Our story and the prompt

Our story

A while ago I was sitting in a plane and we were waiting on the runway. The engines revved and we rushed along the runway. I noticed that the girl to the left of me was still messaging furiously on her phone. Better still, the guy on the right hand side of me was still scrolling frantically through online videos. And we were now two seconds before lift off!

I was surprised and yet not surprised by this.

I was not surprised to see how people responded. Given that, when flying, most passengers are bored to death and scared to death, it was understandable that they should immerse themselves into their devices.

What did surprise me, though, was the strange obliviousness inside the cabin to our situation: we were physically lifting off and travelling halfway to space without seemingly noticing or wanting to notice. Our consciousness was elsewhere. If the plane had nose-dived, would they have noticed? Or would they be filming it, and experiencing it through their phones?

What shocked me was perhaps observing the usage of technology and then recognising the same traits within myself – but which traits? Was it the oblivious distraction? Was it the determined escapism? Was it the need for the technological safety blanket? Or were we all just addicted?

I had previously tried to reduce my technology usage and there had been some positive results, but, in the end, it petered out. I had relapsed. I had been intending to achieve focussed and centred state of mind, but something was holding me back: it was a hesitation, like trying to stop alcohol or coffee – knowing that there’s going to be psychological and physiological impact. On reflection, this was the first subconscious acknowledgement that we are dealing with addiction here.

After discussing this amongst friends – who were going through similar attempts at trying to reduce technology usage – we decided as a pair to do a digital detox for a full month.

We researched the topic and the neuroscience behind it, shared notes and then we created some principles to hold ourselves to during the month. As we progressed on this journey, and learnt more, it became obvious that this endeavour surfaced more than just our technology habits, and how our technology usage is also a reflection of our society today.

So what next?

In Part 2, we go ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’, and we share some research, thoughts and reflections on the fascinating and interwoven topics of addiction, dopamine and anxiety. This section can be read non-linearly and represents what we have learned and synthesized around the topics.

In Part 3, ‘Take Control’, we summarise how we conducted a digital declutter and what you can learn. Perhaps more importantly we discuss what this journey revealed from within ourselves and what it reflects about our society and the multitude of influences upon us.

Are you ready?