The 90s Have Come Full Circle With Lessons On Digital Detoxing You Need In Your Life

By Caitlin Veale
21st May 2021

If your screen time report has ever given you a fright (guilty, how can it be that many hours?) then you’ll probably want to consider some kind of digital detox. Before you roll your eyes, it’s more about setting healthy boundaries for a better daily routine than going cold turkey and disappearing from digital life altogether, a prospect that many of us can’t engage with for work reasons and also FOMO. You know those memes you laugh at on Insta about getting into bed at a reasonable time, and then ‘unwinding’ on your phone for the next six hours? Well, same. 

The 90s are reliving their glory days all over social media at the moment, with a nostalgia for small sunglasses, slouchy pants, bralettes under blazers and hair clips. Who can forget iconic flip phones too? Well, given that COVID has only accelerated the role that being online plays in our lives, we thought we’d pay homage to our first phones, Nokias of course, and share some things we learned about using a Nokia feature phone to strip it back to basics and gain a little healthy separation from our smartphones. 

You’re in a more serious relationship with your phone than you thought. 

Only when you participate in a conscious uncoupling will you learn just how involved you are with your smartphone. You might not even notice that you’re checking Instagram when you wake up, are scrolling through TikTok videos (guilty pleasure, we’ll admit) while waiting for the kettle to boil at work, you’re replying to Facebook convos at lunch and probably commenting random crap in group chats and tagging people in stuff while you’re waiting for food, are back on Instagram at some point in the arvo, and then all of the above over again before you end up going to sleep later than you told yourself you would. Let’s not even mention your different email accounts. So that’s where the time goes! In a report released by HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, earlier this month was the finding that on average we touch our phones an average of 142 times a day. Yikes. This same report also said that on average, people are on their phones for an average of 18 hours and 12 minutes a week, which if you’re wondering what that looks like, it is the equivalent of watching the first two seasons of Game of Thrones back to back. Hellfire. We get it, you do actually use your phones for important things, but we’re prettttttyyy sure there’s at least a few episodes worth of time in there that wasn’t a necessary spend, and yet we all have things that we’d like to try or learn that we never seem to have time for. 

If you commute on public transport, this is spare time you can use.  

Firstly, apologies, but public transport is simply not fun when everyone needs to get where they’re going at the same time. However, seeing as you’re stuck anyway, you could actually read a book. You’ve probably heard that before so hold the groans, but if you take a min to look around you on the train you’ll see a considerable number of people on their phones. That’s getting the screen time up there already! While it’s a nice idea in theory, it was one we didn’t actually get into until we had the feature phone and no Instagram. If you have immense willpower we suppose you could just listen to music on your smartphone, but we ended up scrolling too. Not having the choice was sort of like starting the day with that summer feeling you get when you take a book away and unplug, and actually have time to read it. 

You’ll realise just how often people check their phones during social interactions. 

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Normally you’d be doing the same, a quick refresh or scroll, or answering a text that can likely wait. It’s like you can’t even help it, the phone buzzes on the table and even though you’re listening you’re also responding just because you know the message is there. Sitting down for drinks or a meal is so much nicer when outside lives aren’t interrupting the conversation. Besides, you might come across a work email that can definitely wait until the morning, but now you’re thinking about it and it feels like it’s eating into your time and mental space outside of hours. 

It can be a bit exhausting having a constant stream of information coming at you all the time. 

It seems super counterintuitive after a day of being busy, but picking up the phone and having a little scroll seems like an easy way to have a mental break. While we don’t want to hound you into mindfulness or pottery or even making sourdough, those activities would definitely be a more restorative time-out. We’re all now aware that seeing people having the best Queenstown holiday ever isn’t great when we’ve stayed in trackies all weekend feeling tired, but if we consciously paid attention to how much time we actually spend scrolling we’d see that every bit adds up to a significant amount of screentime and information. While this behaviour may feel good and is easy to slip into, it can actually make your anxiety worse. Being in control of your phone usage rather than being controlled is the ultimate goal. From feeling separation anxiety from your smartphone, to doomscrolling and sleep procrastination, there are some very real consequences to not having healthy boundaries with our devices. 

So what now?     

We’re new to this boundaries thing, and admittedly needed a little incentive. If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that picking up the phone, even in the middle of trying to concentrate, is all too easy. Having an app that grows trees while you stay off your phone—like Forest or Flora—is surprisingly rewarding. Kind of like keeping that Tamagotchi alive. Habits take time to break, and if you’re having a moment wondering why you’re on struggle street trying to improve your digital wellness, one of many perks is that consciously unplugging is an internet recommended way to help the frustration of reader’s block. You might start to make a dent in that book bucket list!  

To give you some expert advice, James Robinson who’s the ANZ Country Manager for HMD Global, has some pointers to get you started. First and foremost he says to track your activity and notice your habits. This will help you see room for improvement and become aware of certain behaviours. *Checking Instagram first thing in the morning and just before bed, cough cough.* Both Apple and Android have a suite of digital wellbeing features, like screen time limits and the Google Digital Wellbeing App. James also suggests a weekend phone, a low-cost supplementary device that you can use to be in contact if really necessary but without the bells and whistles that draw you in. Maybe it’s an after-work phone, but switching to a no-frills device will reinforce those boundaries you’re trying to establish and you’ll get it down to a comfortable routine. You won’t be alienated from the world as you can get a Nokia feature phone with 4G capabilities should you really need the web, so fear not, but with a long battery life and nothing to get you scrolling you’ll forget about it for a little while. Something we all could do more of. 

Check out  more tips for making your digital detox a success here

Image credit: HMD Global 

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