4 radical digital detox ideas

The word radical describes a person, an action or a thing that is especially impressive, inspiring, extraordinary, revolutionary, visionary, exciting, remarkable, exceptional, amazing, marvellous, sensational, incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, spectacular…

You get the point.

Naturally, most of my approaches to practicing digital well-being have been extreme, like quitting social media altogether, or trying to flush my phone down the toilet. Spoiler alert: iPhone 4s doesn’t flush.

Over the years, implementing radical changes, not including flushing my phone down the toilet, have forced me to experience life without constantly escaping into digital distractions. Once I experienced the blissful offline world, it is hard to want to go back to spending countless hours mindlessly browsing the internet, obsessively checking for messages, or reading news that has 0.001% relevancy to my life.

Below are four radical digital detoxes I have implemented over the years that have helped me experience the joy of the world outside of my phone screen.

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Create space between you and your smartphone

Sometimes, all you need is a lil’ space.


If you are anything like the average smartphone user, you spend around 4 hours each day on your phone. That is roughly 50 days a year.

If you’re also anything like the average smartphone user, a good chunk of the time you spend on your phone is spent on social networking sites; 2.4 hours to be exact.

Even Apple knows that is a little bit too much time for its users to spend on their devices. So much so that, Apple released the Screen Time app back in 2018 as part of its “digital health” initiative to address growing concerns around increasing device usage, smartphone addiction and social media’s impact on our mental well-being.

One feature of the Screen Time app is to track the hours a user spends on their phone on a daily and weekly basis and generate a report.
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Value your attention

If I told you your attention is worth billions of dollars, would you believe me?

In 2019, Instagram reportedly generated $20 billion in revenue, “an extraordinary success” for a photo-sharing app. That same year, Facebook made $70.9 billion. What exactly is apps like Instagram and Facebook selling to generate such a staggering amount of profit?

Attention.

To generate such profit, the likes of Facebook would do anything to keep us constantly paying attention to their apps and feeds, including offering their services for free. We pay the price in our collectively declining mental, physical, and social well-being.

Attention harvesting and selling attention is a very profitable business model. The slot-machines in our pockets ping, ding, and provide limitless content to command our attention. And, we give our attention away freely.

Why don’t we value our attention as much as Instagram values it?

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Turning my smartphone into a dumb phone

Understanding digital tools don’t cause our digital addiction is one thing. The attention economy is a whole other beast. There is not enough willpower in the world to avoid the constant instant gratification and distractions a smartphone provides. We need a more aggressive solution to take back our precious time and attention.

One such solution is to simply opt out.

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Demonizing the tool(s) is scapegoating

Addiction is escapism.

It is an attempt to escape the unappealing realities of life; pain, boredom, loss, emotional turmoil, suffering.

The widely accepted definition describes addiction as excessive use of drugs or alcohol to escape, relax, or as a reward to enjoy life, with the belief that you can’t cope without them. Addiction has two basic qualities: you do more of the thing than you would like to, and you continue to do it despite its negative consequences.

In addition, at least three of the following criteria must be met to be diagnosed for addiction: tolerancewithdrawal, limited controlnegative consequencesneglecting or postponing activitiessignificant time or energy spent, and the desire to cut down.

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The opposite of addiction is connection

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection.

— JOHANN HARI

In the podcast episode The Opposite of Addiction by Your Undivided Attention, Johann Hari makes the case that addiction, amongst other mental health issues, is a symptom of a deeper problem of a disconnected society. 

The issue of internet addiction, for instance, isn’t the internet itself, but rather the void it helps us fill.

In other words, addiction is escapism.

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From a smartphone to a flip phone

A guest post by a dear friend of mine: CK. Without further ado…


Cause and effect is an important principle.

If we are assessing our smartphone use (effect) then what causes its use? Is the cause being uncomfortable with the current situation?

I observe a lot of people using their phones when there’s a small amount of silence in a room with two people. For example, in a doctor’s office, an elevator, or waiting for someone in a restaurant. It’s almost reflexive. If so, how do we get more comfortable with that uncomfortable silence?

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