We live in an era of tech addiction, shooting up on average 100 times a day. We ride that temporary "like" or "follow" high and tumble back down into the depths of our monotonous, rat race-fuelled lives.
We find our partners by swiping, order our food by tapping, shop by scanning, travel by pinning, and make it known to the world how great our "real" lives are by Instagraming. We limit our existence to the palm of our hands. Surely it is abhorrent to even propose such a separation as a tech-detox?
How will people know what we are eating?
How will we know what they are eating?
Cue reality - no one gives a fuck what you are eating (unless you're vegan in which case we care)
On October 5th 2017, I flew to Barcelona for a conference style retreat, The Collective Europe. A gathering of like minded #CommunityOverCompetition entrepreneurs, eager to share their wisdom and ultimately build bridges and friendships.
There was one catch - we had to hand in our phones.
The conference grants attendees a tech-free experience with the intention of enriching our (social) senses and entrepreneurial skills. After we ascended the beautiful Catalonian hills, partook in a polite meet and greet with a little Belgian courage from our friends at Blind Tiger, we shed our inhibitions, embraced the prohibition and had a goddam human to human conversation.
In some beautiful, ironic twist, moments before I handed over my beloved little lifeline, I dropped her on the floor, smashing her once clear and pristine face into pieces...I could not have been more relieved to hand the little life-sucker over.
The transition was painful. As we all went into withdrawal our empty fingers itched with anxiety and desperation. But, comforted by our new-found friends (real people, no likes or follows here) we persevered. Our first exercise was to walk amongst each other, make eye contact and progress into walking alongside your nearest attendee, divulging three facts about yourself. Now this was hard. In a world where we reside with 7.5 billion other people on this planet, how is it such a struggle to connect? I know this pushed many of us out of our comfort zones, but for once, this was just about us: we couldn't tweet or post about how "connected" we were to each other - we actually had to form a genuine, human bond.
Meal times were reminiscent of school lunch: collect your food and then survey the land for that one vacant spot, hoping not to be rejected by your chosen companions, or even worse: when no one would choose you! In recent years, we have not had to endure this juvenile ritual as we have our trusty little phones - a constant friend and support system. At The Collective, no longer. I enjoyed so many different conversations with so many different people as we broke bread and bathed in the Spanish sunlight on the open terrace adorned with vines and white sheets. Life is beautiful when you look up from your palm.
During my first meetings and subsequent conversations, I found myself mindlessly reaching down for my phone, only to be met by immediate disappointment, swiftly followed by joy and relief. Others too were experiencing similar subconscious phone-grabbing. We bonded over our mutual tech-addiction and elevated our conversations to other more meaningful tech-free talking points. When our discussions would drift to our businesses, we often found ourselves saying "Oh let me show you on Instagram," to then wail and whine that we could not! What happened next was miraculous: we articulated our points! We did not merely rely on pixels but on pronunciation.
As the conference came to a close, and I was handed back my little demon device in a white envelope, I took no notice of it. I continued my conversation with people (again real people) for a further 20 minutes, saying my goodbyes and lamenting the end of such an enriching and fulfilling experience. I finally conceded and thought it best to check my flight which did unfortunately require a little technological assistance.
If you have the opportunity to escape to a tech-free land filled with human conversation and connection - do it. Although for many this may not be an option so here are my Wilde Tips for a mini daily detox...
My Wilde Tips
- Charge your phone at night on the other side of the room, or even better, in another room! And turn it off!
- Do NOT check your phone upon waking - get up, stretch, drink a big glass of water and get yourself ready for your day.
- Set a time to check social media - my usual times when I was working a desk job were 11am and 4pm and only for approx. 5-10 minutes at a time
- Set boundaries for your colleagues - relay to them you will only be checking your email at certain times, and if there is an urgent issue, call you (like the good old days). This applies to weekends as well, in fact, I encourage you not to check your work email at all over the weekend.
- This is not only amazing for your mental health but also for your productivity. Emails are a huge distraction and often bring about this sense of urgency that you must take action upon receipt of said email. This is not the case - continue with the task at hand and set aside specific times to read and respond to emails
- Keep a bag of goodies on your desk - every time you reach for you phone, grab a goody. Reward yourself for not succumbing to the succubus of modern day tech. You may put on a few extra lbs but at least you won't be a tech zombie.
- When dining with a fellow human being - DO NOT have your phone on the table. You are there to listen and be listened to - your partner deserves your undivided attention.