By Quincy Malesovas


I am a computer junkie, an Internet slut. I love browsing the web all hours of the day. From blogs to forums to news sites to online magazines, I’m all about it. I can easily let a whole day slip away as I peruse the depths of the Internet.


But it’s pretty clear to me that this is not the healthiest. At the end of a long browsing session, my eyes hurt, I have a headache, I feel lethargic and my neck sometimes cramps up. Excessive screen time and Internet use can also disrupt sleep and exacerbate depression or anxiety. Given my experience with these symptoms as well, I figured a little digital detox seemed like a worthwhile experiment.


So detox I did, and I kept record of it all to mark my successes, failures and takeaways.


I expected my first experience in this detox to be withdrawal, but avoided this because I did not fully withdraw. Instead, I enacted self-imposed Internet limitations to gradually wade into the world of digital detoxing.


Here’s how it started: One business week (five days) on vacation, with limited Internet access (because if the temptation isn’t present, the task is a whole lot easier). For these five days, I decided to forego my beloved laptop and extremely limit my phone usage.


The rules:

  • I could not use my laptop (except for writing documents, and only if absolutely necessary)
  • I could not use my phone Internet for more than 15 minutes a day
  • But I could also use my phone for non-web uses like calculator, alarm or camera


Day 1
This day started like any other – with a strong urge to check my phone. But I managed to resist, for about an hour at least. Ideally, a healthy day would start with meditation or exercise or at least a calm, technology-free breakfast, but any sort of break from tech is a good start.

I hopped on my phone to check emails before boarding my plane (because what if something important needed to be addressed before several hours of communication deprivation?) After that, though, it was smooth sailing – or should I say, flying. I got through my six-hour flight effortlessly, and I must say that reading and playing Sudoku was a refreshing change of pace from my typical digital leisure habits.

Find alternative activities to do when you would normally be online (crafts, sports, friendly debates, drawing, cooking). We often end up online by default, not because we truly need to be there. You may feel more fulfilled by swapping some of your computer time for a more hands-on, physical activity.


Day 2
I went most of the day without using my phone, except once or twice to post a Snapchat (but that’s technically taking a photo, so maybe it doesn’t count?) At night, however, I caved in and got on my laptop. I reasoned that I had to check ‘important’ messages and the status of my future housing arrangement. While this was true, I also found myself looking for something to do in my destination city and wanted to go online to search for options.

From there I got distracted by my other sites but quickly cut myself off. I could feel my vision blurring and brain going wild from information overload. It was then that I decided it was time to stop myself. I closed my laptop in the middle of what I was doing (which is a big feat for me) and didn’t touch it again for the rest of the day.

Stay conscious of how you are feeling when you are using digital products. To use a rather cliché phrase, listen to your body. It truly does know better, and should surely be smart enough to recognise when you’ve spent too many complacent hours staring at a screen.  


Day 3
Success! I didn’t go online all day. Uncoincidentally, on this day, I felt more engaged with my surroundings than I have in a long while. I favoured face-to-face conversations over texts and found myself in awe of the sights around me that I may have missed if my face had been in my phone. I also found that I slept better this night. (Blue light from phone and computer screens keeps the brain active at night, which is why we have trouble falling asleep if we’ve had a late night using digital products.)

When you’re offline, you are more present. You can have conversations, attend to small details and feel what’s going on around you in a way that becomes numbed from hours of Internet. If you do use electronics throughout the day, try to cut off access a few hours before bed or at least install a blue-light-blocking application.


Day 4
I went online once, for five minutes in the morning. My phone was dead the rest of the day, so avoidance was easy. At this point, I began getting used to life without digital media. In fact, it was kind of nice not to feel beholden to my phone or laptop. FOMO seems much more menacing in theory than in reality.

You really don’t miss a lot when you avoid digital technology (for a time). Your messages and notifications will always be there for you to check later, your saved articles aren’t really that pressing, and if you need to look something up badly enough a friend will surely be willing to do it for you.


Day 5
No internet whatsoever today.

I am starting to feel guilty whenever I do use my phone in the company of others, and get slightly resentful when I see them doing the same. Perhaps this is slight jealousy that they can get on social media when I can’t, but I think that the greater reason is because I’m more aware of how distracting Internet can be – especially in the company of others.


At the end of the day, I can’t really call this experiment a digital detox. What I did experience was a digital regression – a slow weaning off of social media and obsessive perusing of the Internet.


Whether or not I ever forego the Internet completely at any point in my life (likelihood of this is slim to none), I do benefit from less time spent online. Chances are if you are reading this, you will too.


If you find yourself turning to social media when bored, compulsively checking your phone every five minutes, experiencing mental health concerns or eye issues, a digital detox may help. It’s so easy and appealing to zone out into the land of aesthetically pleasing photos, instant gratification, constant contact and news.


If you’re inspired, take baby steps. Limit your time spent online, avoid distractions, and engage in physical and mentally stimulating activities to counter the hours spent surfing the web. If social and digital media continues its expansion, we will need all the counterbalance we can get.

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