Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of different people – but one thing that it offers for most is an opportunity to relax, destress, and take stock. It’s a chance to put life on pause for a couple of weeks, and it’s why we chose to build Power Down, our latest product release, around things that have helped us switch off.
However, outside of Infinite Objects, our day jobs – running design studio Rosie Lee – mean we spend a lot of our waking life in front of screens.
To celebrate the launch of Power Down, and with the holiday period looming, we asked our team whether they’d be interested in undergoing a Digital Detox and going offline over Christmas. 4 RL staff members, including Russell, our Managing Director, Alex, our Amsterdam Creative Director, Tom, our Operations Director, and Devron, our Head of Digital, took on the challenge.
The rules were simple – participants had to give up their phones, laptops, and any other devices through which you can access the internet directly during daylight hours. Meaning no emails, no Slack, and no Twitter for the duration of the Christmas break. Face time, basically, rather than FaceTime.
We also decided to offer up the use of Punkt’s MP01 mobile phone to participants while their smartphones were locked away. We’ve been involved in its development since the very beginning – having been asked to launch it – and wholeheartedly believe in its value as a communications tool that strips back all the distractions the internet entails. It’s available on IO too, obvs.
Here’s how it went:
Why did you decide you wanted to do a digital detox?
Dev: It was my first Christmas with my daughter and I felt like I should be looking at my phone less. I don’t use any social media except for Twitter so I felt like it was going to be super easy.
Alex: A few months ago I decided to focus more on life and less on the virtual world we normally immersive ourselves in, so I closed down all of my social media accounts. A detox felt like it was a natural next step.
Russell: I am not a social media obsessive, but in my role – Managing Director – it’s important that I am keeping an eye on what is happening in our industry and I need to make sure that I am contactable to support colleagues in case anything serious happens.
Over the last couple of years I have become increasingly interested in the nature of work, and how we can create alternative modes of work rather than just sitting in front of a laptop for 7+ hours each day. I have tried to champion this way of thinking and encourage others to do the same. Doing a Digital Detox for Power Down was an ideal opportunity to experiment further and learn how I [and others] would find it.
Tom: 2017 saw a distinct deterioration in some personal relationships and my constant connection to work and the internet was a significant contributing factor. I wanted to remember what it was like to engage on a human level again with my nearest and dearest and also prove to myself and others that not only is our addiction to digital media needless but also harmful. For that reason I decided to go beyond the guidelines and got rid of all internet for a whole week.
What did you find most difficult about going without the internet?
Dev: Filling idle time while being driven long distances or waiting. When you look around at other people on their own they’re almost always on their phone. I found myself feeling quite weird for not looking at my phone. This pretty much sums it up.
Alex: As I already made a start on powering down from the Internet it was quite easy for me. That being said, not checking emails and the occasional reading of the news online or looking for inspiration on sites like Tumblr and Pinterest was difficult as that’s the kind of thing I tend to do automatically – I had to unlearn those habits.
Russell: Overall I didn’t find it difficult, but the times I noticed the Detox at play were in the ‘moments in-between’: waiting for a kettle to boil, queueing. These are the times where I think I go to my phone as a default, but instead I found that I might think about something or talk to people in the supermarket checkout queue.
Tom: The most difficult part was having made Christmas purchases through sites like Amazon and then not having access to them for delivery updates etc. Social media was a breeze to let go of. Emails were also easy, though this was probably because we were on holiday.
How did it change your routine?
Dev: With Christmas visitors and a holiday to Cornwall my routine was already not normal. However, I found a lot more time during the day to do things while not checking Twitter or looking at my emails. I started leaving my phone in another room and ignoring it for the evening too.
Alex: Powering down over the holidays I found myself not even turning on my phone at all. I went exploring Amsterdam more than normal, going to museums I haven’t visited, new cafes and exhibitions, went ice skating and explored the local christmas markets. When I wasn’t wasting any time online, I found it was amazing how much time I had for everything else, such as reading in the evenings and spending more time with friends.
Russell: Aside from the ‘moments in-between’, the main thing i noticed was that my use of technology became more defined. If I wanted to look up a recipe in the evening I would look it up but wouldn’t stray into other apps or games. I rarely turned on my phone without a specific purpose and my environment became my default rather than a 3 inch LED screen.
Tom: Not so much a routine change, more of a personality and relationship change. I was vastly more focussed on people and the world around me. I was invested in the storylines of films, I was able to fully commit and contribute to conversations – generally was living my life rather than allowing it to be background music to app notifications.
Has it changed your relationship with technology?
Dev: My relationship with technology is far healthier than it’s ever been and a lot healthier than most. Often, when I’m on public transport, I find myself looking at rows and rows of commuters who have no idea that anyone else is on the train. I feel like I’m starting to shift away from using technology to waste time and towards using it to improve life.
