My Digital Cleanse

In November of 2020, I decided to do a digital cleanse. No phone, no laptop, no tv, no social media, no YouTube, no texting (only calling), nothing except for schoolwork, which I needed my laptop for, for 7 days.

I was terrified. My average phone use was about 3 hours per day not even counting the time I spent on my laptop. What was I going to do with that extra time? How was I going to get in touch with people? Would I drive myself crazy?

Since that first cleanse I have done 2 more one-week cleanses because those weeks without technology were magical. Since then, I have deleted my social media, read more, and spent more time at the moment. I even recently bought a watch and an alarm clock so I wouldn’t have to use my phone for the time.

Digital cleanses seem crazy but I promise they are worth it. Our world is so fast-paced, cleanses help you slow down and enjoy the moment.

I enjoyed things instead of trying to document them for later. For example, I didn’t listen to music during these weeks so I got my roommate to put her earbuds in and sing Taylor Swift to me. We spent the night screaming the lyrics and each time I reached for my phone to take a video I realized that I would much rather enjoy it in real-time.

The cleanse also got me to whip out my polaroid camera. Instead of taking hundreds of photos, I would take only one, since film is expensive, and I found myself cherishing that one, not great, photo more than I would have scrolling through the thousands on my phone.

Living without technology, even for just a short while, helps you to notice things you wouldn’t have. I didn’t have my phone to check the time or to entertain me while waiting for the bus. I couldn’t even use Google Maps. So I chose familiar routes and just went to the bus stop not knowing when the next bus would come.

Without music or games, I watched the people around me sucked into their phones as I listened to the birds chirping and the conversations of the couple next to me. It was so refreshing.

I also noticed people on their phones when I was hanging out with my friends on a picnic. They were scrolling as I sat there enjoying nature.

It made it hard to communicate with people and sometimes I felt left out, but the habit of reaching for my phone only for it not to be there slowly went away.

I also learned to enjoy calling my friends instead of texting them. It led to deeper and faster conversations which lent me time to do other things and not constantly waiting for a reply.

I think the biggest thing I loved about my cleanses were the amount of time I had on my hands. All the time I usually spent scrolling let me get back into the hobbies that I usually didn’t have time for. I read. I sewed. I went on hikes. I hung out on the beach.

My roommate Ash singing “Love Story”

At times I felt as if I had too much time and boredom set in. A feeling that I really hadn’t experienced since childhood. Technology was always keeping me away from boredom. But over time I learned to embarrass the boredom.

I got work done ahead of time because I didn’t have anything else pressing to do and I was able to block out large chunks of time for self-care. This boredom also led to creativity. It was the first time in a long time that I wrote just for myself. As a writing major, I’m always writing for projects and assignments but rarely for myself. It was great just getting to do what I love and what I am passionate about because I love it and not because I have to do it for school.

Slowly, I stopped worrying about time. Time is arbitrary, but our society places so much emphasis on deadlines and “not wasting time”.

How do you waste time anyways? In my opinion, wasting time is doing things that don’t bring you joy, however, many corporate people would disagree. “Time is money,” people say. But I think time is what you spend to live the best life possible. This cleanse made me realize that I was wasting my time as when I finished the cleanse and started using technology again I felt sluggish, unhappy, and unproductive.

Over the months, I have been cutting out and limiting my technology use. I have so much more free time and appreciation for the little things in life. I know that the lifestyle is not for everyone but I would recommend everyone to do at least a 48-hour digital cleanse to see just how much it can change your life.

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