We recently met Melissa Coton at a learning session we ran for an international entertainment brand as part of their Learning at Work Expo. Melissa has been experimenting with her relationship with her smartphone and went offline for a week to see what would happen. The findings are very interesting! Read all about her experience here…
I decided to ‘go offline’ for the last week of my 40 Day Program (blog post coming soon). I had given up different foods during the previous weeks, but had committed only to reducing my internet consumption , failing miserably to stay offline for more than a day. This was a clear sign to me that I had a minor addiction, and should try giving it up altogether. I want to clarify my self-imposed rules as technically I wasn’t completely offline; most of my work is done by email; and I did say to my friends and family that they could reach me by email if they needed me.
I’m no phone junkie; I’m even known for telling people off for using their phones when they are with people. Unless a call or message is urgent, I strongly believe in prioritising the person you have in front of you. However, when I am ‘alone’, I tend to stare at my screen and my phone becomes my link to all the people I love. So as Sunday night approached, I messaged my friends on watsapp to announce my week off and was amused to receive a few messages including ‘I wish I could do that’, ‘enjoy’, ‘let me know how it goes’ and a genuine ‘why?!’. As my self imposed cut off approached, I wondered how I would cope 7 days without ‘internet’, and I couldn’t wait to find out.
Day 1: I feel a bit silly writing about this, I realise how much of a first world problem this is.
My commute to and from work seems different, I still hold my phone in my hand at the beginning, out of habit, but I put it away as soon as I realise there isn’t much use to it without the magic connection.
As the day goes by, I feel less surrounded and also less distracted, which enables me to get through more work than usual.
I think I’ve made eye contact with more people today and I am hyper aware of the mobile zombies only looking up briefly to make sure they aren’t walking into another commuter.
A few times during the day I think I must contact someone to tell them something but as I realise that I can’t, I think I’ll tell them next week, if I remember, meaning it probably wasn’t that important. This makes me question the importance of all the conversations I have on watsapp on a daily basis.
After work I embark on a homemade soup as I feel like I have the whole evening ahead of me. I don’t spend much time on my phone and I never watch TV, but do I tend to check social platforms when I’m waiting for something; the water to boil or the oven to heat, or if I’m dining alone I might Instagram my dinner and check out what my friends have been up to. Tonight though, I enjoy my own company and it’s uplifting.
As I go to bed I realise that the only texts I received today are from Sam (my boyfriend), but I haven’t texted anyone either.
Day 2: I’m getting used to not checking my phone every 2 seconds. On my way to work I do some of the reading for my YTT course, which I have been postponing, my excuse being that my commute isn’t long enough. I realise that although my bus ride is quick, I have managed to read a couple of pages – I work out that if I do this every day both ways, I will have finished my reading by the end of the week!
I feel the urge to text a couple of people, to confirm plans and just to say hi. I do, and I receive quick replies. I’ve had my communication fix for the day and forget my phone in my coat the whole day.
My day feels very productive and I don’t even miss IG or FB, but I am missing watsapp a bit, or rather the people I talk to on it.
Day 3: I saw some of my yogi friends at the studio last night, we chatted and shared a few giggles and I think I valued our exchange more than I usually do, maybe because I didn’t have that many interactions with friends throughout the day. Or perhaps it was because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them until I bumped into them again.
One of my dear friends and I did a little accroyoga, took a picture, and my immediate thought was that I’d like to share it on IG.
This reminds me of my philosophy teacher asking the class ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one sees it, did it fall?’ it seemed like such a silly question at the time, but now I see that I validate a lot of what I do through the eyes of others, as if my own eyes were not enough.
Day 4: I’m so busy at work all day that I don’t even think about social media. On my way to the final meeting of my 40 day program I contemplate messaging my fellow yogis to tell them about the delicious quiche I’ve made for them (recipe on my blog) but I realise it’s unnecessary as I am going to see them within 2 hours.
Day 5: Following last night’s overwhelming final meeting, I feel the urge to contact everyone to tell them how grateful I am to have shared this journey with them. I tell myself however that I have already made that declaration to the whole group last night. I must learn to trust that communicating a message once is enough. Today during my lunch I check if the next MGV tickets are out. It turns out they are, and as I scroll down, I see that MGV has quoted my blog , I can see that the post has a few reposts, likes and comments. I am curious, happy and proud and would love to contact MGV to thank them for this, but it will have to wait until Monday and I’m ok with it. I guess this is the most important lesson from this week – life online won’t stop without me, but it’s ok if I miss some of it, even most of it, because if I don’t, I’m probably missing out on real life.
Day 6: I spend the day with my boyfriend’s family in Wales and I leave my phone in the room all day; it’s easy to be offline when spending time with people you love.
This does make me miss my own family, and I actually cheat a bit by asking Sam to watsapp my mum and tell her that I love her and miss her and will be back online on Monday.
Day 7: Phone, what phone? Just kidding, I’m actually quite looking forward to turning my internet back on. Part of me wants to stay offline but most of me wants to see what’s happened over the past few days in my family group, on our YTT group and with all my friends in general. I almost try to argue to myself that since I went offline last Sunday evening, I could technically come back online tonight, but I know that it can wait until tomorrow.
This blog was originally posted here