Why Digital Detoxes Don’t Work For Me

From Junior Editor, Catherine Collentine. 

I have tried to do a digital detox three times – and have failed miserably each time. This is hard on my psyche; I’m a perfectionist who doesn’t like to “fail” at anything. Just ask anyone I have ever played Scrabble with (if they’re still alive to tell the tale).

Why couldn’t I do a Digital Detox? Am I not good enough at “unplugging,” aka the 21st century version of relaxation?

My first attempt at a digital detox was a few years ago; Gwyneth Paltrow raved about her time off the grid over on Goop. This was before I learned that everything Gwyneth does is the equivalent of a New Year’s resolution: It seems completely doable and exciting to try at first, but in the end makes you feel like a complete and utter failure for not being able to carry it out.

At the time though, I convinced myself I could do it. I had just finished finals and figured I could use the break. Surely I could read a book or find other ways to distract myself for a few hours. Spoiler alert: I barely lasted two hours, and that included an hour and eight minute period where I napped; so essentially it was more like a 52-minute digital detox.

Since then, the popularity of digital detoxes has only grown; it’s most definitely the “new” potato right now. They’re a major trend for 2017; everyone I follow in the wellness world is obsessed with them, especially this month. They credit detoxes with improved sleep (Lord knows I need it), weight loss (why not?), better focus (yes please) and less dependency on the 4 PM latte (I am a self-proclaimed caffeine addict). I decided that during my holiday break from work, I’d give it another go.

It should come as no surprise, given my past history, that this technological cleanse only gave me anxiety. I gave up after about three hours, having spent one hour on a hike and the other two parked on the couch watching a movie (distracted the entire time at wondering about all the push notifications I might be getting); so I don’t even know if that counts.

Maybe I went too big, too fast. Should I have weaned myself off the electronics like a kind of withdrawal, by just starting with a break from work emails? Maybe I could’ve taken one of these nifty Pursoma detox baths instead. Did I have to impetuously delete Snapchat, turn off my phone and power down my laptop…for (an attempted) twenty four hours? Did I set myself up for failure by being too all or nothing?

Listen, I’m not a robot. I don’t need my phone to function and survive (that I know of), but trying to go off the grid makes me inexplicably anxious. Telling myself that I can’t send my friends a text or that I have to stay off Instagram only makes want to do it more; much like when you tell a 6-year old to sit still. I can’t do it: Digital detoxes cause me more harm than good. And why do we even put parameters on relaxation?

The wellness community shames me for not being able to let go of technology. Ironically, work attitudes have shifted from the “go, go, go” mentality that I was always comfortable with to the “self-love, take some you time” model. We live in Manhattan for Christ’s sake, I’m not built that way!

I’m not saying we should be connected to our phones 24/7, but why do we put pressure on how we relax? If scrolling through Instagram calms me before bed, can’t that be enough?

Amy Poehler says that whenever we talk to other people, especially other women, we should strive to maintain a “good for you, not for me” philosophy. If it works for you, perfect! It might not work for me, and that’s okay. I can still support you while recognizing that no one way of doing things is “better.”

So to you, Potatoheads, I say go for a digital detox if it makes you happy. Just don’t come to me for advice on how to disconnect. And for those judging the 20 different feeds streaming in and out of my life at all times, back off, because if I want to relax with a glass of Bordeaux and Mariska Hargitay’s Instagram feed – then that’s what I’m going to do…

Think you’re cut out for a digital detox? Check out how to do one here, or read about when Laura tried meditation.