About a year and a half ago, I was attending a conference on behalf of a client - to “live tweet”. Yes, that is a thing .A thing we do, and do well, whereby essentially we are paid to document all the goings on at a particular event via social media. Why? This provides our followers with “insider info” and a “behind the scenes” peek, as well as key takeaways, thought leadership and big ideas. It’s very effective! But alas, this blog isn’t to sell you on hiring us to “live tweet”. This detail just provides a kind of polarizing context.
So there I was, Smartphone in hand, laptop on lap, shoulder to shoulder in the keynote, ready to hear Founder of Huffington Post take the stage. She walked out, and the crowd began snapping photos and videos - myself included - and feverishly typing up some witty copy with appropriate hashtags to share that moment with everyone else in our Twitter-sphere. All the while, listening to her first few statements bellowing out into the crowd.
She talked of the long hours she kept, her hard-driving determination to succeed and the way she wore her sleeplessness as a badge of honor. Until the day she the collapsed at her office - suffering from exhaustion.
The room was silent.
I don’t even think I tweeted that particular moment. I was stunned. That was not where I thought this was going. Here I was thinking to myself: “Yes! Long hours. I work everyday! Today alone we’re talking 7am to 11pm probably. I’m killing it. Look how successful she is! I am going to work that hard and get Mad Media there.” (All while listening to her, and crafting copy and adding hashtags and taking photos - multitasking much?! But that’s another blog…)
All of a sudden my motivation turned to fear. And I kept listening.
She spoke of the importance of digital detox and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the crowd surprised to hear this from a woman who runs an always-on media conglomerate. And she was speaking to a crowd of marketers who would spend the following few days inundated with sessions speaking about how to get in front of people via social, digital and email - because that is where they are!
But ultimately, her message was that we need a break! Not just marketers. Not just entrepreneurs. But everyone. Because this technology we love so much were not only making us less social, less genuine and less engaged, but too much technology was also detrimental to our health.
“If you can't sleep because you're too busy checking your emails, or need to have your phone prised out of your hands 24/7, your work/life balance needs a check.” - Red Online Article
Now, hey - I run a social media agency. I am susceptible to this on at least two levels: 1) that I am the die-hard, determined to succeed even if it means working seven days a week entrepreneur and 2) that it’s literally my job to be on social media. So why am I writing about this? Because I know it’s true. I know it’s real. I haven’t brought myself to the point of collapse. And I’m also not an example of perfection. I still scroll too much. I still work too much. But I am aware of it. And I’m trying.
Shortly after attending this presentation (and buying her book), I took a holiday. I went to a yoga retreat in Bali with my partner. And for that one week, I unplugged. I gave my clients the heads up. I put my team in charge. I turned off all my notifications and only checked in once a day for emergencies (as I used to pre-company, when I would backpack the world with only internet cafes to connect me back to real life). The result? I came back to work after that week excited AF to get into it all again, inspired with new ideas and a clarity you can only get from disengaging in the day to day that sometimes overwhelms us and as an added bonus, I had this sense of calm and new trust in my team. Which made me feel proud and accomplished.
“Did you know that you can have a meal without Instagramming it? I discovered a lot of things. You can also watch a sunset without Instagramming it.” - Arianna Huffington after her “digital detox” vacation in Hawaii
So that’s Arianna’s story. And my story. But we all have our own version of this story. We all (or many of us anyway) can benefit from a digital detox. That could be one day a week. It could be an hour before bed everyday. It could be during vacations. Or even just during meals! We all have lives and jobs that often require us to be connected to technology - and that is okay. We don’t have to avoid it altogether. But it’s time for us all to challenge ourselves to “Unplug” a little more. And come back to the real life, in-person moments solely and completely.
October 10th is #WorldMentalHealthDay. Seems like a great day to start….
Now, I get it. This is all easier said than done. You’re not wrong in feeling “addicted” and you’re also not alone. Here are some helpful resources you could try: