These days got me thinking; it seemed that I have been online for years in a row. As a Digital Marketer, my work is to play around the digital world, helping companies achieve their business goals. A lot of my friends are foreigners, with no means of physical communication. We even live in a COVID-19 era, one that dictates social isolation, for our own good. Digital seems like the only available getaway to keep our society in place.
The past two months weren’t that generous to me; and when problems arise, It always make me think of why.
It was the perfect time to reflect. In which time, I got the courage to admit the age-old “drug” of choice; my addiction is digital.
Looking back, it always made sense. Sometimes I looked at the statistics of apps, showing how much time I spend on them, yet I disregard them. Most of the time, however, people called me off, supported I was on the phone all the time.
Normally, no insult or accusation can penetrate me easily. Call me ugly, stupid, bad dancer, fat, unathletic; I don’t mind that much, because I know n̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶r̶u̶e ok, I am a terrible dancer and not the best athlete. But the others aren’t, okay?
But the thing is, when people mentioned my addiction, I always became defensive.
“No, a client may need my help”
“You don’t understand, something may happen at work”
“People may need me, I don’t want to let them down”
But they were all excuses.
It doesn’t make me feel bad. Everyone has their drug of choice. For some it’s tobacco. Others fast food. Many choose alcohol. Others depend on sex. Pornography. Real, hard drugs. The most unspoken addiction of our age, nevertheless, is a digital one.
I saw the following video, a couple of days ago, talking about how the creator hacked his dopamine system to be productive. It wasn’t the first time I heard about dopamine or how the brain works. But it was the first time in months, that something made me emphasize. Something told me “that’s how you are as well”. And decided to give this challenge, 24h without anything digital, a go.
On Friday, 7:00 pm, I switched off all devices: Smartphones, TVs, Laptops. And the 24h started.
It felt alright for a while. I got up, ate something light. Talked with my parents. Cleaned the fridge for a bit. Until I came back to my room. First thing I did? Laid down on my bed, picked my phone, tried to switch it on.
“Bad sign”, I thought. and decided to sleep a couple of minutes later. 8:30 pm, the clock was displaying.
I slept and dreamt vividly; something that doesn’t happen to me often. Some included me talking with friends. Others were some replays of past experiences. But I even got some disturbing ones; me playing with my phone. My brain was sending me a clear message.
I woke up a lot of times, but finally got up at 8:30 am; a full 12-hour sleep. By this time, I was determined to ace this. To beat my mind into its own twisted game.
I took my shaver, gave myself a haircut. My beard was next in line. Then went to my room. “Can do this”, I thought, “but only with the right companions”. I picked a book, (The Gift from Xenakis Stephanos, a wonderful self-improvement book), some notes from courses I took the last week, a notebook to write my thoughts. The perfect squad.
And it started happening. I found myself losing time within the book’s pages. Writing, my passion, got ignited all at once. Reading, writing, reading. The day started moving so fast, so pleasantly.
Then, it was time to go out. I hiked a small hill close to my place with a majestic view. It came out to be harder than I thought; I gasped for air from the first 5 minutes, since it was the first time getting out of my house for 3 weeks. But the scenery was breathtaking. I reached my pocket for my phone, to take a picture. It wasn’t there. I stared at the horizon. The picture was taken, in my head.
By the time I returned, it was time for lunch; and was starving. I cooked some pork chops with roasted potatoes. My efforts to make a pan sauce were not enough. But the pork chop was tasty. The potatoes were to die for. I filled a plate and dived in.
And do you know what happened? I ate; but slower. Calling me a fast eater is an understatement. But now I seemed to just take my time. No phone was making me rush to finish. No YouTube videos were distracting me. I munched down every bite with respect. Tasted every spice. Felt every taste. I was present.
I was present.
It didn’t happen only during my lunch. How many times during the day do you try to observe what’s around you? To hear the birds sing? To smell the neighbors’ dinner? To be present? My senses were now released to enjoy the world. No digital bounds took that away from them.
I was present.
The time passed, and the 24 hours were no more. I decided to open my devices and check what’s up.
Yes, indeed, a client was searching for me; something urgent happened and wanted my advice. I got some emails from work; one of which was extremely important. Many people texted me to ask how I am doing.
But did something happen due to my absence? No. Absolutely nothing. All these fears were in vain.
I won’t lie; me saying to anyone “Ditch the digital world. It’s not good. It’s toxic. Get away.” would never happen. My passion for technology and this newly found part of humanity is ever-lasting. I love being online. It’s a privilege I would never undermine.
We know from human history that everything we create we can use it for good or bad. Atomic energy; It gave power to lots of people but poured terror to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The same is with the digital world. We are the users. We are the ones in control, at least for now. We dictate its use.
What I can only say, after this day, is the following:
We are the first generations to be lucky enough to live in two magical worlds. Never ditch one for the other. Learn to value both. Live your lives in balance. Live your lives to the fullest.