Alex: Definitely. Mindlessly spending time on social media and checking your phone and emails a few times an hour does you no good, instead being conscious about your usage and focussing on real life has been eye-opening to me. In this day and age there is a lot of people addicted to social media and it’s a real problem. It’s no different from most other addictive things in life – like other drugs, getting a like or a comment on your social media posts releases dopamine and it means we’re slowly losing that human connection that is so important. Here’s a video that explains a bit more.
Russell: It has furthered my thoughts in a direction they were already headed.
Tom: 100%. I’m giving my day to day a total overhaul on how and when I use technology and the internet. Work only within working hours, maybe leave the iPhone at the studio, no more being online when with the family and generally culling everything that isn’t essential to upholding human relationships.
Did it make a difference to how you’d normally enjoy Christmas?
Dev: No. Christmas is normally technology free for me anyway as it’s a time for family and ignoring phones. It’s one of the few days the TV isn’t switched on.
Alex: I haven’t celebrated Christmas in the traditional sense since I was 15, I instead do whatever I feel like on the day, so if that’s ordering Sushi and reading ‘The Art of War’, or working on personal projects, going out for a long run or travelling to new countries and experiencing different cultures. This Christmas was extra nice as without technology I had time to do some real reflecting and setting goals and plans for 2018.
Russell: It’s hard to say. My Christmas this year was definitely very different to the last few years but with a 3 year old son truly enjoying Christmas for the first time it’s arguable that it was always going to be a different Christmas. Probably the main thing that I noticed versus other Christmases was that once Christmas started, I didn’t engage in anything commercial or social whatsoever – my primary concern was the people in my house.
Tom: For sure. Way more engaged with people, able to see how other people were enjoying themselves and share in it more.
What was your favourite thing about the detox?
Dev: The extra time to spend with my daughter without staring at my phone. I will continue to make my evenings phone free until after her bedtime.
Alex: Just not having to worry about being connected and instead focussing on life itself. It was also eye-opening how much more time you have for doing things that really matter.
Russell: I am always trying to looking for ways to get more out of my time to try to reduce stress and achieve more. I really enjoyed the efficiency gains of creating different modes of work. While I was online I had specific things I was trying to do and didn’t just switch a phone on because there were a spare 5 minutes. I ended up spending less time online but not achieving less. I also enjoyed using the spare moment to just think about where I was, how the day was going, and what the rest of the day held.
Tom: Audibly showing shock at a moment in a film (Groundhog Day…) that I’d seen multiple times before – I was so invested in the plot that I forgot where I was – was a genuine emotional reaction that just wasn’t possible when I was half-distracted by the phone or laptop.
How did you find using the MP01? Did not having internet connectivity on your phone come naturally to you?
Dev: I love the interface and design. It’s very slick and comfortable to hold. Ironically, my current smartphone is not very good at phone calls so it was nice to have a phone that worked for calling other people.
Alex: It’s such a nicely designed device and a great product that’s very relevant in this day and age. I will continue to use my MP01 throughout the year. I didn’t miss internet connectivity but more so the camera on my other phone.
Russell: For some reason most trouser pockets are slightly smaller than smartphones, so I always end up with holes in the same place in jeans! I really enjoyed the ‘smallness’ of the phone, which helped me forget that I had a phone in my pocket unless i needed it. The text input and manual address book was definitely slower than using a smartphone but I didn’t really mind that.
Tom: Only niggle was having to remember how to text with non-qwerty inputs. Lack of internet wasn’t a bother.
Would you do it again – and if so, what rules would you follow?
Dev: As the Head of Digital at Rosie Lee there is a certain amount of digital I need in my life to do my job and be available when needed. However, I’ve started noticing how often and how easy it is to waste 3 minutes here and there every day by staring at technology.
I’m not sure I’d do a detox again. I believe detoxing is similar to dieting. Diets fail because the change is so sudden. I feel that people’s habits need changing for life and not for a few weeks. The healthy way to change habits is to notice them and incrementally change the way you act over time. My first incremental change is to keep my phone on silent and leave it in another room while spending time with my family.
Alex: I’m having a year of my own version of a detox, just being more aware of how I spend my time and the usage of technology and internet. It will be very interesting to see the difference after 1 full year and how it will affect me, my friends and family, but I strongly believe that only good things can come from it.
Russell: After the IO Power Down Detox, I am more inclined to switch phones if I am going away for a weekend or when on holiday but it is likely I will have my smartphone available if something comes up where a smartphone would be handy, it just won’t be my default.
As a father, and a Managing Director, being contactable to help is something i would like to continue to be able to offer my family and business and I feel like if i was to ‘leave my smartphone behind’ there may be occasions where I can’t help and would result in more stress for myself and the people I want to help.
I will definitely be trying to encourage people around me to take a Digital Detox during a working day as I believe that the increased awareness and personal reflections are really valuable. Everyone seems to figure something different out but the realisations people have always seem to be meaningful.
Tom: As mentioned, I’m going to overhaul my complete day to day to run a minimal tech input life – only when it’s needed. But yes, i’d do it again in a heartbeat.