Is It Time For A Digital Detox?

by · September 27, 201321 comments

Many years ago, my digital life was simple. Video games were my introduction to the world of interactive media and when email came along, I thought it was a great. Logging on involved screeching modems and just getting online was an event. Once I finally logged in, my inbox was mostly empty and most of the emails were directly for me from people I knew.

Today, our inboxes are stuffed to overload, and they follow us everywhere on our smartphones. We have the ability to be connected wherever we go, but research suggests that we are less happy and becoming addicted to it. We used to desire being connected to the Internet at all times.  Internet cafes and clustered Wi-Fi hotspots make us feel that being plugged in is essential to being part of the flow of the world. But that flow has become a tidal wave, overwhelming many of us with too much information, too many emails, too many status updates and texts to respond to.

Time for a digital intervention

Sun rays in the forest.A few years ago, I was having lunch with my buddy Jeff Turner at one of our favorite local restaurants.  For years we’ve found time in our busy schedules to talk family, social media and technology.  That day, I was sharing my struggles with information overload and he told me about a breakthrough he’d just experienced by completely unplugging from the technologies that dominate our personal and professional lives. He also recommended a book called “You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I read it shortly after, during my first trip to meet with the Marketing and Communications team for the National Associations of REALTORS® in Chicago – my real estate equivalent to a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or Mecca.

The book had a profound effect on me. I realized how much of my life I’d been wasting staring at my phone. When I got home I made a simple, but deeply worthwhile change. I vowed that when I leave work each night I don’t get back online until after my daughter goes to sleep. Spending that time with her every day is important for her, and it’s important for me too. I’ve realized that the online world can wait.

Being present in the moment

When I was at SXSW Interactive last March, I immediately noticed that most of the attendees were spending an unusual amount of their time staring at their phones. Great new potential real-life connections walked right by them as they instead satisfied their need for interaction by tweeting and checking-in on Instagram and Foursquare. It’s the same thing I’ve seen at concerts, where people end up watching much of the show through their view screens, recording what they see in fuzzy photos and videos rather than just putting away the phone and enjoying the experience of sharing great music with hundreds or thousands of like-minded people. It happens at restaurants and parties, too. People are too busy posting pictures of what they’re eating to savor the food or enjoy the company right in front of them. The video below, “I Forgot My Phone” does a great job capturing the shift happening in our culture today:

The emerging trend is analog

Fitbit, Pebble and other wearable tech are driving the “Quantified Self” movement, which reinforces the idea that being connected at all times is the bleeding edge of cool. However, I’d argue that the opposite is true. The real trend is in the virtues of stepping away from tech and understanding the importance of being present in the moment.  Being disconnected encourages you to leverage the power of analog to build relationships and help you reconnect with your creativity.

Online fatigue is common and Pew research released in February showed that 61% of Facebook users have recently taken a break from the service for several weeks or more. Some hotels now offer a service where they’ll store your phone in their safe for a day to help you fully relax more. There are also cutting-edge programs like Digital Detox, which helps people truly get away from the online world and rediscover themselves. Apps such as Freedom help you block out endless online distractions so you can get your work done with more focus and attention.

Social media and email aren’t going away anytime soon, nor should they. They’re a vital part of how we live in the world today. I’m not going to be giving away my iPhone anytime soon and you’ll find me on Instagram and Twitter pretty often. But I’ve learned to strive toward greater balance. I communicate in the digital world, but live in the real one.

Does the volume of information you’re processing these days overwhelm you?  Are you taking planned time during the week, or the year to go completely offline or “off the grid?” Have you attended a Digital Detox? What’s working for you to achieve balance? I want to hear about it in the comments.

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About Audie Chamberlain

Audie Chamberlain

Audie Chamberlain is an award-winning social media marketing executive with a highly successful track record in creating millions of fans who demonstrate loyalty, engagement and high profitability. He is the Director of Social Media Marketing for realtor.com (operated by Move, Inc.), a leader in real estate search and technology. He was named one of Inman News' 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders and led his team to win DigiDay's Social Media, Marketing and Advertising Award (SAMMY) for Best Socialized Business the past two years. He is a member of The Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) Social Media Committee and frequently speaks across the country to executives about leveraging social media marketing in their organizations.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Yelena Osin

    Really interesting; Though I don’t see how posting funny memes on Facebook is equivalent to link buying, which is the epitome of gaming the system. The current purpose of Facebook has been to entertain the bored, and funny stuff usually does that. There’s already a place for serious social media and that’s Google+. Very controlling in my opinion and further pushes their advertising incentives on business page owners. We’ll see!

    • SquareSocJames

      Hey Yelena, James here. Thanks for your feedback and comments, in response:

      - The purpose of ‘buying a link’ is a black hat method of increasing your SEO ranking which increases your traffic by bringing in more visitors, which is the equivalent to increasing your ‘reach’ on Facebook. As such, ‘posting a meme’ is effectively the same as ‘buying a link’, because the equivalent white hat practice would be to produce a piece of unique, original content to achieve the same purpose. Does that make sense?

