COLUMN: The social benefits of a January digital detox

I've gone cold turkey.

Wednesday, 4th January 2017, 10:52 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:00 pm

No peeking, no allowance of one hour a day, no substitutions.

It isn’t the fags that have been stubbed out or the sauce I’m going without, but something a growing number of people feel is almost as addictive - social media. No liking friends’ holiday photographs, sharing exotic recipes I’ll never make, or #beastmode workout videos.

Ironically, it was a video shared on Facebook which triggered the month-long digital detox.

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In it management guru Simon Sinek discusses the difficulty of working with millenials - those people born around 1984 and afterwards - due in part to advances in technology which have had a major impact on the way humans communicate .

A lot of what he said didn’t apply.

But the rest of it had a somewhat spooky resonance.

Do I check my phone before I say ‘good morning’ to my husband? Yes. And yes, sometimes he’s asleep, but occasionally he is already catching up on notifications.

When I can’t sleep, do I start browsing or checking my work emails? Yes. There’s always someone awake on Twitter.

And if left alone in public for five minutes, at the bus stop, in a coffee house, waiting to be served in any shop, in the gym changing rooms, the urge to hide behind your phone is overwhelming.

Being up-to-the-second updated with every aspect of my life, that of my friends, family and some randomer I met in Bali three years ago does not appear to have made me any happier.

Because everyone projects the ‘best’ versions of themselves, it usually evokes a feeling of failure or envy over anything else.

Parenthood looks like one big family hug - without the smelly nappies or endless screaming - on social media. Carefully stunted night out pictures never show the crippling bar bill or sore heels at the end of it.

I like to think I’m pretty organised but on detox day one we had been for a walk in the Peak District, finally fixed the vacuum cleaner, and actually spoken to more friends and family - granted, on the phone - than we would usually do in a week. The day after, we didn’t even take the phones out. And when one of us went to the loo at our local, we spoke to the bar staff instead of endless scrolling.

I’m not saying I never want to post a food picture again; after all, if a brunch is eaten and it isn’t posted on Instagram, does it exist?

But just a few days off has proved the social benefits of social media - and what I’m definitely not missing out on.