2017 has come and gone. So has the first weekend of 2018.

What were you  up to?

I had a mini version of digital detox (digitox). It started with a random move to leave the phonie at home. Little had I expected it to turn out into a refreshing experience.

My housemate and I went out for breakfast. I decided not to bring my cell phone along. Interestingly, my partner has also left his at home. This would mark the start of our almost phone-free Sunday.

While queuing for my food, I started to feel outstanding. I was the only few in the queue looking around. Not down. As you have guessed it, the majority were simply looking down at their cell phones.

I also found myself soaking in the surroundings – the stall assistant deftly packing the takeaways, another staff adding garnishes, a supplier delivering fresh eggs to a hawker, diners multitasking between swiping their phones and talking with food in their mouth.

Thanks to being “phoneless”, our breakfast was indeed just about us. No ringing tones, no message tones, no scrolling and swiping, no distraction. Better still, no means to snap a picture of what we were having.

I began to think if I could keep it this way. At least for that day.

Back home, I went straight to my phone and placed it in one of my drawers. Out of sight, out of mind, I thought. I told myself I would retrieve it only after dinner, only to realise that I should have at least the ringing tone for incoming calls. So after setting this right, I returned it to the drawer for good.

From 10am to about evening, I was phone-free, and here’s what it was like for me.

  • I read the Sunday papers, covering all the sections, and almost all the pages. As someone who has always preferred news in print, I love engaging in the black on white, colourful images, while feeling the tactile sensation offered by physical paper. I even got up and turned to a hard-copy dictionary to look up the meaning of a word from one of the news article. No phone means no Google, which means finding the answer the good old way.
  • I took a rare pre-noon nap! Was it due to the breakfast? Or was it because of my tired eyes from reading the papers? I believe it is due to the latter.
  • In the afternoon, I need to take a bus to pick up something from a friend. We had finalised the meet-up the night before (thankfully). Without the phone to check for bus arrival timings, I set off earlier and arrived ahead of the appointment. As I waited, I had mixed feelings about being much earlier. Would this friend have texted me to say that this appointment is cancelled or she is going to be late? I heaved a sigh of relief when this friend finally appeared, 6 minutes past our agreed time.
  •  I took the same bus service to and back. Without the phone, I was looking out the window most of the time. It is interesting to see different scenes at the same spot in over an hour or so. On my way to my destination, my bus whizzed past a playground which was empty in the heat of the day. On my way back, I was delighted to  see children there playing happily in shrieking laughters. Absorbing the scenes and sights does beat swiping and scrolling the small screen. 
  • Back home, I joined my other half in our weekly housekeeping. Warm afternoon sun and nature sounds of birds chirping accompanied us. 
  • In the late afternoon, I walked our dog to a distant park where fellow dog owners often gather with their pets. On previous occasions, I would busy myself snapping pictures away while the dogs play happily.  But for that day, without the phone to take pictures, I was really present in the moment to soak in the infectious high energy from the wonderful furry friends.
  • Dinner was a simple homecooked affair in the good hands of my other half. We also played host to my parents, seeking  a respite from the renovation works at their place. The homely meal was made warmer without any interruptions from mobile phone. 

It was almost 8 before I knew it. I retrieved my phone from the drawer. 

10 notifications have accumulated across my email and social media accounts. My partner received 2 missed calls from the same colleague’s number and a trail of SMS which revealed last minute attempts to recover my housemate’s input for meeting the next day. 

We do felt “freed up” and recharged with this mini digital detox. However, on hind sight, we know that we could also have missed out important calls and messages. 

Perhaps, in today’s connected world, it is indeed a challenge to totally “switch off”. Ideally, we should stay contactable. However, we need not respond immediately to each and every beep and buzz from social media.  These, I will choose to switch off.

What about you? Do you have any digital detox experience? Was it by chance or intentional? How did it go and how did you feel? How would you arrange one of your own? 

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