was just like the old days. And I really really enjoyed that feeling of absolute clarity.
So here are some things I read in the London Guardian that make me think I should be doing this more often:…
“The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,” Eyal writes. “It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.” None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all “just as their designers intended”.
It is revealing that many of these younger technologists are weaning themselves off their own products, sending their children to elite Silicon Valley schools where iPhones, iPads and even laptops are banned.
Most of the tech insiders questioning today’s attention economy are in their 30s, members of the last generation that can remember a world in which telephones were plugged into walls.
Justin Rosenstein banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.
Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”
Technologies can affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use.