By Mark A. Taylor
Earlier this summer I accomplished something new for me. I went 14 days with no cell phone or computer. My two weeks were completely free of digital connections—no Internet, no texting, no Facebook updates, no e-mail or web browsing. And I must admit it was not comfortable—at least at first.
My wife and I were part of a Christian group cruising around Italy and Greece. We enjoyed a taste of a dozen different destinations, including several we’d like to visit again. And if that is ever possible, I will certainly consider a technology boycott like the one I enjoyed this summer. I discovered I can live—I can enjoy—two weeks without logging on.
As it turns out, others are trying a similar digital detox. In fact, Levi Felix, cofounder of an enterprise called Digital Detox, started Camp Grounded where hundreds pay $350 each for a three-day break from digital technology in the Redwoods of California. Its goal: “disconnect to reconnect.” Its promise: a unique experience “off the grid, no boss, no Internet, no cell phone, no clock, no work.”
This summer, National Public Radio reported on the camp. “For many of the participants, the most exciting activity was conversation,” according to the NPR piece. But one camper, Chris Heuer, described “phantom rings” on his leg, signaling calls or messages that weren’t actually there.
My experience was nothing like that, perhaps because real eye-to-eye conversations are a treasured experience of my every day. Even though I was at first uneasy about giving up the chance to phone or text or post, I’ve decided I am not one of the 66 percent of people afflicted with “no mobile phone phobia”—nomophobia—the fear of being without a cell or mobile phone. That’s the term used by SecurEnvoy, a UK-based Internet security and mobile technology firm, in research reported at the Medical Daily website.
The post quoted the Morningside Recovery Rehabilitation Center’s estimate that the average American spends 144 minutes a day using his phone. The article included warning signs of cell phone addiction:
• an excessive compulsion to check the phone even when there is no incoming e-mail, call, or text (Can you leave your phone alone when you’re alone?)
• using the phone in an inappropriate place (Do you send messages or browse the Internet while you’re using the toilet?)
• replacing face-to-face interaction with digital connections (Do you text or phone someone in the next room of the same house?)
I’m not there yet, but maybe closer than I think. After about 24 hours in transit from Europe back home from our two weeks away, we crawled into our house after 10 p.m.—and spent 45 minutes catching up on Facebook. To quote our editor-at-large, “and so it goes.”