Time To Log Off digital detox retreats and workshops offer a chance to disconnect from your digital devices and reconnect with the world offline, leaving you relaxed and energised to return to your daily life. Put down your laptop, smartphone, Facebook, Instagram and email and dive back into the real world.
Johann Hari opened Series 2 of our digital detox podcast: ‘Its Complicated‘ last week with a gripping interview on addiction, depression, and looking for connection in all the wrong places. Hari is a New York Times best-selling author and in both his books ‘Chasing the Scream’ and ‘Lost Connections’ he describes the phenomenon of the modern decline of human connection.
Hari was raised in an addiction-fuelled environment and as such has expertise in both substance and process addictions. He sees digital addictions in a similar light. In conversation with our founder Tanya Goodin, he questions the focus just on the technology in all of our debates on digital addiction. He suggests instead that we should examine the particular problems within our society and then the people who fall prey to addictions. Throughout the podcast, Hari discusses the natural human needs for connection and how to fulfil them, which may enable us to be able to become more resistant to the temptation of technology addiction. As well as emphasising the need for us to build our lives, not around values of external worth or “extrinsic value”, but rather around the values of service and community.
We are incredibly excited about the rest of the guests that we’ll be showcasing on Series 2. As well as addiction experts such as Johann Hari, and social media influencers such as Vex King and Kaushal, we’ll be branching out this series and showcasing activists in the tech space who’ll be discussing their take on a whole host of issues relating to digital wellbeing and addiction. It was only this February that we launched our podcast to help people untangle their relationship with their phone, by opening up the conversation on both the positives and negatives (hence the title #ItsComplicated) of relationship with screens. Throughout the first and now the second series, we hope to inspire and motivate our listeners to reevaluate their screen use. As well as to take comfort from the fact that they are definitely not alone in their struggle to put down their phones!
What is the Summer Unplugged digital detox challenge?
It might be a bit challenging in the winter when days are short and the weather is dismal outside, but Summer is the perfect season to start a digital detox adventure. Longer, sunny (we hope), days and balmy evenings will give us all the excuse to step away from our devices more.
And summer holidays are all about spending time with our families and friends, what better time to re-connect with our loved ones and focus on building stronger connections? Summer Unplugged is all about putting down the phone and reconnecting with those right in front of you – your family. And this is not just for kids, more and more young people tell us that it’s their parents who are struggling to put their phones down – so this is for all of you.
How to get involved with 2019’s Summer Unplugged challenge
Print out our print Summer Unplugged challenge poster – stick it on the fridge or on a noticeboard at home – and follow the ten steps to a summer spent unplugged. Don’t forget to let us know how you’re finding the challenge by using the #SummerUnplugged hashtag online, too.
1. Eat: only eat phone free food – no phones at the meal-table
We hope you’re already doing this. But just in case you’re not, or it’s slipped a bit over a busy school term, set a specific intention around phones and food and ban phones whenever you’re eating. It’s a great way to practice mindful eating too, without your screens to distract you.
2. Explore: Have a whole day out without your phones
This one is definitely a challenge! Don’t try this when you’re going out to a place you’ve never been before and hope to be able to cope with navigating without GPS or maps. Incorporate this in a day out to somewhere you all know well. Agree you’ll all leave your phones behind and set out to enjoy the day screen-free. Ready, set, go!
3. Sleep: Buy alarm clocks for the whole family, banish phones from the bedroom
It’s our top tip – and for a good reason. Screens in bedrooms interfere with our sleep in a major way. For the summer holidays buy some retro alarm clocks for the whole family and banish phones from the bedroom when you’re sleeping. Cut down on that middle-of-the-night screen scrolling.
4. Off: Make use of airplane mode to give yourself a break
We love airplane mode and we use it whenever we can. Just toggle the switch to ‘on’ and go about your day as normal. You’d be amazed how much more you can get down without notifications to interrupt you. And your phone is still there to use when you need it.
