What I Learnt From a 9 Month Digital Detox


Digital Detox Facebook Addiction

*Video is at end of post  

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.

 

While I'm pretty sure it wasn't William Blake's intention, his prose was somewhat prophetic seeing as we can now hold a world of information within a grain of sand (microchip) and hold infinity in our hands (hello iPhone) and an eternity can slip away in what felt like an innocent hour on Facebook - that morphed into days - months and years, distracting us from stopping to smell said wildflower as we were too busy growing a virtual garden on Farmville..

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My 9+ month detox 

I used to to think I had a reasonably healthy relationship with Facebook; that was until I went cold turkey and logged out for 9 months . It was around this time that huge changes where taking place in my life, and I was naturally and instinctively stripping myself down, pruning myself back like a tree getting ready for spring. I didn't really put any great emphasis on leaving Facebook, it wasn't a struggle, it was simple and it felt good, I felt a sense of relief for a few days and soon after I had pretty much forgotten it existed. Admittedly there were a couple of occasions that I logged in to my mums account to have a quick peek at loved ones that lived afar - to check that they were ok, then like a virtual ninja, without a trace I would log back out. The 9 months flew by, and all of a sudden I woke one day with the urge to log back in, so I did, with a picture of Jim Carreys cheezy grin (see below). And while Facebook hadn't changed, my perception of it had, and I began to use it differently, in a way that had it working for me instead of me working for it. 

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Life is precious - don't exchange it for gigabytes  

"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots." Albert Einstein

If Einstein were alive and kicking I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be posting pictures of his breakfast via social media. I think he would be happily living off the grid, no wifi connection, in a cabin deep in the BavarianAlps. I would become his house mate in exchange for making him delicious vegetarian meals, and I would travel down from the Alps every Saturday upon the back of a beautiful Hanoverian horse, with flowers braided in to her mane, and I would ride her to the local organic cafe to connect to it's wifi and update this blog, put a youtube video up, do an obligatory social media scan, finish my coconut milk chai latte, then get back into the woods. 

Upon my return, Einstein would tell me in his strong Deutsch accent, to be mindful to not let my precious life - aka time - slip away online, 'don't you understand my relativity theory!' "An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour." 

Only Facebook doesn't leave you feeling effervescent and giddy like sitting next to someone you fancy, instead it gives you small bursts of excitement - the rush of a like, a comment or a new friend request, it has our egos and monkey minds going ape (pun intended)

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Social media time is fast, scary fast

Social media time is fast, scary fast. Ever felt like you had spent just 20 minutes checking your messages and liking a few pictures, only to put your phone down two hours later feeling confused and subtly disturbed that you wont be getting those two hours back, two hours that could have been spent with your loved ones, or being outside in nature, or starting a new business, or creating something amazing, helping someone, helping yourself, or just being, being a human being, doing human things like having to actually get to know someone and connect with them in a meaningful way before they will give you a 'like' or a 'lol'. Now our egos have us clicking the refresh button like a mouse on a wheel, we feed upon likes and comments and just like a greasy fast food burger, we gobble it down, but it doesn't leave us feeling satisfied, we are left feeling hungrier than ever before, and a little more agitated, a little more empty, a little more lonely, and ever increasingly distracted from real life, real people, real hobbies, dreams purpose and ultimately distracted from ourselves.  

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Toilet Tao

If you were an 80's kid (or earlier) like me - you're one of the lucky ones that knew life before it was condensed down in to a palm sized gadget. Whilst I adore my phone and the multifaceted magic it brings to my life, there's a few things that I remember fondly that I think we would do well to recapture. They're not all that obvious, in some cases it's the small seemingly inane activities that I think quietly offered us peace of mind and personal growth, like going to the bathroom,  where we could close the door and have a private moment of zen where our minds would unscramble from the day as we found comfort in silently counting the tiles on the wall in front of us, all 127 of them, now these places of solace and solitude have turned into social free-for-alls, where it's not uncommon to have friends, family and random acquaintances joining us not only in the bathroom (unpleasant place for a catchup really!), on our dates, in our bed, at our desk, while we exercise, all chattering away distracting us from - us. 

  social media addiction mobile on toilet

Take a walk with yourself - not your your news feed

Walking from one space to another is a simple daily activity that seems quite non-consequential, however I've personally found that looking at my phone while walking makes a huge difference to how I feel when I arrive at my end destination.  

