When is the last time you had a tech-free day? Has it been days, weeks, months… or is your mind drawing a complete blank? Don’t worry, you’re not alone…
From texting and tweeting, emailing to e-readers, today’s digital-savvy generation is almost completely reliant on technology. And it’s only getting worse. With new devices launching all the time, we are being transformed into a nation of digital multi-taskers. Over half of us (53 per cent) are streaming videos, firing off instant messages and updating social media statuses – all whilst watching more TV than before. According to this year’s Ofcom Communications Market Report, this multi-tasking is mostly carried out using smartphones, with over half of adults (51 per cent) now owning one; almost double the amount than two years ago (27 per cent). The average household now owns more than three types of internet enabled devices, with one in five owning six or more. That’s a lot of technology.
With everything you could possibly need to know available at the touch of a button (what on earth did we do before the internet?) and connecting with friends and like-minded individuals online is now easier than ever before, it’s hard to take a step back from the digital world and remember the joys of the simple life.
However, a new type of break has emerged to combat this ‘addiction’ of sorts. Forget juicing and yoga escapes, and say hello to the digital detox!
What is a digital detox?
A growing trend according to the World Travel Market industry report 2012, the term ‘digital detox’ has even been added to the historic Oxford English Dictionary this year. It defines the activity as “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.” Just what the doctor ordered if you’re suffering from an information overload.
Do I need one?
What would you do without Google? Or how about your favourite social network? It’s hard to imagine life without the internet. We’re doing more online than ever before, from answering questions to food shopping and entertainment, and it’s not just making us lazy – it’s bad for our brains too. Scientists even believe that our reliance on technology is gradually ‘re-shaping’ our brain’s physical structure, affecting attention spans and mental agility. With constant interaction and interruptions online, our concentration and efficiency is becoming less and daily distractions much more. It’s not great for our personal relationships either. With so much time spent our our digital devices, we are actually becoming more isolated from the real world than connected. It’s something the majority of people recognise and want to amend. With consumer research showing that 77 per cent of people thought they’d be nicer people and have better relationships if they used their technology less, there’s real demand to re-think our digital needs.
Where can I attend one?
Let’s face it, attempting a digital detox in your tech-filled daily life is hard. Really hard. This is why a host of hotels, tour operators and companies are giving modern day busybodies the chance to escape from all that electronic chatter, replacing the stresses of saying goodbye to Twitter and Facebook with a host of fun activities in a multitude of different settings, from exotic beaches to camping escapes.
One of the first retreats launched in 2012 in the idyllic island paradise of St Vincent and The Grenadines. For a cool £2,385 techy travellers can jet off to the exotic digital-free escape (sold through Caribtours and Black Tomato) and completely wean themselves off their beloved technological devices, literally going ‘cold-turkey’ on the beach (we can think of worse places!). It includes a guide to ‘de-teching’ and a session with a life-coach before guests jet off to the idyllic Young Island and Palm Island where there are no televisions in the rooms and technology is banned on the beach. Those who have less self-discipline but deeper pockets can take the life coach with them for daily counselling sessions and to guide and support them through the process.
For a more summer camp-style experience, techies should head to the redwood forests of sunny California to Camp Navarro, dubbed ‘Camp Grounded’. Designed for busy adults, the digital detox camps aim to get you to ‘de-plug, get away, and be kids again’. Computers, smartphones, iPads and work jargon are strictly prohibited and replaced with 1970s-style boy scout fun, from archery to stargazing and even talent shows. And instead of Intagramming your every move, you’re encouraged to just enjoy the moment. What’s not to like?
A little closer to home, The Westin Hotel in Dublin offers a digital detox package for those that want to switch off on a city break in The Emerald Isle’s capital. Holidaymakers can voluntarily surrender their technology on check-in, or lock their smartphones and tablets in their own room safe. The package (which cost £150, based on two sharing) includes overnight accommodation with breakfast in bed in the morning, as well as an in-room massage from wellbeing specialists Melt Temple Spa at The Westin, designed to help iron out the kinks and knots from hunching over a computer keyboard all day. A handy Detox Survival Kit is also included in the package, featuring information on discovering the city of Dublin and a walking map, a newspaper (real, not virtual!), a relaxing white tea candle, a tree planting kit and a traditional board game.
If all of this sounds a little extreme, why not just try it out one weekend, or on your next holiday. Before you post yet another image or status, just think – do your friends at home really need a live commentary? Switch off…you might even enjoy it.
words by Sarah Gibbons
Sarah Gibbons is a journalist and online editor and one half of the lifestyle blog TheTwoScoops.com, which covers travel, food, beauty and London life.