5. #Goals: Each set a personal unplugging goal and share it
We all use our phones in very different ways which means there may be very different things we want to get out of a summer digital detox challenge. Someone may want to log-off work email every night, another may want to cut down on Instagram scrolling. Come up with your personal goals and share them.
6. Delete: Get social media (and work email) off your phones for your holiday
If you can’t resist checking specific apps on your phone even over the weekends or late at night then they are bound to interfere with your holiday. Decide to delete any particularly tricky apps, the ones that seem to call to you to check your phone, just over the period of your holiday. You’ll find it’ll really help cut down on mindless screen scrolling. And you might just enjoy your holiday more!
7. Go Green (and blue): get outside and connect with nature, and the ocean
Wonderful things happen to us when we get out in nature, our blood pressure reduces, our pulse slows, just two hours a week in a green space has been proven to make us healthier and happier. And being by the sea is even better. They don’t call it Vitamin Sea for nothing. So make a plan to get outside in green and blue spaces as much as possible during your Summer Unplugged challenge.
8. Play: bring out the board games, and the bats and the balls
Screens do have a way of making us quite sedentary. We sit down with them, usually indoors, and we’re not very active. Make a list of all the games you could play off screens and work your way through them this summer.
9. Baby Steps: start with small steps, try 30 minutes off screens and build up from there
A digital detox doesn’t have to be for a week, weekend or even a full day. Just start small with a limited period of time off screens and build up during the time of the challenge. How about setting a target for the end of the summer that you’ll work up to? A while Sunday off screens could be a good thing to aim for.
10. Support: have each other’s backs in being off screens more, don’t nag!
Everyone is going to find some aspects of this challenge tricky at times. So be each other’s cheerleaders and coaches and support each other in doing it. Tackle this challenge as a team, not a series of individuals and you’ll absolutely ace it.
Print out our print Summer Unplugged challenge and follow the ten steps to a summer spent unplugged. Don’t forget to let us know how you’re finding the challenge by using the #SummerUnplugged hashtag online (as long as you’re online only occasionally!) so we can see how you’re all getting on.
The new breed of social media influencers spend hours online each day to maintain their income via their social media channels. The digital world has brought them fame and fortune so surely they’re not complaining about the same negative side effects as the rest of us? Yet, just in the last few weeks, several high-profile YouTubers such as Yes Theory and Emma Chamberlain have made videos of their digital detox efforts, all showing their followers the positive impacts that stepping away from your screen can have.
Yes Theory is a group of young men, currently with 3.5 million subscribers, who have created a brand revolving around the phrase ‘seek discomfort’. One of the founding members, Thomas Bragg, recently took a break from social media for 30 days, inspired by Professor Cal Newport, who we recently had on our podcast. In the video, Bragg deletes all of his social media and creates a morning routine to take the place of the hours of time he previously spent online.
DELETING SOCIAL MEDIA FOR 30 DAYS CHANGED MY LIFE - YouTube
At the end of the experience, he talks about his decreased anxiety levels and improved productivity. He commits in future to only downloading his social media apps to his phone for 20 minutes every three days in order to remain connected, while maintaining the positives of a digital detox.
Digital detox with Emma Chamberlain
Emma Chamberlain is a younger YouTuber, who at 17 currently has 7.4 million subscribers. Her video was inspired by a joking comment from her parents but she took it to heart and experimented with a day without her phone. Although the tone of the video is comic it does raise the issue she finds of having to be alone with one’s thoughts and struggling to find things to do. She also discusses the problems of doing without some of the useful functions of her phone such as maps!
24 HOURS WITHOUT A PHONE - YouTube
Chamberlain is a digital-native, unable to recall a time without computers and social media and it’s interesting that despite this she acknowledges the many positives of a digital detox and suggests at the end of the video that she’s going to start to put her phone in a box once a week.
Bestdressed is a clothing channel run by Ashley a student in LA, with 1.4 million subscribers. She made 5 rules for her social media use over the week of her digital detox, including that she would pre-schedule social media posts in order to maintain her career and presence.
