Last week we were in Florida visiting my parents. We stayed in their Miami condo, which boasts sweeping ocean views, is a stones throw from the beach, and has no Wi-Fi. As in No. Wireless. Internet. As in, Watersuite 1-A is NOT a hotspot. Do you understand? No… but do you really? To further complicate matters, my cell phone (Sprint) did not get reception in my parent’s building. So I was nine days off the grid. Before you begin to feel too sorry for me (you were, were’t you?) I should specify that I did get cell service if we went on an excursion away from base camp or if I very strategically dangled my phone over the Atlantic while on tip toes and reaching for the sky. This maneuver, I found, would get me just enough “bars” to load the ancillary e-mail or every text I had been sent during the last 24 hour period, all piling in like dominoes.
Initially, I found this digital detox very frustrating and joked with my parents that if I had wanted to go to a third world country for break, I would have done so. The first few days I checked email from my mom’s phone or browsed the web from my husbands. And Instagram! I was so completely out of the loop, that when I did find a phone to check, I literally got vertigo from watching the images scroll on my screen, minutes later still only halfway thru my feed. I tried to reason with myself that this was really not a bad thing: “You’re on vacation.” “You have no job.” “Your whole family is here, so no need for emergency calls.” “It’s only a week.” “The J. Crew sale can wait.” “The Serena and Lily sale can’t, but think of the money you’re saving by not being able to buy anything” … and so it goes.
After all, people pay big bucks for this kind of treatment. There are African safaris catering to people who want to stay off the grid, spas in Malibu, a meditation ranch in Mexico, camping in Tasmania, the list goes on. And my parents were offering me this freedom for free. Free! They definitely think I’m addicted to social media and as the old adage goes, parents know best. Well, the research supports them: People who are more anxious and socially insecure are more likely to use social networking sites. There is even a scale used to measure your level of Facebook addiction nowadays, the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale. And in a separate study of social media users, a UK survey revealed that two thirds of participants reported difficulty relaxing and sleeping after they used the sites, while 55% said they felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they were unable to log onto their social media accounts.
I definitely felt that sense of insecurity the first day or two. But honestly, by the middle of the week, I wasn’t using other peoples’ phones to stay connected and only rarely doing my cell service dance out by the ocean. I’ve had caffeine withdrawals that lasted longer. I was surprised, but by Wednesday, I didn’t really care what sale, what evite, what #OOTD I was missing. I was more relaxed and stress free. Even since being back home, I haven’t been a diligent checker of e-mail or Instagram and all my computer work has been paying bills and household stuff. I’ve found that I’m a whole lot more efficient when not distracted by online shopping and constantly stopping to check my Instagram feed. Plus, when I saw an Instagram friend at the grocery store this morning, I actually had to ask her what she did over break without already knowing she had gone to Marco Island to visit family. And then we had a conversation about her stay, not just an emoji filled Instagram message chain, KWIM?
If you’re feeling up to it, take the digital detox plunge and emerge feeling refreshed. I am happy to give you my parents number, they are currently booking into Summer.