Imagine for a moment that you have a twenty minute walk to the grocery store. In the first scenario - you have your mobile in hand, you hold it up to check the time as you walk out door, you think that while you're looking at your phone you may as well have a quick check of social media in case any messages have come through, before you know it the quick check lasted the entire 20 minutes and you have arrived at your destination, you've gone the entire walk without a moment alone with your own thoughts - instead you have had the chatter of at least 20 different people pouring down your news feed, their thoughts, their day, random sayings, pictures, and a few adverts mixed in.

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In the second scenario you keep your mobile in your bag. The first few minutes of the walk you have a monkey mind moment, your brain would much rather be distracted by scrolling through random pictures or snippets of someone else's day, than focusing on the day to day issues that are sitting on your shoulders, building up until you take the time to work through them.

Now half way through your walk you are starting to work through things, your getting a bit of balance and perspective, you smile or acknowledge a couple of people that walk past you, that feels nice and makes you feel present in the moment, with just 5 minutes left of your journey you remember a few things that you want to work on today, and you have a really exciting idea or breakthrough that you cant wait to write down when you get back to work / school / home. That walk proved to be just what you needed to have to get you back on track for the day, to work through something that's been playing on your mind, to come back to centre, all of which you would have missed out on if you had your eyes fixed on your phone screen. Many of the niggling issues that may have existed at the beginning of our journey had naturally resolved - and we could walk in the office / home door with a little less baggage. Important not only for your quality of life but for your family and loved ones that you may share the home / office with. That little bit of 'me time' and a few deep breaths can make all the difference.

 

Relationships -Three is a crowd

33% of divorce papers in the US and UK cited Facebook as the underlying reason for the marriage ending, thats a whopping one third of relationships breaking down because of a social networking site, and considering that this figure was taken from 2011, its now a few years later and we have a plethora of other social networking sites (hello Instagram and snapchat) it makes the mind boggle as to the negative effects that can only be increasing as we become more and more embroiled in our virtual lives. So what can we do about it?

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Don't allow your phone to be the third wheel when you go on a date with your loved one, this goes for family and friends as well. I've been guilty of being mid lunch date, when I'll here the ding and unconsciously pull out my phone and check my messages, or emails or social media sites. I felt it was innocent enough, it's just a harmless little phone, they're happy eating, we're having a nice time, how could checking a few messages cause any disturbance?

It was only once I looked outside of myself that I was able to see just how ugly it looked. When I would look at neighbouring tables in cafes and see a couple on a lunch date, and one of them with their face in their phone while the other sat with their eyes glazed, silent, and alone. And I knew exactly how it felt to be on the other side of the table and shut out by the phone, it feels lonely, awkward and sometimes embarrassing. So I now have a no phone on the table rule, I still take it with me as I like to have a phone nearby, however it isn't visible. It sits buried in my bag. The only time it will come out is if someone calls - I'll have a quick look and if it's not an emergency i let it go to my message bank and put it straight back in my bag. I also try to resist the temptation to make the phone a part of the conversation, up until recently I would pull out my phone to better describe something, to add a picture example to something I was talking about, however this meant that my phone was back at centre stage, and being its primadonna self would soon be vying for my attention and have me going off track and unknowingly ignoring my partner for the rest of the date. Even just 5 measly minutes can seem like a lifetime to the person that's being ignored. Pictures can be shared via a computer later in the day, spending precious face to face time with someone and taking in the flavours and visuals of a cafe date can't be replicated again, or googled later. Be present - slow time down, enjoy your food, enjoy the environment, enjoy your company, these are the moments that become memories, this is whats real and important and healing. The internet can wait. 

  

Friend list spring clean

For many of us, when we first joined Facebook (+other social networks), it was a bit of a messy free-for-all, we had friend requests coming in from family, friends, total strangers, friends of friends, work mates, your pet dogs best friend, and if you're anything like me, initially you weren't too picky, you let everyone in, you couldn't see how it could do any harm, you didn't want to offend anyone, it's just one easy click of the accept button and you never need to hear from them again if you don't want to.

