Digital detox

Can our editor survive a gadget-free week?

  • E-Mail
By  Matthew Wade Published  January 5, 2008

If you've read the news at all over the last year or two, you'll have noticed reports that detail how we're all working harder, getting more stressed, and seeing more of our lives ‘taken over' by technology than ever before.

In the UK, a recent survey conducted by the Business Forum Leaders in London - which queried 3000 workers - discovered that 74% felt the "endless onslaught of new technology" put them under pressure to be constantly available, with 28% reporting they felt less productive as a result. Not only that, but 77% of those interviewed admitted constantly checking e-mails, even during social occasions.

In the UAE, where Windows Middle East is produced, the telco Etisalat recently announced that the country's mobile penetration had topped 150%. That equates to 50% of the people living in the country having two mobiles each.

Whilst I can't deny that most people I know sometimes work longer than their contracted hours, and seem to think about and discuss work issues in their down-time more than I remember my parents doing, as editor of an IT publication the truth is I've always scoffed at ‘my life is being taken over by technology' complaints. My response to such IT-weary types has always been, "Technology bugging you? Then turn it off!"

A conversation with a friend recently however caused me to pause and consider this advice more closely. "I couldn't do my job without e-mail, full stop," she suggested, in all seriousness. That got me thinking...

Is this turning off of technology really possible? Yes, the flicking of a physical switch or the exiting of a software program isn't an issue, but professionally speaking - even socially speaking - are we really in a position to function without our noughties (00s) accruements? Have e-mail, the mobile phone and the MP3 player become such an intrinsical part of life that the ‘old ways' and methods of doing things simply don't apply? And therefore would turning all these devices off simply cast us adrift in an ocean of prehistoric, tortoise-speed ineffectuality? (And as an aside, could I sound any more like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City?).

This is worth an experiment I figured; one that could cause me professional and social woe for sure, but then, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right".

The rules

I quickly surmised that a week-long experiment was the best I could hope for. After all, anyone can fake it or ‘work around' such a detox for a day, whilst a month-long experiment - though great in principle - simply wouldn't allow me to do my job effectively (publishing a technology magazine without technology? Unlikely).

Maybe that's my first finding then; the fact than any longer than a few days without modern tools brings me out in a sweat. That and the fact that, now I think about it, without such technologies Windows Middle East would be rather devoid of content anyway, so you could argue that I wouldn't have a job at all. So...

Rule 1: Seven full days if possible (December 3 - 10)
Rule 2: No e-mail or IM
Rule 3: No mobile phone (and I'd just bought a new one, what a waste...)
Rule 4: No other mobile devices (MP3 player, PDA etc.)
Rule 5: No internet use (including work-related surfing).

What this approach does allow me to use then is:

• Landline telephones
• Office software (after all, I used an Amstrad word processor to write my college dissertation and that was arguably before the dawn of time)
• TV (my thinking being that for this experiment to have any real contemporary validity it should concern today's modern tools, not every technological invention ever born. At least that's my argument for clinging onto my Premier League footie and Frasier access).

Day 1: Monday

I wrote and applied my Outlook ‘Out of Office' message yesterday explaining why I'd be only available via landline phone - and I've now added an advisory message to my deskphone's voicemail, so here goes..

8.50am. Oops, I must reconfigure Google Talk not to spring into action as soon as my PC boots up. Only seconds had passed before a friend had appeared wanting to chat.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code