Sunday, April 14, 2019

Do You Need a Digital Detox? by Sherri Shackelford

It might seem strange talking about a digital detox on a digital platform, but that's the world we live in these days! I'd been thinking a lot about how much digital media and social sharing sights have taken over our attention when a couple of experiences opened my eyes with shocking clarity.

The first event was losing my phone. For almost forty-eight hours, I was without a phone. For the first twenty-four hours, I felt something akin to panic. I let a few people know the situation - my parents and close friends - and told them to contact my husband if they truly needed me.

The second twenty-four hours were an epiphany. I was untethered. FREE. The world took on a gorgeous clarity. I read an actual paper and ink book. I felt as though I was walking around in an alternate universe. Everyone else had their heads bent, their eyes glued to the screen. When I found my phone, I resolved to seriously cut down my usage.

At home, though, I was the same person--I was attached to my laptop for most of the day. That's when my second epiphany occurred. I was driving home when I saw three kids in the neighborhood park. They were milling around the sundial, all three of them staring at their phones. A generation of zombie adults had spawned a generation of zombie children.

I took a closer look at my own behaviors and realized that my attention span had seriously dwindled. I was constantly flipping through tabs while writing. I was flipping through screens while reading. My ability to work deeply had taken a serious hit.

The final straw was Marie Kondo. I posted on Facebook about how much I liked organizing with her method, and I asked people to please refrain from negative comments. I was only interested in interacting with people who also liked the process. You guessed it - a cacophony of negative comments followed. Ironically, every single negative comment was from someone who hadn't seen the show, yet still had an opinion they felt they needed to share. My request for positive comments was like a challenge for people to express the exact opposite.

Thankfully, I knew just what to do. Marie Kondo advocates keeping only the things in your life that spark joy. It was clear that my personal Facebook page was a place that no longer sparked joy for me, so I gave it the Kondo Kick out of my life.

The trouble with our digital world is that there's no way to go 'cold turkey'. Unfortunately, in order to run an Author Page on Facebook, I need a personal page. I was forced to create a 'dummy' account to run my Author Page. I was also forced to use the dummy account to join Groups.

Do I miss my personal Facebook page? Nope and never. I keep in touch with the people who are important to me the way we did in the olden days--in person. Sure, I don't get to see the pictures of my second cousin's fabulous tapas dinner in Aruba. But that hasn't been a huge loss. I don't have to see his political opinions either.

Since I'm required to participate in social media as an author, I started using Instagram along with a Facebook page. I haven't explored the platform as much as I'd like--but I'm getting better. Instagram is fabulous for creativity. It's all about beautiful photos and vignettes.

In my experience, Twitter is better for industry news. I have a 'list' of industry professionals I follow, and  I check the 'list' each morning. Beyond that - I don't care.

I've also started scheduling 'digital free' times.  People who know me know that I don't answer my phone while I'm working. My kids and my husband have a special ring in case it's an emergency. And, you know what, there has NEVER been an emergency during my digital-free time. Never. (Isn't that always our excuse? What if someone needs me????!!!! What if they don't...)

If even thinking about giving up your phone for an hour or two gives you the cold might have a problem! Start small--the next time you're stuck in a line or a waiting room, don't pick up your phone. Sit quietly with your thoughts. Observe the world around you. The next time you're having lunch with your friends, leave your phone in your purse. Not facedown on the table--in your purse. For thousands of years, human beings survived without being in constant contact with each other. If you're taking a short trip to the store-gasp-leave your phone at home. If your car breaks down or you get into an accident, the guy who hit you will have a phone. He can call the police.

We've grown accustomed to being constantly entertained. Which is tragic because boredom is the birthplace of creativity. Allow yourself to disconnect.

If you feel like your memory is failing you--science has shown that sitting in a dark room for ten minutes after learning something can greatly improve recall. Instead of giving your brain more input after reading a great article, sit quietly for a few minutes. (You might be surprised at how difficult that is these days!)