Soon 50% or more of your feed is posts from people you don't know, random children's birthday party pictures, incessant poker game requests from the guy you went to school with, yet have never actually spoken to, status updates about a nasty break up by the woman you followed two years ago - you can't remember why you're following her but you know intricate details of her relationship breakdown, and you wish you didn't. Set. Your. Self. Free. You're not indebted to any of these people, you have the freedom and the power to release their virtual grip on your news feed by the click of one of two mighty buttons, the most poignant one being the unfriend button, the second being unfollow. I explain the benefits of them both below. 

  

When to de-friend

After having a 9 month break from Facebook I was blessed with fresh unadulterated eyes and a very low (mind my french) bull$**t threshold. I was taken back by how negative, immature and downright nasty some posts were, I found it hard to believe that I had allowed myself to scroll through posts like this day and and day out over the past few years. Even if I wasn't personally engaging in the negative threads, they were still settling into my subconscious, and considering that our subconscious minds cant decipher what is tangibly 'real' and what is just jumble of words flowing past our eyes, I didn't want that to become a part of me. So I took action while my newfound fresh perception was still alive and kicking and the complacency blinkers hadn't yet fallen down over my eyes. It was time to give my friends list a detox. If you come away from looking at your social media feeds feeling less than positive, you may like to join me and give your lists a spring clean. If someone gets up in your digital grill and it is effecting your day to day life, delete or unfollow them and be done with it, life's to short and glorious.

Now I understand that this can be a sensitive area as we all have down days, and we all vent and release pain or frustrations in different ways. It would be sad to think that friends and family or even acquaintances would drop us when we were down because we had a bad day and put our foot in our (virtual) mouths. So of course I'm not suggesting you delete your cousin Bob because he posted about a subject that annoys you! Use your intuition. Is this someone that your heart connects with in some way shape or form, or do you feel as though your connection to them isn't for your or their greatest good and you would be better by detaching from them. If you truly feel that their presence on your screen is having a negative effect on you, then don't feel guilty for hitting the unfriend button. Just like in our 3D reality we have a choice who we allow in to our world, it is no different with online company. Personally I took a deep breath, clicked on my 'friend' button and reasonably quickly scrolled down the list and followed my heart / intuition. It served me well. 

The beauty of cleansing your friend list is that it creates more space for the people that you love, or the people that make you feel good and inspire you to become a better person, or that make you laugh or that push your buttons in a healthy way, a way that challenges you to think differently and grow. 

If there is someone on your friend list that you don't want to see coming up in your feed, but for whatever reason you cant bring yourself to delete them, consider unfollowing, which I discuss below.  

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When to unfollow

The unfollow button is a lovely soft landing option for people that you may care about and don't want to sever the virtual friendship, yet you simply cant look at one more picture of their pregnant sausage dog Jessie. They can still message you, you can still message them, they can still visit your page and you can still visit theirs, it just means that your eyes will be treated to a nice permanent rest and they will exist in your news feed no more.  

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Down ego down! Likes what likes? 
After spending over nine months away from Facebook, likes and comments held no power over me what so ever, they were totally neutral territory. It’s now been well over a month since I made my entrance back on to Facebook, with my “hi, I'm back post” and besides sharing a happy piglet picture from Animals Australia's page, I've not written anything since. 
After my digital detox I've found I’m using Facebook as a fun tool to check out pictures, videos, songs, from my favorite pages and to see the faces of loved ones pop up, instead of wanting to share every moment of my life and have its presence reaffirmed by a thumbs up. When you are totally indifferent to the like, you start to use Facebook differently, you don’t have the need to be a people pleaser, and when you engage with social media without the need to be accepted or ‘liked’, you make the most of your digital space / life, just as you do in 3D reality – the more you don’t give a damn what others think of you, the more you tend to get out of life – the better it flows, the looser and more relaxed you feel, at the end of the day its all about social freedom. So next time you post something and theres nothing but crickets chirping, don’t doubt what you said or try to do it differently, move on. Who cares, don’t read into it, and maybe the crickets need there time to shine every now and then, did you ever think about that! Let them have their 15 minutes of fame on your wall ;) 

