An experience for one: experiencing something, a moment, a thing, an event, without the need to capture, share, or post about it online.
The idea occurred to me while at my in-laws cottage enjoying the beautiful view of the lake. I should take a picture, I think; maybe share it on my blog, or on instagram, or you know, for memory sake. The last part is a lie: I got over 10,700 pictures in my camera roll that I rarely, if ever, look at to confirm.
But, I decide against it. This is an experience just for me, I think, and enjoy the view, the moment, the feeling. It’s all good.
When I quit social media, the most wonderful thing happened. I stopped thinking about posting any and every mildly interesting thing that I was doing online: a meal, a song, a scenic area.
The internal dialogue of how to capture a moment and what to caption it, or how to word a thought into a perfect tweet that occupied much of my thought process went away. And with it, the thought of how it will be received by followers vanished too.
Too long, won’t read version: Add an offline activity to the start of your day for better days.
The long version: I paid attention and realized something yesterday. #storytime
I left my Airpods at home yesterday after my phone kindly warned me I’ve exceeded the recommended level for audio exposure. Got me wondering, how else is one supposed to listen to So Mi Like It? I digress…
Anyway, I wanted to give my ear a break, and didn’t want any temptation, so I brought a book instead for my commute. Usually, I’d read an e-book on my phone, while listening to music, switching between this app then that app, skipping this song then that song, you know the usual. On this particular commute, however, it was just my book and I, and my phone stayed in my purse.
There’s a good reason for that: attention = profit. The more Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube can harvest our attention, the more profit they make from digital advertisers marketing their products and services to us.
Isn’t it ironic that there are apps designed to help minimize our digital addiction? Fight fire with fire, I guess.
The digital world can be all-consuming, and there’s a good reason for that: attention = profit. The more Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are able to harvest our attention, the more money they make from digital advertisers vying for our attention to consume their products, services, or information.
Six months ago, I deleted my Spotify account as part of my digital declutter to minimize digital noise.
The result? Less skipping, more listening.
Having access to millions of songs on Spotify led me to excessively skip songs in the pursuit of finding the perfect song, but rarely satisfied with what I picked anyway. I felt I could no longer enjoy a song or an album in its entirety— an increasingly rare but lovely experience I enjoy indulging in.
Spotify was robbing me of the satisfaction of enjoying music.
I’m not alone in this, and Spotify isn’t the only offender either; Netflix and Tinder are also some of the other popular platforms providing abundance without much satisfaction.
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.
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.
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?
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?