8 Confessions of a Digital Detox Survivor
If you were told it would be a good idea to wave goodbye to all forms of communication other than Twitter for a week, would you believe it? If no is your answer, you’d be wiser than I was this time last month. In a plight to see if it was possible to run a business over three time zones without constant emails and phone calls to my team and clients, I did exactly that.
A lot of people feel they spend too much time on their phones, in fact the daily average time spent on a mobile phone is five hours. An average day for me is more like nine. Texting, emailing, and Facebooking are essentially what gets me through the day.
Leaving Facebook is becoming more and more common – perhaps for many people it’s a little too much like ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ to be enjoyable any longer. Giving up email is also nothing new, with people like Kathryn Parsons crediting this stance as an excellent way of increasing face-to-face interaction.
My reason for this week-long digital detox experiment was a little different. Rather than using face-to-face contact in place of digital communication, Twitter was my single weapon of choice. Why? I wanted to find out what the public nature of the platform could do for my business. As companies, do we keep too much to ourselves? Would it actually be helpful to have more input from the people around us? It’s unlikely, but would contacts respond to me faster when I’m chasing colleagues and clients with a tweet rather than an email?
FinchFactor is a communications business, so it’s fair to say I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what is effective. But my experience also shows how far things have come, and how much has changed. Business isn’t just done on LinkedIn, of course, it’s a cross-channel enterprise. I wanted to push my professional boundaries and see what could be learned by ridding myself of the things I’d come to rely on.
So obviously, it was a tricky week – some might say unpleasant. Fortunately, my experience did not go to waste. I survived – and I have come back stronger for it. Here’s what I learned.
1. Changing behavioural habits/addictions from one day to the next scrambles your brain. It is unsettling and effectively pulls the rug from beneath your feet. Hence my loss of laptop, phone charger, phone. I also left my house keys at the office and forgot to lock my bike.
2. Make sure in advance that clients understand the why, how, when of #TwitterDetox Week and are confident that their business won’t suffer. Ensure there are safety nets in place to capture curveballs.
3. Under these circumstances, travel is tough. It’s one thing to talk with a colleague two meters away to inform/check/respond. It’s not so easy to stay plugged in whilst in transit, abroad and alone. Even checking in for a flight becomes problematic.
4. Don’t be late. If people aren’t on Twitter, how do you let them know you’re running ten minutes behind schedule?
5. Code words are fun. Because all communication was public, I had to be prepared to discuss sensitive issues in the open. I had fun talking shop with @louston in a secret language.
6. Going public forces priorities. Rather than communicate via a public tweet many contacts either talked with a different member of the team, or didn’t get in touch at all, preferring to ‘leave it until next week’. An ‘is this urgent/important?’ filter came into play.
7. Facebook gets in the way of a productive workweek. It is wallpaper, background noise, and a distraction.
8. I’m surprised at the lack of missed calls. Yes, my daily quota was three (15 minutes total), but that shouldn’t stop people calling me. Using msgs/texts/WhatsApp rather than calling is a way of multi-tasking, perhaps, but hiding behind tech removes the standout personal touch. I missed that personal touch.