Live & Unplugged. Is It Time To Detox From Digital?


With the level of online connectedness reaching unprecedented levels and hotels offering premium services that include the removal of all technology, is it time to detox from digital? 

Image via Obscura Digital: Facebook Conenctions Mapped

Always on and always connected these are the terms used to describe modern life. Communications have penetrated further and deeper into our lives than ever before with a speed and relentlessness never before seen.

The advance of technology has fostered our need to interact with each other and fed our insatiable hunger for knowledge, personal connections and social validation. Of course you all know this. You have arrived here via our snappy Twitter update or our conversation leading Facebook post. Maybe you clicked on our wonderfully written newsletter -that most people consume on their iPhones- or arrived via our google optimised web ranking.

At Sense we know this, along with any other publisher. The data is there, data on you to help us tweak our tone, our content and more importantly the relationships we create with our global network. We are all informed and we all inform each other. Our focus is on the individual and genuinely knowing the people who choose to get involved in our business but this data is still key.

It is the sheer volume of interactions and consumption that generate this mass of data, and the role of statistician has never been so sexy. Nicholas Feltron we mean you. Tools increasingly exist to help us manage these connections and filter this data but for many a breaking point is being reached.

Do you want to withdraw from your digital life? In this always on culture do you yearn for more time spent offline?

Waves are rippling across the web with ironic speed as large numbers of thinkers, designers and commenters are seeking to pare back their digital lives, turn off -or at least down- the tap/hose pipe of the social web.

Towards the end of 2011 Pico Ayer collated the peak of this in the New York Times citing an event he spoke at alongside Malcolm Gladwell and Marc Ecko hosted by a global agency:

Soon after I arrived, the chief executive of the agency that had invited us took me aside. What he was most interested in, he began — I braced myself for mention of some next-generation stealth campaign — was stillness.

Silicon Valley, home to the elite creators of these technologies at Apple, Google and just about every business driving the social web's emerging tech is also home to the children of these visionaries. It is reported that rather than immersing this new generation in a sea of screens many are choosing to send their children to schools without a keyboard in sight.

It raises the question we can't answer yet; what impact will the social web have on children who mature entirely within a culture where they are socially connected? At a recent talk we heard of a new service that allows parents to let their developing child tweet from the womb. When you're naming your child why not consider how they will rank in google? That could be what the Beckhams were doing when choosing Harper Seven.

Some high class retreats and remote resorts now market themselves as being entirely disconnected. No wifi, no web and you are encouraged to remove your smart phone from your nose for the duration of your stay.

Pico citing legendary designer Philippe Starck 'I never read any magazines or watch TV' raises the point that original thought comes from having the space to think and this seems to be the thread tying many of these stories together. Can we really have the space to exercise our minds when they are so constantly filled with a stream of varied and incoherent data? For many the answer is no.

These are some of the views being discussed at a range of thought leading events from the need for a digital detox at LSE (the most prominent text on this event listing being a call to tweet #lsetech throughout) to workshops charging £30 to inform you of how to live in a digital world.

There are two faces to this tension. Firstly those who wish to reduce their digital connection in order to rediscover their lost freedom of thought and identity. Secondly a removal of the pressure to maintain our digital personas. The conversation is happening and you need to be a part of it. This is the same feeling that leads the digitally uninitiated to fear their lack of participation may have an effect on their work and personal lives and in many ways it probably does.

Ground breaking work in digital identity is being undertaken by the team at Weavrs who produce digital replicants from the information we share online. These walking (on Foursquare), talking (Twitter) and thinking (Blogger) replicants are created from the wealth of personal data published by all of us which is used to create convincing digital AIs.

Interestingly the job of the team at Weavrs is made easier by the fact that in a lot of our social shares we don't really sound like people at all. Take for example your hashtagged, at replied, retweeted twitter conversations, we talk like robots. In the digital space these Weavrs are as real as you and I.

Potentially a focused social web user could tag out of their digital life when going on holiday and allow their Weavr to check in, tweet and blog in an indiscernible fashion.

To conclude we should consider that maybe this isn't as big an issue as you may think ebing the digital virtuoso you are. A great article over at BBH Labs from Mel Exon recently cut through the digital hype with scalpel like precision. 

You feel the heat to tweet because it is so disproportionately covered in the press as it is an invaluable tool for journalists. The most talked about thing on Twitter is -drumroll- Twitter.

Under 8% of Britons have ever used twitter, 1.9% use it regularly[16]. It’s only the UK’s 27th most popular site[17], but is the most mentioned- with an average of 1,446 times per month in the national press alone.

Are these issues an affectation of the initiated? 

So before you checkin for a media blackout consider your average media or communications type is caught in a flurry of information of our own making. Pressures compounded and exagerated by the simple use of these platforms themselves.

So how do you feel about all this we'd love to hear if you think these pressures are valid or unfounded; if you're looking to dial down or crank up hardline to the digital world.

How much value we derive from them and how you think our connected lives will play out?

Do we need coaching to deal with the way our lives are headed?

Oh an tweet it @senseworldwide yeah, cheers.