A WEEK WITHOUT A PHONE - YouTube
Ashley spoke about the positives of switching off such as being more aware of her thoughts and emotions instead of distracting herself. She recommends taking a break from your phone and is implementing restrictions such as turning off notifications and being more liberal with the ‘airplane mode’ switch!
Hannah Witton is another YouTuber who has tried a digital detox in the past, in her case for a week. Witton, who has 530K subscribers, turned off her phone in order to enjoy a holiday without it.
My Week Without A Phone | Hannah Witton - YouTube
Like the others, she said that it was very relaxing but found there are many benefits to her phone, such as Google Maps! Witton also highlights the difficulty of staying ‘switched-off’ when her career is entirely based on social media, an issue she also discussed with us on our podcast.
Finally, the last YouTuber who has been emphasising the importance of a digital detox is Sky, a YouTuber specialising in health and wellness. Over the last two years, she has posted three videos about digital detox and its importance, including how to do one. The most recent being a vlog of her experience living in a phone-free community for a weekend:
Living In A PHONE-FREE COMMUNITY For A Weekend! - YouTube
Sky attended a weekend by ‘Brick’ an organisation that runs getaways and evenings-out for those who do not want their lives to be controlled by their phone, in California. Many people, like those who come on our retreats, found they weren’t that enthusiastic about having their phones back at the end of the retreat and instead wanted to be without them for longer.
All of these young creators work and earn a living on social media and yet each in their own way in the last fortnight has had a digital detox to escape from the digital world. Each YouTuber came up with a way to limit their screen-time and each video posted received thousands if not millions of views, Chamberlain’s currently sits at 6.2 million views. Is this evidence of the interest that even digital natives have in the importance of a digital detox and an indication of how pressing the need to disconnect has become?
The internet dominates our daily lives. From children, to teenagers, to adults; we spend hours each day consuming content from the incredible resource that is the online world. However, with this huge source of information and potential for connection, comes a responsibility to be aware of the potential dangers of living our lives online. Last year, we published top 10 tips for teens on how to stay safe online, and it’s time to revisit our e-safety advice to try and ensure that no matter how old you are, you’re aware of the potential risks.
Still very much an issue
Just in the last few weeks the MOMO challenge came and went – an online ‘game’ encouraging children to harm themselves which actually turned out to be a hoax. If the hysterical reaction to a challenge that turns out to be a hoax tells us anything, it’s that people still feel a lack of control and lack of knowledge about what’s out there on the internet. And perhaps that is because of the pure scale of the potential dangers. So, what should you be looking out for?
It may have been a bit of a buzz word over the past two years, but there’s good reason for it. With the MOMO challenge at front and centre, it’s important to be aware of eye-popping headlines, information source and publisher credibility. Perhaps the greatest danger of fake news is the tinted viewpoint it can create, based on something nothing more than fiction. Always investigate any news source to determine its credibility; check if it has an unusual domain name ( like .com.co or similar), pay attention to language, spelling and grammar (are there lots of mistakes?) and run any outlandish claims or facts through a credible fact-checking website.
Have you ever received an email from a seemingly credible source, but with an offer that just feels too good to be true? If you didn’t click on it, you made the right decision. However, with our personal data more valuable than ever, many people have succumbed to frauds trying to obtain sensitive information such as passwords and payment card details. Always think before you click, and if you see a suspicious-looking email in your inbox – delete it straightaway without clicking through to any links it contains.
Dangers of online strangers
We’ve made genuine friends through the online world and we know many of you have too. Unfortunately some people have been ‘catfished’, a term made popular by an American TV programme about fake identities online. A catfish is someone that fakes their online identify in an attempt to begin a deceptive relationship. If something doesn’t seem quite right, it’s always worth further investigation. It’s also essential that if any communication received online makes you uncomfortable, it’s reported as soon as possible.
