Monday, 29 July 2013

Time for an internet detox??

How many times a day do you do it?  Do you panic when you cannot log on?  No Wifi = bad temper? 

I am talking about checking your e mail, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Whattsap etc. Every time my phone buzzes, beeps or tweets I have to check it.  It may be junk mail but I still have to check it.  I hate to think how many times a day I actually check my e mail!  It will be a frightening amount of times. 

I am online at about 7am sorting out e mails, working on the MJ website, checking out who has commented on our Facebook page, looking for quirky items to go onto Miss Jones etc and then when my phone buzzes racing to see who has been in touch!!  Mental. 

I NEED A DIGITAL DETOX .  It is great news to hear that scientists such as Susan Greenfield are warning of our digital dependence, bootcamps designed to address our addiction — already popular in the US — are springing up over here.

Admittedly, going cold turkey — or even going offline for more than about half an hour — seems an extreme solution. But then so is the problem. A Nokia survey published in March showed that the average Londoner checks their smartphone 150 times during a waking day of 16 hours. Other studies tell us that young adults aged between 18 and 24 send on average 109.5 texts a day or 3,200 messages a month. A 2012 survey by SecurEnvoy found that 66 per cent of Britons suffer from ‘nomophobia’ (‘no mobile’ phobia). Dr James Roberts of Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business in Texas says an addiction to instant messaging is driven by ‘materialism and impulsiveness’ and ‘mobiles are eroding our personal relationships’.

What do you mean personal relationships??  I have personal relationships with family and friends although my mother has said that she would throw my mobile out of the window if I checked it one more time!!  How can you disentangle this co-dependent relationship?’

Krotoski visited a centre for recovering cyber addicts in LA for her BBC Radio 4 series Digital Human. ‘My own anxiety borders on panic when I can’t access the Wi-Fi on my smartphone or when my web goes down. It’s easier to faff online than to use your laptop to write an article. It’s easy to not do what you should be doing. It’s this constant battle between myself and this switch-tasking demon that causes the stress.’

Kelly McGonigal, psychologist and neuroscientist at Stanford, says: ‘People have started claiming that technology is their biggest willpower challenge instead of dieting. People feel they are in a relationship that they can’t get out of and don’t want to get out of. But it’s producing a lot of stress in their lives.’

So, just as with those eager for dramatic physical results, is a bootcamp the answer? Entrepreneur Levi Felix already runs retreats in California and Cambodia. For around £400 (not including flights) you get three days of yoga, meditation and vegetarian gourmet food in return for giving up all internet and phone access. Participants (up to 300 at a time) are invited to ‘share and connect without the distractions of the internet’. Washington DC-based CEO Montgomery Kosma recently attended a Digital Detox in Navarro, California. The three days were ‘the longest I’d been away from email or cellphone literally since 1997,’ he says. ‘It was strange, but not that strange... I spent a lot of time thinking and writing.’

Levi Felix says he has ‘tons of requests’ for a British version and is looking to launch an event in or near London in the autumn. In the meantime, the Lifehouse Country Spa Resort in Thorpe-Le-Soken, Essex, is the first hotel to offer a ‘BlackBerry crèche’ where you give up your device for safekeeping while you get on with your life. Felix says: ‘A huge variety of individuals attend Digital Detox retreats: students, professionals, investors, teachers, musicians, artists, CEOs, developers, writers. These are people who sleep with a cellphone as their alarm clock, those who spend hours a day coordinating life through a screen, and individuals who feel a need to find balance in their seemingly always-connected life.’

Of course, you could also impose your own restrictions — if you have the willpower. Julia Hobsbawm, founder of Editorial Intelligence and professor in networking at Cass Business School, observes a 24-hour ‘techno shabbat’ starting every Friday evening. ‘This river of information has got to pass you by some of the time,’ she says. ‘You can’t endlessly swim in it. I also have an “out of office” reply on my email that says: “I’m not going to reply immediately.” There are only 168 hours in a week. A third of those have to be spent resting or sleeping and a third have to be spent living. That leaves only 56 hours to work, absorb information, do email. We’ve been over-sold the speed of technology as an answer to that. As if having so much going on is a good thing. It’s not.’

Some go even further. Joanna Lumley recently said: ‘I don’t even use a mobile phone because my life would be intolerable.’ It may seem unthinkable, but is it possible that the most high-status thing you can do would be to avoid technology completely? In the words of designer Phoebe Philo: ‘The chicest thing is when you don’t exist on Google. God, I would love to be that person.’

Others regard abstinence as essential for getting anything done. Novelist Jonathan Franzen, who famously poured Superglue into his Wi-Fi port to prevent himself from accessing the internet, pronounced: ‘It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.’

Susan Greenfield has long argued that living online is changing our brains. ‘Electronic devices have an impact on the microcellular structure and complex biochemistry of our brains. And that, in turn, affects our personality, our behaviour and our characteristics.’

Her position has been criticised because the scientific evidence for changes in the human brain since the advent of the internet is either inconclusive or unavailable. Her response? ‘When people say there is no evidence, you can turn that back and say: “What kind of evidence would you imagine there would be? Are we going to have to wait for 20 years and see that people are different from previous generations?” I think there are enough pointers that suggest we should be talking about this.’

Could you do it?  Could you detox for three days without your phones, laptops, ipads etc??  I would be interested to hear what your thoughts are.  It is time to switch off for a bit of time. 

We would love to hear what you think.  To switch on or switch off? 


Miss Jones xx 

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