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Joonhyeok Ahn (Joon)
Joonhyeok Ahn (Joon)

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After I do digital detox for a month



Have you watched a movie called Jexi? It's a light comedy about life and relationship. The character Phil is shy boy and is raised with a phone like many of us. His default 'Plan B' was his phone. Whenever he feels bored, sad, or lonely, he seemed to be more comfortable with his phone rather than being around people. He has no friends and needless to say, no girlfriend. His only friend was his phone and AI 'Jexi'. However, he's changed during the movie after he met Cate. She used to be a good girl defined by world. She graduated early, went to a good college, and worked for Amazon. And she did social media heavily, sharing all of her shiny life. Happy story so far, yet she suddenly felt empty inside and living not her own life. She quit her job and social media. She started finding her own joy without worrying about being judged. After starting a date with her, Phil made real connections and also learned how to be happy without his phone and social media. He also found a love with Cate. This is the basic summary of the movie.

My wife and I laughed a lot while watching the movie, yet it shows our sad reality. Phil is not simply a character in the movie. If you look around while waiting at cafe, subway, or anywhere, everyone is holding their phone and seems busy scanning through news, social media, or texts. We don't talk anymore. Even when we spend time with our beloved ones, we frequently see our phones. We already know the answer - not being attached to it. The problem is we can't stop

Why we cannot stay away from it?

For sure, the advance of tech brings perks to us. However, we seemed more attached than simply utilizing a device. Why? I found following reasons from observing how I stay with it over time.

  1. Having a digital device of any form is the default mode at least to our generation. I never imagine life without iPhone. Actually I thought it'd be awkward if I don't have one.

  2. Smart phone is affordable and powerful than ever. This little one can cover from texts, emails, SNS, banks, shopping to name only a few. That is probably why we call this 'Smart'. Once we are used to convenience it brings, it's not easy to drop it

  3. Thanks to advance of tech, we can do Facetime with our friends at anytime. We may feel isolated if we don't use the phone in this connected world

  4. Most of hobbies we like to have cost money and time. Think about Golf. We need to have multiple clubs and clothes. Then you have to find time to practice and play with friends. On the other hand, a phone is bringing you a little joy instantly. Open up Youtube and watch. You don't have to spend money. And it's fun, right?

What are the problems then?

If we can't walk away from devices and they are bringing value to our life, why we bother keeping it? From my own experience, the side effects were more harmful than I imagined. A few of them were

  1. Whenever I felt challenged at work, I went back to the phone and surf the internet to release stress.
  2. When I felt lonely, I went back to the phone and start watching Twitter or Instagram to feel connected
  3. Even when I was with beloved ones, I frequently saw the phone
  4. I felt always behind as all I see in SNS is the most beautiful moment of other people's life.

Sounds familiar? A majority of people do like this. Luckily I had a chance to interact with people who are not dependent on devices in recent days. These people look not only happy but attractive as a person too. Why? Here are a few reasons that explain.

  1. They really focus on in-person interactions. They have nothing to do with their phone.
  2. They deal with difficult emotions wisely without numbing them via doom scrolling.
  3. They don't feel rushed and respect their own pace

I thought these were enough to give it a try.

How do we overcome?

I've followed an author Cal Newport for years. One of his books called Deep Work was tremendously useful for me to redefine the work style. One day, when I was listening to his Podcast, he mentioned that he never had SNS accounts in his life, Yet he is successful at his life and happy. This led me to read his another book Digital Minimalism. I had a couple of questions before I started reading the book.

  • How did he manage everything without heavily depending on digital devices
  • How would I use?

After I read the book, I had mixed feelings. I felt sorry for self as I wasted hours upon hours on meaningless stuff with this phone. Yet, I was happy as well as I can now apply a few tactics that I learned from this book to be happier. Here are lessons

  • Trying to spend one hour each day without device
  • Stop using devices during downtime to distress, instead try to do demanding activity like exercise
  • In-person interaction is far better than SNS activity

I took one step further with these ideas. I decided to do digital detox for a month.

A month of digital detox

I wanted to experiment a few things with this period of digital detox. First, I wanted to see having less screen time, especially on SNS, is really beneficial to me in emotional perspectives. Second, I wanted to see I can still manage to keep relationships and professional networks. Third, I wanted to see there are trickled benefits that I didn't expect.

With this in mind, I separated the whole process into multiple steps.

List all the activities I do with digital devices.

After I monitor a couple of weeks, I was able to find which activities I do with the phone.

  • I read books/articles
  • I watch Youtube videos
  • I do sns - Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram
  • I do random searches on the internet

Consider the pros/cons

The next step was to consider what pros/cons for each activity I do with my phone, but seriously. If pros and cons on a par, then I decided to remove them. I removed Kindle, Youtube, SNS, and only keep the Safari for internet search.

Find the alternatives

My phone was not fun anymore. It's still functional but I didn't have things hijacking the attention. I find it way less distracting throughout the day. I realized how much time I have for focused one once distractions were out. I still feel quite bored and inclined to go back to the phone. Yet, I learned being bored and relaxed is critical for me to restore energy from hectic pace of life.

Find the joy in other activities

Following Cal Newport's advice, I decided to engage in more demanding or in-person activities. I bought more paper books that require focus. I put in a separate room while I'm reading. After a few weeks, I learned that reading books is way more meaningful activity. Also, I started playing tennis more with friends. We started talking more personal things after a game and became real friends. The less time I spend with the phone, the more I feel connected with the real world.


I can't say I'm completely free from these digital devices. Yet, what I learned is I don't need to stick to it all day long. Actually I should keep distant from it and use it wisely. Otherwise, it's easy to be trapped in and waste priceless time. The whole period of digital detox led me to think about what is definition of my own happiness and what activities can affect to it. Even after a month, I don't have Youtube, Twitter, and LinkedIn on the phone. Still, I feel very calm and tranquil inside. So, I highly recommend to anyone who feel exhausted from the digital devices to give it a try.

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