A Digital Detox Won’t Work Unless You Ask Yourself This Question

Breaking free from your phone addiction starts with a simple thought experiment

Alexandra (Lex) Hearth
Forge
Published in
4 min readSep 18, 2019

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Credit: Richard Baker/Getty Images

TThere’s an app called Mute, which lets you set up challenges with your friends to see who can stay off their phone the longest. Another one called Moment offers “device addiction coaching” to help you pick up your phone less throughout the day. For $349, you can buy a Palm, a basic, credit card-sized phone designed to keep you from spending so much time on your big, distracting one (“Slip it into your yoga pants,” the website advertises). There are three-step programs, “offline” B&Bs, and even AA-like support groups all aiming to help you disconnect from your digital life. According to Google Trends, searches for “digital detox” have increased by 42% in the past year alone.

Clearly, we have a big appetite for a solution to this modern-day problem. And maybe some of these tools and services can help. But things like booking a phone-free weekend getaway or making our phones very tiny are Band-Aid fixes. For a more sustainable solution, we should ask ourselves this question: If we didn’t have our phones to stare at, what would we want to be doing instead?

A big part of the reason we find ourselves spending so much time on our phones is that we don’t have a clear idea of what else we should be doing with our time. Rather than finding ways to block ourselves out of our devices for a few hours each day, maybe we need to stop and really think about what we have to gain from being less attached to them.

When I was on vacation in Italy, my phone got stolen. For about 24 hours, I was emotional. I felt detached from people I “connect” with daily, and lonely as a result. After this period had passed, though, I felt strangely relaxed. Sure, being surrounded by the country’s natural beauty played a part in that, but for the first time in a long while, I was mentally in the place I was in physically.

I was looking at the view with my own eyes rather than through my Instagram stories. Thoughts about whether people were watching my “content,” or whether this one guy was going to text me, or whether that work project was moving forward, all faded because, for the time being, I had no way of knowing. I…

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Alexandra (Lex) Hearth
Forge
Writer for

@lexonthedecks | Ex Nike | Writer & Philosopher | DJ | Podcaster (Top #10 Apple Music Podcast) | “I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”