A woman checks her cell phone at the beach in this April 19, 2012 photo. “It’s a shame when people travel to gorgeous destinations only to spend the bulk of their time and attention on their devices rather than on their surroundings or present company,” Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed writes.
ANDREW WARDLOW / The Canadian Press
I recently returned from a much-needed trip out of town. One of the things I had thought to do before leaving, much to the surprise of those around me, was to take certain apps off my phone so that I could disconnect from social media while I was away. The political situation in Quebec (particularly Bill 21), other terrible incidents near and far, and the accompanying online hate, all have taken a toll.Disconnecting is much easier said than done if you’re active on multiple social media networks, live a fairly public life and have a large social media following. When I shared my plans to take a break from social media with close friends and family members, they chuckled and said they’d believe it when they saw it. One friend lovingly offered to take me out for supper if I succeeded.The truth is that deleting the Facebook and Messenger apps felt a bit like cutting the digital umbilical cord. I knew it needed to be done in order for me to successfully disconnect, but the pangs I felt in doing so made me inwardly question my own ability to follow through.The first 24 hours offline are the most challenging. I speak from personal experience. A good word of advice is to update your social networks with a message stating that you’ll be offline for a certain time. That doesn’t prevent people from trying to get in touch with you; it just means that if they try hard enough, they’ll see that you’re offline. Also, a message announcing your plan will spare others from worrying that something has happened to you.While I was away, I observed countless times that couples sitting down to beautiful meals in restaurants would both take out their cellphones, or, worse, one person would take out their cellphone and the other would sit there awkwardly vying for attention. It’s a shame when people travel to gorgeous destinations only to spend the bulk of their time and attention on their devices rather than on their surroundings or present company.Half of young Canadian adults admit to spending more than two hours on their phones daily. As the mom of a teenager and a pre-teen, I have a strong suspicion that number goes up in the summer months.Years ago, if you wanted to reach somebody, it was straightforward. You’d pick up the phone and call them. Times have changed. There are now so many other ways to communicate with another person. That convenience comes at a cost, though. It takes a psychological toll.Some of the most successful business people I know have removed social media from their cellphones permanently. That way, if they want to check in, they do so on a laptop or desktop, but are less tethered to their devices. I see a lot of wisdom in that now. There are few things more powerful than feeling we are in complete control of how we use our time.After resurfacing on the other end of my digital detox, I have to admit that it was well worth it. Just like a juice cleanse, diet detox and fasting are said to help remove certain toxins from our body, a digital detox can help do the same for our mental health and well-being. Once I did get back in town, I was not in an enormous rush to get back online. I became more self-aware of how I was using my time and how much of it I wanted to devote to social media. I felt calmer, less anxious and more present with those around me.I knew that there were news articles, memes and status updates I was missing out on. But they could wait, just a little longer.Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed is the founder and editor in chief of CanadianMomEh.com, a lifestyle blog.twitter.com/canadianmomeh