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Digital detox: How will a web addict survive without his mobile phone and internet access?


By Daniele Fiandaca, co-founder

January 11, 2013 | 5 min read

How will a self-confessed digital addict survive without his internet connection, mobile phone and beloved Instagram? Daniele Fiandaca, head of innovation at Cheil UK and a self-confessed digital dependent, is going cold turkey this January. Using nothing but pen and paper, he'll share his digital detox with The Drum

Daniele Fiandaca has started his digital detox

Every January, I abstain. Last year, it was meat. 2011 – and in fact, 2010 – saw me on the wagon and giving up booze. Whatever I abstain from, the basic purpose is the same: a more balanced lifestyle. This year is a biggie. I’m about to give up being constantly connected.

It’s my biggest vice; like so many others in adland, I’m always connected, always on. The depth of my digital dependency was fully brought home to me when I was in New York with friends last month. The first thing we asked when we entered any bar or restaurant was whether they had a Wifi connection. How could we possibly have fun without sharing our experiences in real time on Instagram? And then checking to see who liked our photos or even worse, who got the most likes.

Enforced disconnection made me realise just how much of a malaise digital dependency has become, not just for me and my cohort, but arguably, even more so for the generations of digital natives that populate workplaces today.

I have no doubt this malaise is something societies will have to address in the future – the downsides of dwindling attention spans, an increasingly want-it-now culture and interruption on a stellar scale are already having a detrimental impact to the extent that digital detox sessions are now sold in the US.

I’m not going as far as handing over my money for the privilege of handing over my mobile to a stranger. But I am going to go cold turkey and totally disconnect myself - mobiles off and no internet – for two weeks.

Okay, I am going to be in Tanzania on honeymoon, so theoretically the notion should be bearable. In reality, total disconnection still terrifies me, and with reason. I entered Diesel’s quite fun Yuk competition, which required me not to post on Facebook or twitter for 48 hours. I failed in just three hours.

To gauge how much of an aberration this was, I did a quick survey among friends, family and peers. Of the 33 people who replied, 18 (which I’m relieved to say represents the majority) believe I’ll stay the course.

Without question, not being able to keep up with the Arsenal score will be the hardest bit. It seems that amongst my friends and peers, news was the second most popular activity they would miss (one in three), with the biggest being social networking (36.7 per cent). Only 10 per cent said they would speaking to people on the phone the most, while another 10 per cent said they would miss text messaging.

In terms of social networking, it is no surprise that Facebook is the social network they would miss the most (around 17 out of 33 respondents), with Twitter a distant second (30 per cent) and Instagram and Pinterest barely registering (6.7 per cent) each.

For me, Instagram will be the biggest social networking loss, although I’m not sure that posting photos of The Big Five and beautiful beaches while everyone else is back in the office with the New-Year blues is going to win me any popularity contests.

Anyway, at least I have had some great advice to help me on my challenge, with many suggesting that the best thing to do will be to leave all my devices at home (alas emergencies mean that this is just not practical). Other suggestions have included taking loads of books, learning how to use a 35mm camera, sketching with a pencil and paper. But certainly the best advice I received was as follows (thanks for whoever left it):

Buy into the Zen of contrast, disconnecting completely will give you a clear picture of why you do it in the first place, a perspective on bad habits that arise from the 'always on' way of life (by watching other people). There is so much that can be said for technology but there is also a strong argument for consciously and emotionally staying it touch with the old ways. Aside from this, and on a practical note, discharge your iPhone and remove your GSIII battery. Then put them in a bag with a piece of paper on it that says 'DON'T DO IT DANIELE.' or some other mantra that reminds you of the reasons for doing this in the first place. Good luck!

If there is one person who is more worried about me being disconnected, it is my boss, who turned white when I told him about wanting to disconnect. Fortunately the hotels I am staying in all have good old fashioned telephones (although he might just find my phone stays off the hook). It is my honeymoon, after all.


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