Online isn’t always the whole story
Perhaps a less obvious danger, but if we’re talking about staying safe online, it’s important to recognise the subtle dangers, as well as the more tangible issues. Lifestyles that are portrayed online aren’t always the full story, and although it may seem like someone you’re following has ‘the perfect life’, there may be many other issues that person ins’t sharing online. This is particularly prominent in social media, considering the popularity of platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. We have written about how you can mindfully use social media if you think this might be an issue affecting you.
Be mindful about your own digital footprint
Whereas the other dangers that we have identified are issues that you can come across by being online, this is a little different. It’s important to be aware of what you are posting online, as posting is permanent. Once a tweet, video or comment is posted, it’s likely to stay there forever. Deleting it may not really make it go away, so just remember to think twice before you post in the heat of a moment.
The internet is a brilliant thing, but like everything there are risks out there – some tangible, and some harder to recognise straight away. Ensuring you and the people close to you, are aware of these risks is the first step to ensure that few problems are encountered online. If you feel like you’re spending a little too much time online, and it’s having an effect on other parts of your life, then read more about internet addiction here, or get in touch to find our more about how we can help your digital detox.
Our new podcast launched last week on Valentine’s Day. ‘It’s Complicated‘ has as it’s mission to help you untangle your relationship with your phone. Through conversations with leading lights in the worlds of culture, the arts, sport, media and business we’re aiming to get to the bottom of what a healthy relationship with our phones really looks like and to equip you with tips and tricks to save you hours of time every day – and leave you feeling healthier and happier.
We’ve always been a big fan of the podcast, and for one very simple reason, it stops us staring at our screens and gives sore eyes a rest! But it’s taken us a while to figure out what the best format for our own podcast would be. In the end we realised that simply chatting to as a wide a range of people as possible about their tech habits, and how they get a healthy balance, was a really good place to start. Most of us can feel we’re the only ones failing at being able to put our phones away sometimes and it’s good to be reminded this phone addiction is something we’re all struggling with.
Tackling phone addiction one episode at a time
Since launch we’ve introduced two episodes with very different guests. Nikita Gill is one of the new breed of Insta Poets with a following of over half a million on Instagram for her poetry. But even though the social media world largely brought her her fame she still remains cautious about its dark side and practices switching off regularly to make sure she gets a good balance. We could have chatted to her all day. She’s been writing online for over a decade and her take on how the digital world and phone addiction has evolved since her days of posting on Tumblr (not always for the better) was utterly absorbing.
Episode Two finds us talking to award-winning explorer and broadcaster (and UN Patron of the Wilderness) Ben Fogle and his wife, parenting guru and author Marina Fogle about how to get a better balance with screens in our roles as parents and partners. Ben confesses to some very mixed feelings about Twitter and they both chat about how they try and show each other respect around their phone habits – and how they talk to their kids about them too.
This first series of It’s Complicated has eight episodes and we’ve got some great guests coming up so make sure you subscribe on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you get your podcasts from) and don’t forget to rate and review the podcast too to enable other people to find out about it.
There’s a lot of hate on Millennials and Gen Z about our excessive use of screens. Parents, teachers, and the press all seem to be focusing on it. Everywhere commentators are constantly bringing up our enthusiastic use of Snapchat and Instagram DMs as evidence of our over-reliance on digital communication, and our inability to talk face-to-face. But as our use of tech comes more into the spotlight should we now be asking ourselves, is our tech use healthy and just our way of staying connected? Or are features like Snapchat ‘streaks’ actually harming our mental and physical health? Here are five things to think about when figuring out if you’re addicted to tech, or simply getting the most out of your phone.
#1 Reconsider your streaks
It’s a cliché but Snapchat streaks really are evidence of a toxic culture online. Think to yourself, do you frantically try to find a friend who can take over your Snapchat when you’re out of wifi so that you won’t lose your streaks? Have you ever filed a report on SnapChat’s website to have your streaks reinstated after you lost them (because you were on at least 400 and that effort shouldn’t be wasted)? If either of the above rings true then you may want to consider your investment in Snapchat! It’s a wonderful platform for staying in touch with friends who live far and wide, but perhaps it’s not a matter of life or death if you lose a couple of streaks and have real-world conversations instead.
#2 Think about your sleep
You’ve heard this a thousand times but it has been proven that using screens too soon before bed is bad for your sleep. Teenagers need their sleep. We tell our parents that every morning of the holidays, and quite a few term-time mornings too. So why don’t we put in the effort on our side and try not to spend hours on YouTube before bed? Why can’t we strop DM’ing someone at 2 am and just get to sleep? If you just can’t imagine going to bed without half an hour of ASMR videos, then you might want to reconsider your night-time screen use.
#3 Look at how you work
As teenagers, we’re doing work for important life-changing exams all of the time. Technology has generated some amazing tools to help us revise, such as Quizlet and SparkNotes, but when it comes to revision technology can often be a hindrance as much as a help. Did you know that when your phone is switched off and face down on the desk your IQ drops by 10 points? (How often are you putting it face down anyway?) As useful as technology is, maybe it’s time to reevaluate it in relation to effective study. That doesn’t mean don’t use it, but if your focus and concentration is low, try thinking about whether it’s helpful if your phone is in your eyesight and how much study you could do from books instead of online for a break.
#4 Think about friendships
Although we have far more ‘friends’ than ever before online, these are not the deep connections that we form with our close friends in real life. It’s wonderful to be able to keep in contact with people across the world and meet new ones who share our interests, but that doesn’t mean we should sacrifice face-to-face interaction for screentime. If you struggle to talk to people in real life as opposed to online, you may be reaching a point at which your screentime is having an impact on your real world relationships.
#5 Read our books
If you’re still not sure whether you have a problem or not, our founder, Tanya Goodin has written two books OFF, and Stop Staring at Screens that might help you figure it out. Both are written from the angle of helping you to use screen time effectively. We don’t want to stop you using technology but rather to embrace it without experiencing some of the the negative side effects.
Once you’ve checked yourself against these points you’ll hopefully be able to tell if you need to start limiting your screen time or if you are one of the lucky few who has no problems!
It’s nearly 2019! Are you thinking about all the healthy habits you’d like to get a handle on over the next twelve months? Weight loss, fitness, eating more healthily, drinking a little less maybe? Where does digital wellbeing fit on your list? With all of us now spending more time on screens than we are asleep, 2019 has to be the year that we all start to figure out how to live healthily and happily with screens.
Let’s make a resolution to make 2019 the year of digital wellbeing, and of building positive and mindful digital habits!
7 Ways To Boost Your Digital Wellbeing for a Healthier 2019
#1 Monitor your screen time (but don’t become obsessive)
2018 saw a proliferation of apps to monitor our time on screens in response to growing concerns about how much time we’re spending on them. It would be easy to get a tiny bit obsessive about these new stats in our lives, so remember that constantly checking an app to see how much time you spend on apps will somewhat defeat the point. We suggest using something like Apple’s Screentime to give you an initial benchmark on your current screen consumption then checking in again at the end of, say, a month. Rather like weighing yourself every day, checking your screen time every day could become counterproductive, and even lure you back in to some of your more unhelpful screen use (see #7 below). The idea is to see a gradual downward trend, not beat yourself up about it daily.
#2 Take lunch without a screen
If we could give you just one really helpful digital wellbeing resolution for 2019 it would be to use your lunch hour to get a break from screens and (ideally) get outside. But if the weather really doesn’t lend itself to al fresco lunching, don’t give up completely on making your break screen-free. A brief hiatus from all types of screens (yes, even your phone) will clear your head for the second part of your day and provide the blank headspace that creativity and problem-solving flourish in. Who knows, with ideas flooding in when you give them space, you may find that your screen-free lunch hours actually end up being the most productive part of the day?