      - Regarding your thoughts on Facebook’s current purpose. The medium is immaterial, you go where your target market are, that’s marketing 101. From the sounds of it you’re an advocate of Google+ which is great, however, many still derive great benefit from Facebook in terms of social media marketing. The purpose of this article supports what you’re saying – I dislike intensely the view many have that Facebook isn’t a ‘serious platform’, and this is in part largely due to the black hat methods being practiced by many on this platform. It comes back to target market again, by being here it suggests you’re a serious online marketer. The target market for many Facebook marketers is the B2C market, as such, if B2C marketers focused their efforts on Google+ they wouldn’t yield the same return because the audience simply isn’t there.
      Great feedback!
      J

      • Yelena Osin

        I’m still convinced the only way to game social media is to buy ads, likes or fans, which is equivalent to buying links to increase rankings. Buying fans on Facebook is black hat, and can be easily determined with an unnatural spike overnight, the same way mass link purchases are determined by Google. Why isn’t Facebook pursuing this?

        Going where your target market is, is true, and probably the first step. The 2nd step (in my opinion) is listening to the conversations to determine how people are communicating and what people respond to. If that happens to be memes or humor, then you must figure out how to create content in that vein. I think it’s a bit aggressive and hypocritical of FB to tell a business how many “likes” the page can or is supposed to have. If they figured out what people like then they were truly listening to customers and paying attention. More power to them if they have fans from all over the world. Aren’t we moving to be more globalized? Also, if someone is traveling and is in that city, what coffee shop are they more likely to visit?

        All of this is targeted at Facebook and not the article, I found this article extremely insightful and informative. Thank you J! I also wish I used Google+ more because of it’s impact on SEO rankings, but like you said, not a huge community there… yet :)

        • SquareSocJames

          Hi Yelena, thanks for your response!
          Buying fans is about as black hat as it gets, thankfully this seems to be dying out in the main. The next battle is to prevent people gaming the system by using the above black hat tactics.

          I’m glad you enjoyed the article and you’ve certainly provided food for thought which is great. We’re also focusing a lot more on Google+ for our client campaigns, as you said the SEO benefit is only going to improve :)
          J

  • Cruth Cat

    I think a coffee shop having 5,000 likes will look better to future customers. One with 100 likes will not look popular and look as though it’s not a great place to go. So having a plump amount of like can therefore transform into cash. Which sadly is impossible to measure. HOWEVER, if the potential client goes to their page and sees a bunch of dim witted memes, i imagine they’d lose their custom (it might actually show them as fun, free spirited and open minded, so maybe not). As soon as a cafe etc reach a nice plump figure that they are happy with, I think they should concentrate on posts, interaction about their product and only their product.

    • SquareSocJames

      Hi Cruth Cat, thanks for the feedback! In response:
      - Vanity metrics are exactly what Facebook are looking to crack down on with these latest updates. Whilst it might seem like a good idea to purchase 5000 fake likes, the miniscule benefit of looking ‘popular’ is greatly outweighed by the disadvantages.

      This instantly is going to make it near impossible to build up a good Edgerank, because you’ve got 5000 fans providing 0 engagement whatsoever, thereby not only torching your chance of generating a Social ROI, let alone a business ROI, but this also then looks fake and untrustworthy when a potential customer visits a page with 5000 likes and sees NO engagement. That’s a warning flag and most Facebook users are clued up to the point now where they will instantly see through this. It also means you’re going to have 5000 likes that you can do nothing with. They provide no value, even if you generate engagement from them, chances are they aren’t from the region or locale you’re looking to do business with if you procured them unethically.

      So in response, you suggest the end goal is concentrating on posts and engagement once you have a fanbase? By purchasing, or building, these vanity likes in the first place you’re shooting yourself in the foot from day 1 as it means you’ll never be able to achieve your end goal by taking this black hat first step.

      J

      • EFR

        Ahhh James actually just replied at the same time as I posted. Sorry for reiterating the same points!

    • EFR

      I disagree, respectfully! Simply having 5,000 likes does nothing because you have to win those 5,000 likes over in engagement, or else less of your content will be seen by fans of your page (as Facebook deems it uninteresting). And if you’re trying to win those 5,000 fans over in engagement, chances are you’ll have to utilize black hat tactics (“like this if”, irrelevant memes and other poor content) to do so because these fans aren’t targeted or relevant to the coffee shop’s page…which means they most likely won’t respond to the pages original, relevant content about say…coffee.

      That’s why 100 quality likes are more important than 5,000 quantity likes.

      • SquareSocJames

        Hi EFR!
        Beat me to the bullet there but as you can see below I echo your sentiments!
        J

  • Elaine

    Excellent article, thanks!

    • SquareSocJames

      Hi Elaine
      Thanks so much for your feedback, glad you liked it :)
      J

  • Dave Link

    It drives me nuts that Facebook feels that it needs to get into the practice of judging content. Edgerank was/is a perfectly good system under which to vet any page’s content and who is Facebook to say that a meme or some other “low grade” content isn’t as valuable to users as any other FAQ or ‘Top 10 Tips’ list that can be put together under the guise of creating original content?

    The truly frustrating part is that Facebook itself created this need for faux or forced engagement through the implementation of Edgerank. By algorithmically selecting what it deems relevant for each user it forces pages to create the appearance of engagement when the real engagement may be happening in the consumption of the content and not via the share/like/comment.

    If the moderators really wants to get rid of the gaming approach to content then they should go back to a Twitter/Instagram approach to the news feed and base posts purely on chronology. That levels the playing field entirely and removes any question of black hat/white hat tactics. It also leaves the decision to the right people when it comes to what is or isn’t valuable – everyday users.

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  • SquareSocJames

    Thanks Wilfried glad you enjoyed the article!