What’s a Digital Detox
The world is opening up again, which means I’m squirreling my way through airports again. What do I see in these airports? A hulking mass moving through those arterial hallways, pumping through the the concourses, heads down, eyes fixed to their phones. Swiping, swiping, always swiping. In the humdrum loneliness of the airport, what else is there to do?
Respond to the Twitter troll.
Comment on a Facebook conspiracy.
Purchase a pair of Reebok Nanos on Amazon. (Hey, they’re environmentally friendly.)
Find a mirror. Take a selfie. Post for the gram.
This is the modern way of modernity, I suppose. Without a phone, a moment to capture, a mundane moment to technologize, what are we? Unplatformed? Irrelevant? Luddites? Worse yet, bored?
September is National Recovery Month, and on a trip to Connecticut last week, I contemplated my long history with the memorial month. In September of 2013, I stopped getting drunk. But if I've found anything since my first recovery month, it's that dependency gives way to dependency, addiction to addiction. (If you’ve read my books Coming Clean and written about this in The Book of Waking Up, you know this.) And so, on that trip I contemplated the dependency I’ve never really tried to shake, the one to my cellphone.
I have a love-hate relationship with my handheld device. I’ve gone long stretches without it, stretches where I’ve kept only a handful of apps that fall into the master category of Tools and killed those which fall into the jester category of Distractions. But always, those Distractions seem to find their way back to my phone, and in the pandemic, they multiplied like under-sexed rodents. I am embarrassed to say a first-person shooter even made it’s way onto my phone for a brief stint, bro.
On September Eve, I contemplated what recovery might look like, and instead of pumping coins into the digital slot machine (say a thing, get a like, feel the dopamine rush), I took the time to do something a bit more analog. I borrowed a copy of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism from a dear friend (thanks, Jess), which offers strategies for breaking technological addictions, particularly to those technologies that don't advance our values. At the risk of reductionism, those strategies are (approximately) as follows.
Step one: Institute a 30-day digital detox. No social media. No YouTube. No apps that distract me from the stuff of life. No first-person shooters, bro.
Step two: During my 30-day digital detox, I’ll examine my life. How will I fill my non-distracted time with activities that are more creative, connective, and productive?After all, isn’t that why so many of us say we engage social media?
Step three: At the end of my digital detox, I’ll examine the apps and websites that add value to my life, and if it makes sense, I’ll reintroduce them in the least intrusive way. For instance, I might need Twitter for my writing career, but do I need it on my phone? I might enjoy connecting with the beauty of instagram, but can’t I do that through the website or only during set times of the week? (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4:00, for instance.) For bonus points, Newport suggests not reintroducing apps and platforms if there is a better, analog alternative, but let’s be honest, this feels draconian.
I've deleted the apps, and I’ve begun the long slog of detox. Already I feel that odd mix of freedom and withdrawal. Already I feel the shakes. Already, my noggin is sending mixed messages—give in; stay the course. The brain is such a befuddling organ.
If you're like me, if you feel the pull to your cellphone on a constant basis, considering celebrating National Recovery Month with a digital detox. Then, let's reconvene here in a month and have a digital fireside chat about the analog life.
A Drink With a Friend (Don’t Miss This One)
On this week’s episode of A Drink With a Friend, Tsh and I raise a glass with Mitali Perkins, who shares about why a “multi-storied childhood” matters. What does that mean? Take a listen.
National Recovery Month Reading
Here’s the rub with a digital detox during National Recovery Month: I cannot promote my own books on addiction through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or the like. This is a bit of a bummer, since September is the primary month I use these platforms to promote Coming Clean and The Book of Waking Up.
This month, I’m asking you—my favorite people in the wide world—to grab a couple copies of my books (one for you and one for a friend). And for the uninitiated, here are the Amazon descriptions of the books. (Click the titles for Amazon affiliate links.)
Grab a copy of both books. Share them with friends. Use this September as an invitation to explore sobriety, whether from booze, social media, your cell phone, video games, shopping, or whatever.
As always, thank for reading along. You are my people, and for that, I could not be more grateful.
Enjoying these ramblings of a madman? Prove it. You know what to do.