Extracts of my diary from when I switched off my phone for a week.
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On day one I wake up and the first thing I think about is my phone. I strategically placed it in my handbag last night in order to avoid the temptation of reaching out for it on my night stand. I am met with scepticism at the breakwhen I remind my children that today is the start of my detox and that it’s useless to write to me on WeChat this week. I go for a walk and realise that I hadn’t left my phone completely untouched for hours in a very long time. I feel relieved that I don’t have to reply to any messages. But by the late afternoon, I am dying to know how people have reacted to my WeChat and Facebook posts about my smartphone detox, which I posted shortly before going off-line. I will only know in seven whole, long days.
We have a yard sale at our compound. A nice family project where we also get to chat to all our neighbours – many of whom ask me if we accept WeChat pay at our stand. First practical hurdle of my detox. I realise just how much I’m used to documenting my everyday life in China on social media and I would normally have shared this experience with my friends and followers. "Hey look my daughter got herself a new bookshelf" - or "that's it! all the old Disney dvd's flew off the shelves wohoo!". But a feeling of inner peace has descended upon me. I believe my followers can wait.
It’s Sunday and I feel annoyed that everyone else in the family starts the day online! Never has my enthusiasm to leave the house on a Sunday morning been bigger! I finally convince everyone to get on their bikes and we spend a lovely day at Beijing's 798 art district. It is tempting to take pictures with my phone (which I carry with me in the highly unlikely event that someone calls me) - but I resist.
Day four is full of nice moments. I would have liked to share them on social media but again - it will have to wait. My daughter and I make candles together while we chat (yes we actually chat - not WeChat) and listen to music. I can tell that she enjoys it and almost forgets about musical.ly for a while.
I'm meeting friends for dinner. Am super excited to see my good friend from New Zealand who is back in town for a few days. But they don't show up at the restaurant. I don't have their numbers and for obvious reasons, I cannot contact them on social media. Turns out we were supposed to meet at the lobby of our building and not at the restaurant. Thankfully they ran into my husband who then phoned me.
Although I wake up on day five feeling full of energy and proud that I have stuck to my experiment, a bit of loneliness as well as FOMO - fear of missing out - is kicking in. I have checked my emails on my PC a couple of times this week and I've received only six or seven altogether. But today, my friend wrote me an e-mail to say that I am missed on social media and a couple of other people have told me the same thing in person. Needless to say that made me happy! Since I'm off the grid this week, I look even more forward to social gatherings than I usually do - and today I’m itching to see my friends from Chinese class and my singing friends at rehearsal tonight!
It’s a beautiful day and I am meeting a friend for lunch. I made an exception and allowed myself to use the good old fashioned text message to agree on a meeting point.
In the afternoon, I start writing. My flow is great! I feel productive and proud. I'm sitting at a café and realise that for 2 hours, I’ve been blissfully undistracted and I've only looked up from my laptop to sip my lemon ice tea. Tomorrow is the last day of my detox. I want it to end - and at the same time I don’t.
As I get ready to switch on my phone again after seven days, the first thing I observe is that I’m oddly sad that the experiment is over. I feel that I have reached an acceptable level of detachment from my phone with the added bonus of having been more present at home and in other social situations. I feel nostalgic and completely aware that, as from this evening, I will be expected to react to whatever has ticked in and the thought makes me tired. At 11.30 pm on 24 April the experiment is over and with no fewer than 1427 WeChat messages waiting for me, I welcome myself back to smartphone reality.