Are you old enough to remember a time when we just blithely left the house without a phone and returned HOURS later? Do you need a digital detox?

(P.S. If you feel the burning need to tell me why you hate Marie Kondo - have some chocolate instead! It'll be way more productive and much more satisfying :)

Sherri Shackelford

A former naval reservist with a top-secret security clearance, Sherri writes rapid-fire suspense featuring captivating characters and heart-pounding romance. She's authored more than a dozen novels for Harlequin publishing, including both historical and contemporary suspense.

Visit her Website, or follow her on social media:

Coming in October:

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He lives by the law.

She’s running for her life.

After forensic accountant Beth Greenwood uncovers a money-laundering scheme tying her company to the organization that murdered her mentor, she knows she needs to go into hiding. With ruthless killers in pursuit, she’s forced to rely on homeland security agent Corbin Ross’s protection—even as his investigation suggests Beth is complicit in embezzlement. Can their uneasy alliance develop into something deeper—and keep them alive?


  1. Love this post, Sherri, and its so true. With all of our technology, it's so easy to lose the personal connection with people. Texting is just not the same as having a face to face conversation with someone you care about.

    1. And how many times have you seen people in a restaurant eating together...while looking at their phones?!! If someone had put that in a movie in 1982, we'd have thought it was bizarre. Now it's a Tuesday at Olive Garden.

    2. I think my biggest shock was when we were eating at a restaurant and a man put his call on speaker so that he could eat and talk at the same time.

  2. There was an article a few months ago--I think in the NY Times--about how many people in Silicon Valley are now consciously making an effort to limit the amount of time their children spend on their phones. People are becoming concerned about how addictive it can be. Last century, children used to be allowed half an hour of watching television before they go to bed, but only if they've done their homework first.

  3. So true! But now kids need the internet for homework. It's that same thing - there's no way to go cold turkey anymore. At least we didn't need TV to get our work done :)

  4. Great post, Sherri. There's so much wisdom in it. I too have felt that panicky feeling when I can't find it. I get overwhelmed with social media and the sheer amount of time we all invest in it. Thanks for sharing this information because it's really nice to know we can all cut aspects of it out of our life and still thrive.

    1. It's fascinating, isn't it? The last time we vacationed, the location was too remote for phones, and the only internet was at the camp 'lodge'. There was only one person in my family who had to visit the lodge on a regular basis - MY MOM! The teenagers were fine. Go figure!?

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I agree with you, Sherri! We all need to cut back on our phone usage. I'm not on Instagram and was interested in your take on that platform. I don't need another time drain, but you've whet my interest. Also, Twitter just seems so...I'm not sure. Crazy, maybe. :)

    I do enjoy celebrating the highs with folks on FB as well as praying for the needs when those low times hit. God told me some years ago to post on FB. I questioned him. Really. He kept telling me to post. So I obeyed and then saw how FB could be used in a prayerful way. Still I can go down that rabbit hole in a flash and spend far too long seeing what others are doing in their lives.

    Your amnesia story sounds fantastic. My next one is an Amish amnesia tale. Fun to write.

    1. I think you'd enjoy Instagram! You have a great eye for composition and beauty--and that's what catches people's eye. The millennials and generation Z are all moving over. I think it's what Facebook wanted to be...

  6. Great post. Now that my iPad gives me stats of my screen time, I can see I’m attached to my iPad a lot. Some of it is work and research but a lot of it is goofing off. Must do better. :)

    1. I've always been afraid to track the numbers! I'm better now, but I'd melt the system in the past...

  7. When I've gone out of the country over the last 2 years I've HAD to unplug. Like you said, the first 24-hours I was lost, but after that I was "lost" in my own real life world. It was awesome & I was sad to go back to my digital world when I got home. I must try to unplug regularly. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. I agree with ALL of this. A few months ago, I went on a four-day retreat where there was no Wi-Fi. It was glorious, freeing, eye-opening, and restful. When I came home, I vowed to do better. I have found myself, unfortunately, falling into the same bad habits. Still working on this!


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