#3 No screens when 1-2-1
Has 2018 seen you reach boiling point with family, friends and partners always being on their phones and tablets? Have you tried and failed to start a family digital detox? Make a start in 2019 by reflecting on your own screen use before you turn your attention to those you live (and maybe work), with. Nagging doesn’t work. But you can prompt changes in those around you just by changing your own habits; it’s called the ripple effect. Put your phone away when you’re talking one-to-one with anyone and, without even mentioning what you’re doing, you’ll see others take notice and follow suit. Our relationships are one of the biggest casualties of our screen overuse and this one move will help redress the balance.
#4 Spring clean your screen(s)
This is a digital wellbeing resolution you can do right away! Take a critical look at your phone and all the apps screaming out for your attention. How many do you really, really, use? Go through every folder and screen and delete all those that you downloaded once and never looked at again. Then organise apps into neat folders by name and set-up a hierarchy of usefulness. We suggest keeping tools on the home screen and time-wasting apps on second, third or last screens. If there are some you can’t bear to delete but you know cause you to waste hours online, move them to the second page of any folder. That way you can’t see the little icons winking up at you when you check your phone – out of sight, out of mind!
Do this screen tidying regularly. Think of it like cleaning your desk (because let’s face it, our phones are our desks now). A simple tidy once a week, a ruthless pruning once a month. We guarantee it’ll make your screen use more mindful – and more efficient.
#5 Charge your device in another room
We’ve told you before about not sleeping with your phone but this digital wellbeing resolution takes that one step further and into the daytime. You probably have your phone always charging right next to you, so even if you’re trying to work or relax at home it’s never more than a few centimetres away, are we right? Make a healthy habit in 2019 of always charging it in another room from you. Overnight this would mean it’s outside the bedroom door. During the day it could be in the kitchen while you’re in the sitting room, or vice versa. It’s all part of building in small boundaries between you and your device that give you valuable screen-free time to unwind.
#6 Ditch the digital junk
We love the digital world. We love all the tools that make us useful and productive. But if you’re honest you know that using online banking or checking your destination on Google Maps isn’t where you’re wasting hours of your day… In 2019 make a resolution to treat your digital diet like your food diet. The first step in consuming healthily is to make sure you know what your personal ‘digital junk food’ looks like. Is it social media? Is it email? Maybe dating apps? Identify your personal digital junk and make a resolution to cut down, saving your screentime for those apps and functions which genuinely add value.
#7 Text less – talk more
From baby births to exam results, from breakups to proposals, it seems no communication now is too important not to be reduced to a text. This final resolution is very simple; resolve to text less and talk more in 2019. Consciously pick up the phone for important conversations and do the same when text exchanges are taking the place of face-to-face conversations just a little too much. It’s easier of course, and quicker, to text. But the best things in life take time and effort – and rewarding relationships, on which our health and happiness depend, definitely fall into that camp.
With these seven digital wellbeing resolutions you’ll soon be on your way to a more healthy balance with technology in 2019. And if you need any further inspiration and ideas pick up either of our two books, Stop Staring at Screens and OFF. Both crammed full of ideas on how to live healthily with screens
2018 has certainly kept us busy with the scientific community across the world focusing more closely on digital addiction and worldwide media bringing it into the light as well. There has growing interest around the globe in internet addiction, and social media addiction and we have been dissecting each new study to help you understand how technology addiction might affect you and steps to take to counter it.
This year we launched another digital detox book, this time focusing our advice on family relationships and how to help children in this technology-focused world! But which of our articles caught your attention this year? Here’s a roundup of our 10 most popular posts from 2018:
This article highlighted some of the most important things we’ve learned about the new field of digital wellness. This included work that scientists and tech companies are doing to investigate or help, how you can use digital tech itself to help you detox, and the importance a focus on digital wellness has for the balance of our mental health.
In this post, we broke down easy exercises for complete beginners to help combat our ‘always-on’ lifestyle and give yourself a momentary break from technology. Together these five exercises will help you refocus on the world around you instead of the one on your screens.