Saturate your feed with inspiration

Saturate your feed with inspiration, make it inescapable. As I often say the subconscious is a powerful thing, it doesn’t miss a trick, so considering we spend so much time scrolling through our feeds taking every single post in to our minds whether we like it or not, we may as well indirectly feed our subconscious with images ideas and words that can work for us, help us to feel better and be better people, with no effort on our behalf. See it as self imposed subliminal healing. Why not, the alternative can be subliminal rubbish coming through your feed leaving you feeling heavy and down. 

Here are some pages that I find inspiring, that make me feel good and that tend to consistently post uplifting enlightening images, pictures, songs and videos. 
I've listed them below. Id love to hear about your favorite pages! 

https://www.facebook.com/GilbertLiz/
Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of seven books of fiction and non-fiction—most famously her memoir Eat Pray Love. Her new book is Big Magic.

https://www.facebook.com/leoniedawsonpage
Leonie Dawson is an inspiring gutsy entrepreneur who has created a range of business planners and calendars that I personally use and love. Her posts and fun and colourful and brighten my feed!

https://www.facebook.com/TheBeautyPlan
This is my Facebook page where I share all of my tips on natural health and beauty. I would love if you would come and join me! 

https://www.facebook.com/theworkofbyronkatie
Byron Katie s a speaker and author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work of Byron Katie" or simply as "The Work". The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. 

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialFourAgreements
This is The Official Home Page for The Four Agreements, a life changing book by bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz.

https://www.facebook.com/ohsheglowsblog
Angela has a hugely popular blog where she shares delicious plant based recipes that are so colourful and easy to prepare, it's a nice reminder to keep our meals healthy and cruelty free by seeing her posts in the newsfeed. 

No to notifications
Social media notifications will bring you back to your phone time and time again. 
The world can wait, we don't need to respond to someones comment on our picture, nor see who liked the picture of our lunch immediately. If someone has something urgent to tell you they will revert to more primitive forms of communication such as texting or if they are really daring...calling you! ;) 

Internet free weekends
Have phone free weekends. I know that probably sounds impossible, but think of it as getting your life back for 2 days per week. You wont believe how much more sleep, cleaning, organizing, talking, exercise etc you get done, probably more in two days that you have the entire week. As I mention in my Digital Detox video, there are some fantastic apps available that will block the internet so you don't need to be relying on will power alone! I list some I like to use below: 

Apps for digital detoxing and productivity:

FREEDOM (iPhone app) 
This app is my personal favourite! Freedom saves you from the most distracting apps and websites. Block exactly what you want, when you want. Is the entire internet distracting you? it allows you to block the whole thing.

OFFTIME
http://offtime.co/ (for android phone)
The OFFTIME app gives you space to breathe in our hyper-connected world. For set periods of time of your choice, the service blocks disruptive notifications, calls or SMS… Access to applications that tempt you is then restricted. Those who want to learn more about their digital habits can also receive information about their smartphone usage with the help of ‘Insights.’   

Self Control (for Mac desktop)
http://selfcontrolapp.com/
SelfControl is a free and open-source application for Mac OS X that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click "Start." Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites--even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

Hootsuite
https://hootsuite.com/
Hootsuite gives you the ability to manage all your social networks and schedule messages for future publishing, perfect if you want to keep your weekends free yet still keep in contact with your fans 24/7. 

 Kuku
https://kuku.io/
Kuku is similar to Hootsuite, has a super easy interface and the pricing is pretty good. There is a free version available that allows you to add 5 social media sites and share up to 300 posts per month!

So here we are, you no doubt reading this via your phone or computer screen, me typing away on my laptop, the irony is smugly obvious. So I leave you with a genuine virtual handshake, in good faith in now that we are armed with some wifi saving arsenal, that we can at least buy ourselves a little more sunshine on the skin and eyes that look outwards and upwards instead of to our busy thumbs. 

Emily x 

PS If you have any friends or family that you think will benefit from this information, feel free to click the share button below. 

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