18 Mar 21 Day Tech Detox: What I Learned from My Distraction-Free Adventure
21 Day Tech Detox: What I Learned
from My Distraction-Free Adventure
By Jeremy “Ferg” Ferguson, LMFT
I don’t have to tell you about how distracted we are. We all know it. Distractions are marketed to us! The interfaces for our entertainment are designed to suck us in and keep us hooked for hours. Binge-watching YouTube, Netflix,…or…even more addicting….THE DISNEY PLUS…
“This can’t be good for me.”
I started noticing how much I use my devices. Honestly, I tend to run to them to keep me from being bored or to help me feel better when I am feeling down or stressed. Its a distraction. How many times do we say to ourselves that we want to do something important or get to that project we have been longing to work on…to just get sucked into watching something on Facebook or scrolling through our Instagram feed? How many hours of sleep do we lose each week because of the constant use of our phones or tablets while we are sitting in bed?
I would guess a lot more than I care to think.
There have been some studies that show that people are uncomfortable with sitting in silence…and especially sitting in their own thoughts. Some of those studies say that people would prefer to be electrically shocked rather than sit alone in their own thoughts. Now, I have some issues with some of those studies. The way they were conducted does not show in a convincing manner whether or not the participants were so uncomfortable with the silence that they elected to shock themselves or if they were just curious about what the shock would feel like…I mean…we’ve all licked the 9V battery before just out of curiosity…. So I am not fully convinced that people would rather be shocked than sit in their own thoughts…but one thing that I can say…sitting in silence can be uncomfortable, ESPECIALLY if you are in the middle of an unpleasant season in your life.
So I gave myself a challenge….’cause you know….I like challenges….and saying “this is a challenge” seems more fun than saying “I’m going to torturing myself”….But to be honest…I know this, in some way, is signing up for a bit of torture…
Challenge: 21 Day “Tech Detox”
Here is the premise: go 21 with no TV, video games, social media, podcasts or anything that could be equivalent to those forms of stimuli. Nothing that distracts me from my own thoughts.
There are of course some exceptions that I made. While I did not listen to podcasts, I am able to listen to audiobooks or music…AS LONG AS IT’S NOT A DISTRACTION IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY. If I felt like I was avoiding my own thoughts or the silence…I had to shut it off…completely. The point is to give me an opportunity to get distracting stimuli out of my system. To allow my mind to settle back into its default setting without the constant input that media and tech throw at us non-stop. Also, each night I could sit in my living room and turn on ambient music (to help me with any paperwork that I had to get done that day) or a fake fireplace to make the living room cozy (there are some fun ones on Netflix if you enjoy that type of things too). However, if the ambient music was also used to avoid silence…I had to shut it off too.
I want to make space for me to sit in my own thoughts and to detox from techno-distraction. If something was getting in the way of that, I had to cut it for the duration of the detox. This took some self-reflection and honesty on my part to get the most out of the experience.
So here is what I observed:
Well, the very 1st thing I noticed was how tired I was. I was, like, SUPER tired. Me and my wife would sit in our living room and I would have EVERY INTENTION to read in front of that very cozy, and very fake, fireplace. But nope. I fell asleep…several hours before my bedtime. It seems like the stimulation from the apps and the social media and video usage distracted me from how utterly exhausted I was. As the week went on, I noticed that I was sleeping better and…what was that…was that my own thoughts?
Yes. I started noticing my self-dialogue and that I was having a lot of thoughts that were my own…not fed to me through my earbuds. This was more evident on the weekend as I had more free time.
Now, this week I got really excited about this detox. I settled into a pattern of real rest. I started looking forward to being at home and sitting on the couch and doing NOTHING. It seemed like I also had more energy, most likely due to the more sleep.
“Wow…I think I am addicted to my phone use…”
What a terrifying thought. I noticed this when I was bored. When I am bored, I tend to pull out my phone and check my Insta or my Facebook…maybe check out the latest meme-ry that is “hitting the internets.” I was shocked at how many times I pulled out my phone and was reminded that “Oh yeah…I am detoxing.” So then I would not open up any apps. I actually had to remove the notification setting on my phone so that I would not see that annoying red notification circle on the app icons…
I was shocked when I noticed that I started side swiping back and forth…just watching my app icons go fly to and fro. “Wow…how dependent am I?” I asked myself. This happened SEVERAL TIMES over the course of the detox. It’s like I missed the pointless scrolling. It was very telling.
“Yeah. I needed this…BADLY!”
I had 2 conflicting parts of myself battling it out this week. One part that was excited that this was the last week of the detox. The other part was sad that it was going to be over. By this time I had finished a book that I have been trying to read for a while now and I was enjoying the level of peace in my life. It occurred to me that I did not have to perform for people on social media. Have you noticed the desire to take a picture of every little thing that you think is cool, interesting, or attractive? Just so you can post it to social media somewhere. Why?
Another thing I noticed: I was just flat-out happier. My general happiness level just seemed…UP. My wife told me “You seem a lot lighter than before we started this.” I don’t think I realized how “bleh” I was feeling. How flat I was. I am getting a little more pep in my step. I wonder if this is because I am not comparing myself to the internet anymore…
While I missed having a story experience with video games or Netflix, the best thing that I got out of this time of distraction-free living was the reconnection with my wife. Not having some form of entertainment spoon-fed to us through an internet stream forced us to have conversations…really deep ones. I got to spend time with her just sitting. Reading. Napping. Haha! But it was the deep conversations that had a lasting impact. (Along with those naps lol) I feel like we grew closer together. I appreciated her willingness to torture herself with me…to join me in the journey of growth and care. I grew more in love with her. Dang, SHE’S HOT!
Often times we think of self-care as treating yourself with something or indulging in something to help you rest and recover…to basically help you feel better. And that is all well and good. I wholeheartedly agree that we should do these things. You should take a Saturday and be a bed gremlin while bingeing your guilty-pleasure show. You should watch the cat videos that bring a smile to your face. You should allow yourself to eat the maple-bacon ice cream that your parents brought and “accidentally left in the freezer” during the holidays. These things do help us find rest. However, self-care is ALSO not running to things to distract you from areas where you are hurting. Oftentimes, we simply dub an action as self-care when it’s actually a form of self-medication. The whole point of self-care is that it is supposed to help you recover and heal so that you CAN face the painful, challenging, or stuck places in your life. Sometimes self-care is actually doing something uncomfortable to get your mind, body, and spirit back on track. My tech-detox experience has given me the opportunity to face my self-medicating habits and increase my self-awareness. “Where am I hurting? Why do I want to be distracted right now? What am I running to for comfort?” I learned a lot about myself and I think I am going to make taking a break from techno-distractions a regular part of my self-care routine. As a matter of fact, me and my wife agreed to making “#TechFreeTuesdays a thing in our household. Now, every Tuesday evening, we sit on our couch, with all the media turned off (besides our favorite hoax of a hearth that is), and connect with each other while also giving ourselves the freedom for weekly mental solitude (which could be a whole other discussion for another day).
I dig it.
So could you take 21 days off your media intake? Could you say “Heck, no Techno” for 3 weeks? What would you do with yourself if you did? You may consider giving it a try. I think you will find that the benefits are worth the sacrifice.
Are you up for it?
Jeremy “Ferg” Ferguson, LMFT