A few years back I had the opportunity to go ‘unplugged’ for two weeks: that is to say that I found myself on holiday in Cornwall, staying in a beautiful little apartment right next to the village pub in Polperro, a perfect getaway with 10 out of 10 views across the harbour. The only thing it lacked was-you guessed it-phone signal.
Of course, there were plenty of other ways for me to get online if I had really wanted to; but I was intrigued, perhaps even a little excited – about delving into two weeks without being answerable to the wider world that the web puts you into regular contact with.
If you don’t have a Facebook account you are considered by many to be a hermit in this day and age. I was certainly enjoying the new-found freedom. I found that my social life and relations with my family improved to no end without the influence of the internet and social media to otherwise distract me from the rest of daily life. Granted, we were on holiday, which added to the sense of relaxation.
To begin with, the nagging impulse inbuilt within my brain kept reminding me that I should be checking my phone and laptop. Surely somebody must have sent me an urgent message that required my immediate attention? As I later found out, during the two weeks I had been away I had received around 50+ notifications from Facebook, several private messages and upwards of 100 emails.
How many of these notifications were essential ‘must-reads’?
I would say less than 5%, perhaps even as low as 2%.
Doubtless, your own results, if you were to undertake this social experiment, would be different. During this period I used the phone only as a time-telling device. I would have used it to take calls, but I don’t think I received any even when outside the apartment.
The experience freed me, albeit temporarily, from what often feels like an unfortunate compulsion. The effects were evident for many weeks afterwards, seeing how little time I spent on social media until old habits crept back in and I found myself fully ‘plugged in’ again.