An Accidental ‘Digital Detox’

A month or so ago, I lost my phone and, due to an extreme bout of laziness, put off buying a new one until at least two weeks later. Throughout that period, I was completely disconnected (besides my computer). I suddenly found myself with so much more free time, plus no defence mechanism in awkward or boring situations. Instead of burying my head in the proverbial sand that is my Instagram feed, I was forced to interact with my surroundings and – gasp – the people in them. All of a sudden I was driven to strike up random conversations with random strangers! The horror.

Admittedly, the first few days were pretty tough. I found myself reaching into my coat pocket, fingers groping for the familiar slick metal, whenever I was alone. At the bus stop, in the hallways, waiting in line at Shopper’s Drug Mart, at the hairdressers, waiting for my friends in the school lobby…I would normally always be on my phone. After a week or so, I started to get used to this weird new feeling. Isolation suddenly felt like a blessing; I could see and think and breathe without all the pressure of knowing. By the end of the two weeks, my thumbs were rejuvenated.

But when I got my new my new phone, oh so shiny and pretty in it’s little white box, it hooked me again within hours. Suddenly I had so many things to do! So many articles to read and so much random shit to Google! My phone became a magical portal to a land of practically Biblical milk and honey – shoe shopping, Man Repeller, food blogs, all these things right there, in my pocket, during boring-ass history class. I used it feverishly the first couple days, like a kid stuffing themselves on Halloween night, fearful that their parents may take away their candy the next morning. Is that such a bad thing? I asked myself. Isn’t it a good thing to want to stay updated, to be in the loop? Well, according to a study from the United Kingdom’s University of Glasgow, not so much.

The study found that students who were “emotionally invested and extremely active” in social media had lower self esteem, a higher likelihood of anxiety attacks, and worse sleep quality then their earthlier counterparts. In my own limited paradigm, this makes sense to me. If I watch Netflix before bed or check Instagram on the toilet at 2 am, I will often struggle to fall asleep afterwards. Although I try to  limit the time spent on social media, especially when with friends, I do find myself drawn to checking the number of likes on a picture or watching people’s Snapchat stories. My friends search for Wifi passwords like bloodhounds whenever we go out and if, God forbid, someone forgets their phone, they fidget all night, always asking to be shown the picture everyone else already seen, to piggyback on someone else’s device. The digital world, at least for our generation, can feel much more real than the tactile one. The perennial question, that so many have posed before but that still isn’t definitively answered, is whether this constant connection is hurting or helping us and our relationships, both with ourselves and others. What do you think?

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