Switch in, switch on, switch off
The phrase "digital detox" is often bandied around, encouraging people to get off their smart phones and devices and I think it's so important to do so. I'm linked to my phone ridiculously: it's how I check email, Tweet, Instagram, communicate with my friends and family on WhatsApp, play Scrabble, pop onto Facebook, listen to music on Spotify, watch videos on YouTube, get garden/interiors inspo on Pinterest... it all gets a bit much sometimes and I want to give my hands and eyes (and MIND) a rest and throw it in the sea .
Like, those people who aren't on social media - I have so much respect but I also feel like I've got so much into the habit, how could I eat a perfect dinner without gramming it? Who is going to appreciate this sunset if I don't post it? HOW will I know what everyone is up to? What do I do with my internal monologue if I'm not tweeting it? All this, of course, is ridiculous. Those golden people who don't tweet, or Instagram, are just fine. I'm sure they're very healthy mentally. We all did okay before Twitter. We had an internal monologue, and we - well - internalised it. But it's getting worse isn't it?
Last week I was on a train and there were two little kids SO excited about the journey. "LOOK MUMMY! THE TRAIN!" / "I CAN SEE ANOTHER TRAIN COMING THIS WAY!" / (now on the train) "Daddy, why are we being held at a red single [sic]?" - and all the while, ma and pa were both looking at their phones, not answering. Not looking at the sheer joy their kids had at being on a train. Now please note: I'm not shading parents. Fully aware I don't have kids and many exasperated parents will hate that I just said this. I'm simply using it as an example of how we've become so obsessed with our smartphones that we can't sling them in a bag and switch off for half an hour whilst on a train. Was it urgent, what they were doing? Is it ever, what we're using it for? It happens in many other scenarios too. Where I work, at lunch, we all sit around a table and on sofas and while we do have a chat, mostly it's just staring at our phones. Just like we stare at screens all morning and all afternoon. It can't be good for us.
There are ways to cut down, of course. For one, turn off email notifications. Honestly. I did that and it's a game changer. What email is so important that if you don't reply AT NIGHT all hell will break loose? Also, stop using Facebook so much. Seriously, when you're three scrolls deep in the baby photos of someone you went to school with and haven't seen since 1999, it's time to stop. Facebook is good for events, and the gardening group 'Radio 4 Gardeners' Question Time Friends' (cute af) and also Messenger for keeping up to date with old pals. If it wasn't for Messenger, I wouldn't have learned that last week a best friend I had when I was 17 is moving back here, and pregnant with twins!
There are also some good things in regard to "wellness" (hate that word, but I had to say it so you get what I mean) from our devices. I have an Amazon Firestick, which means I can watch YouTube on the TV, and I've started doing yoga every day that way. That's brilliant - I always say I'm going to do yoga and never do, because (here come the excuses) the classes don't fit in with my schedule (all power to you if you can do during the day but it's not always easy to find classes that fit around those who work and do other shizzle in the evenings) - and not just that but I'm also intrinsically lazy and faddy. But getting up every morning and walking to my front room where I have plants, incense and the YogaTX channel - that I can do. Every morning at 7am. And I love it - I've even started meditating using that channel too. It sounds counter-intuitive to use YouTube, on my TV, via my Amazon Firestick, to meditate - but it works for me. I don't even have to leave the house (or get out of my PJs) to stretch out, slow down, or do alternate nostril breathing meditation. I can have the windows open to let the sun or breeze in, have a cup of tea waiting for me after... it's all on my terms and I love it. I wouldn't go to a yoga class at 7am, I just wouldn't.
I'm also terrible for going to bed, going to look up one thing on my phone (tomorrow's weather, for example) and an hour later I've got five apps open, toggling between Instagram, Twitter, two Chrome tabs and Scrabble, and then bleary eyed and tired I'll put my phone down before thinking "I forgot to check the bloody weather." If I sound like a moron for this, congratulations to you for not falling down the smartphone rabbit hole like me. You only want to look something up quickly ('slug repellent hosta varieties' / 'calories in alpro yogurt' / 'waitrose leigh on sea opening times') but you see a handful of notifications and the dopamine hits. It's addictive.
But: firing up a podcast at bedtime means I'll sync it to my bedroom radio bluetooth, and actually put the damn phone down to listen to the podcast, before falling asleep. Podcasts are magic. Sometimes you need the bingeworthy Serial or S-Town. Other times you want to laugh at The Guilty Feminist. I've also got into Griefcast, which is a very funny podcast about death. But bedtimes are sacred: I rely deeply on Karina Longworth's incredible podcast You Must Remember This about old Hollywood history. I love nothing more than to spritz lavender sleep spray and turn off the lights and find out more about the lives of Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg.
I am almost convinced that I wouldn't be doing yoga, meditation, or falling asleep listening to nourishing podcasts if it wasn't for my phone and other devices. So while a digital detox is a good idea to switch off, don't write off your little palm pal completely. It holds some very positive things - just as long as you remember what you went on it for in the first place.
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