Taking a digital detox; why I’ve chosen to ‘switch off’ this summer

Ofcom research highlights desire for digital detoxing with under-25s the most likely to unplug

You are reading: Taking a digital detox; why I’ve chosen to ‘switch off’ this summer

The emphasis placed on the importance of including mobile in your digital marketing versus people using mobile significantly more stems a chicken and egg conundrum: Are people using mobile more because we’ve made the experience so seamless, or are we improving the experience because people are so reliant on their phones now, and we need a slice of the action? Either way, mobile usage is on the up, and it’s resulted in a rebellion of sorts…

Digital Detoxing is clearly a ‘hot topic’ this summer- the new fad perhaps? A topic of conversation at the Browser Media summer BBQ, we discussed the pros and cons of switching off our devices or better still, leaving them at home all together.

I’ve recently been trialing ‘device free days’ on Saturdays. ‘But what if there is an emergency?!’ exclaimed my husband when I told him I wasn’t bringing my phone on our weekly Lidl shopping trip. ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I replied. And what d’ya know, at no point in our day out did I require the use of my phone. In fact, I had forgotten that I didn’t have it all together.

So what has spurred me to embark on my very own digital detox this summer? Ofcom’s annual communication market report. The report, which assess the state of the digital nation to include 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers, found that 1 in 3 people are choosing to have a digital detox and 6 in 10 people describe themselves as ‘hooked’ on their devices. With an increasing number it seems, taking a break from their mobile phones and the internet.

Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom spoke on BBC radio 4’s Today Programme

“…we also asked people about some of the downsides that they might be experiencing and we found that 4 in 10 people found that they’re spending too much time on line. Around half of the people we talked to are spending more time online than they originally planned. So that could be going online doing a few things and before you know it a few hours have disappeared.”

Jane continued

“What is happening is people have admitted to neglecting household chores, staying up late at night and missing out on sleep and missing out on catching up with friends and family. And that is what is driving the step back and to take some digital downtime and choose to do something different.”

(see table 1.0)

Figure 1.24 Reported negative effects of spending too much time online

Further anecdotal persuasion to my detox decision involved a dog walk in the countryside. In the kerfuffle of loading up baby, buggy and dog into the car I forgot my phone. There was a point on the walk where I thought ‘Wow, this spot is beautiful. This looks exactly like the south of France’. I’m not afraid to admit that my heart sank when I realised I couldn’t capture the moment to share on Instagram or whatever. Which was quickly followed by thinking “To hell with it, I don’t care”, soaked in the moment for what it was and carried on with my dog walk. It didn’t matter.

So how long is a digital detox?

Jane went on to tell us that many were taking a break for a day and some for a week. With 5% of people saying that they were disconnecting and choosing to live a life beyond their screen for a whole month.

Challenge accepted.

Facebook status

I’m not alone. In the BBC’s online coverage of Ofcom’s study, it was revealed that the under-25s were the most likely to unplug. This is reflected in social trends such as phone stacking – where groups of people socializing pile their phones in the centre of the table and often, the first person to touch their phone has to buy a round of drinks.

Furthermore, music venues and bars, such as the Gin Tub in Sussex, are blocking mobile signals in an attempt to encourage face-to-face conversation and put a stop to the ultimate social faux pas – watching a music concert through your device (see table 2.0)

Figure 1.27 Unacceptability of device use in social situations

Can digital marketers and have digital detox?

I hear you cry. Well, I certainly think so, but there are ground rules: Often, managing social media accounts for a client means logging into your personal account to act as ‘admin’. For client work, I will log in and promise myself not to look at my news feed. Alternatively, I can login via my colleague’s social media account.

I’ll report back in a month or so on my experience and lessons learned from switching off for the summer.

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