October 18, 2014

Digital detox- disconnecting to fully re-energise.

At What-to-Where, we are firm believers that mankind suffers from severe cyber-dependence. I am no exception to the rule! We start the day off checking the messages we received on our phone overnight, then end our day browsing Instagram before switching off the lights, not to mention the constant juggle between phone, laptop and iPad. It’s clear to say that we can easily be categorised as cyber junkies. So as great as it feels to realise that we have 5 new followers on Instagram, we should ask ourselves what is really happening to us and what effect is it having on our personal life?

One could argue that technology is potentially damaging our social life and interaction. Grabbing a coffee with friends comes down to glancing at our smart phones repeatedly to the extent that we almost forget to communicate. We live digitally: on Facebook we check who has commented on the picture we posted this morning; on Instagram we criticise the blonde blogger (with fake extensions) who has just posted her 16th selfie of the day; on our iPad we refresh our inbox just to make sure we didn’t miss an email; and on Whatsapp we check when last our hubby was connected, just to make sure he did indeed receive the shopping list for tonight’s dinner. In short, more than enough to make us completely forget we are indeed having coffee with friends and not looking at a picture of them having coffee.

Aside from the digital futilities that rub off on our conversations and the voyeuristic tendency that leads us to become a living format of the Daily Mail, digital content offers us infinite knowledge and information. Real technological progress is addictive but at the same time makes us stronger; we are never really alone when we have our iPhone, laptop or iPad within reach. But is digital detoxing, at times, necessary to fully re-energise?

Digital detoxing doesn’t mean we should ban technology from our life, but simply that we must learn to use it in moderation. Technology is often a source of stress, for example when we go away for the weekend and not being able to relax because we were dreading an email from the office asking us to sort out a problem, or receive a text message from our mother reminding us we have four days to empty the attic! All these scenarios end up stressing us when we had hoped for a bit of peace and quiet before heading back to the grindstone.

At What-to-Where we have thought of several solutions to kick off your digital detox.

Needless to say, the most effective solution would be to go for a trek in the Himalayas: at 6250m altitude, you are not likely to pull your phone out and try downloading your emails, although some still might be tempted to try.

There are also meditation camps, during which will test your capacity to become asocial in two weeks. This means no digital interaction, nor human interaction for that matter. You will not be allowed to speak or have physical contact with others, the only thing you will be granted is a good book which will allow you to hear your internal voice.

For the less extreme, there is this new type of tourism « digital detox » offered by several urban hotels such as the Westin in Dublin or Paris, which force you to hand in any digital equipment on check-in. To compensate, they organise sport sessions (with your own New Balance uniform), and massages (even for the thumbs) to help you cleanse. But the idea remains more appealing than doing it, as not many people actually like to leave their gadgets at reception for the duration of their stay. Finally, the solution really boils down to finding a way to remain connected to the addictive digital environment in a limited fashion.

As we are constantly on the lookout for new digital content, our subconscious has developed a new pathology, FOMO (fear of missing out) in other words the fear of not being informed at the right time.

This fear is a breach to our daily spontaneity:

–       Our sister is about to give birth, but that same weekend we had planned to go to thalassotherapy, it would be a shame to cancel if our nephew decided to come a few days late, so we end up going anyway, but to avoid missing the news, we run out and buy a waterproof phone cover and spend the weekend, arms high in the direction of the bay windows to make sure we get network. Ridicule never killed anyone but tendonitis isn’t very pleasant.

–       You need to celebrate your two-year anniversary with your beloved, but you are expecting an important email from your clients in the States, this jet lag will never leave you alone! You can already visualise Adam’s killer eyes when you check your phone 10 times between your starter and your main course. You might as well cancel your evening and propose microwave lasagne in front of a good film (with your laptop and phone close by).

To avoid being categorised as someone ‘married to your phone’, a developer who considers your well-being has developed Kovert. Under the disguise of a pretty piece of jewellery, is a useful little tool called wearable tech. It possesses captors, linked to an application on our mobile phone, which enables us to filter the information that we wish to receive: an email, a phone call, a text from someone, or limited digital content. This gem allows us to disconnect while remaining informed. A big step forward for digital detox! Straight away we were wowed by this project. Once you have it, the only thing left to do is blacklist your ex’s messages and the work emails asking us to go in on a Saturday morning!

Isn’t it a fact of life that true freedom resides in having the right to choose?



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Rings: Kovert

Macha’s glasses: Acuitis

Swimwear: Vitamin A

Gold sequin dress: French Connection

Plaid cardigan: Lovers+ Friends 

Pictures by Sophie Dussex

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