In 2018 media outlets of all types have begun to cover digital detox with greater frequency and, reading story after story about the subject, it can easily begin to seem like it’s just the latest fad. In this post, we explain why it’s here for the long haul and why it works.
There’s increasing evidence that too much time on screens (especially excessive time on social media) is affecting our mental health. In this blog, we explain why technology particularly impacts young people including strong indications of links to depression and the science behind them.
We’ve all heard of the often-reported side-effects of technology addiction such as poor mental health and a lack of sleep, but did you know that burglaries and traffic accidents are also increasingly caused by tech addiction? In this post, we explore the reasons behind this and give you yet more reasons to switch your phone off.
Our smartphones are now our ever-present companions and most of the time they are never more than an arm’s length away. We love them as tools and helpers in our busy lives but there is no questions that we are all getting overly dependent. In this blog post, we shared easy steps to reclaim control.
Internet addiction is a recognised disorder in several countries of the world, and the reported effects that technology is having on children can be shocking at times so here are some simple tricks to entice your kids away from the screen for some family bonding as well as good reasons why you should!
We shared eight simple reasons to down your devices and pick up the parts of your life that have become neglected when you’ve been glued to your phone! These included not only benefits to your mental health, but also, would you believe, financial benefits!
The popularity of this blog reflected the fact that so many teenagers today are aware of the threats that will affect them online, from stranger danger to technology addiction. Number two in our top ten posts of 2018 is a simple list of things to be conscious of when online to help you protect the teen in your life, or yourself.
Our TOP post in 2018 was no surprise. You wanted to know how much you personally were affected by technology addiction. This blog explored what ‘normal’ might look like for screen usage and how you can measure and monitor your own.
We’ve loved posting on all things digital detox in 2018 and it looks like you’ve enjoyed reading our blogs too. Look out for all our new digital detox and digital wellness articles and campaigns coming in 2019!
Recently, I was at a book launch in Marylebone. The great and good of British journalism had showed up. As I gawped at the impressive faces around me, I realised that not one of them had their phones out. The next day, the internet wasn’t cluttered with pictures taken by those at the event. There was no selfies or group shots. Those that attended, mostly, were of a generation for which pulling out a phone and taking a selfie just wasn’t part of their mindset. For them, it clearly hadn’t become a social reflex or ingrained instinct. And it was refreshing to see. Especially when you consider, that according to stats from InfoTrends, in 2017, we took a staggering 1.2 trillion photos world wide.
And, now, as we’re about to enter December, I hope that we can remember what Christmas was like before Instagram. Just like those baby-boomer journalists, I hope we remember that social outings aren’t just about social media. I hope that when I go to drinks parties and outdoor markets this Christmas, that Instagram is an afterthought, at most. And I hope that when people come together, as tired and clichéd as this might sound, it’s about being with one another, there, in that moment. I hope that we remember company is those we are with – not those we try to impress or convince online. I hope we remember that the joy is being there – not letting others know you were there.
But what’s the harm, you might wonder? And don’t get me wrong – I love pictures. My mum’s got boxes of them which I fish through when I visit her like some kind of memory lane lucky dip. But the instantaneous nature of social media and the validation we crave from likes is a dangerous modern symptom of taking photographs. We’re forgetting to live in the moment, we’re forgetting to appreciate what is in front of us, and we’re increasingly dissatisfied IRL unless our experiences are somehow made official by the judgement of others. Today it can feel like something is only an experience if we can share it with people online. As a result, we’re dulling our experiences; we’re removing ourselves from the interactions that make us feel most alive. Because we’re never truly present if we’re thinking about what is happening on our phone, so how can we be truly experiencing anything?
And so this year, let’s remember what Christmas was like before Instagram. When we see those we love, let’s just hug them and chat and natter and laugh, without having to share anything, other than a bottle of fizz and their magnificent company.