Following a near-death experience, Levi Felix, a burnt out 24-year old, traded in his laptop for a backpack and travelled the world for two and a half years, experiencing a digital free life alongside his partner Brooke Dean.
When Felix and Dean returned to the US, they found a world where people seemed to be increasingly attached to their digital devices. In response to this apparent phenomena, they created Digital Detox®LLC.
For $570, participants can go on a three-day digital detox retreat. At the retreats people do yoga, meditation, art, practice mindfulness activities, eat healthy vegan food etc.
Digital Detox®LLC’s mantra is “Disconnect to Reconnect”. Their goal for digital detox participants is to have a happier, healthier, and more balanced life by changing their interactions with digital technology.
In the UK, the digital detox movement has been taken up by the company Digital Detoxing. The company has been in the news recently because of Ofcom’s Communication Movement report that 15 million people in the UK have taken a digital detox.
Much research has been done into the relationship we have with the internet and our digital devices. Recent research has linked internet usage with increased anxiety, depression, lack of productivity, and other mental health problems. 61 per cent of people claim to be addicted to their devices.
There is even an apparent disorder called ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’, which was studied at Gannan Medical University, China. The results of the study found greater levels of the hormone dopamine in people who spent more time online weekly, compared to a control group. Dopamine is a hormone associated with pleasure and reward based behaviour.
When the digital detox was first introduced in 2013 many journalists flocked to one of the retreats to give a first-hand account of their experiences. For the most part they left feeling refreshed and more connected to people.
At present the only evidence supporting a digital detox are behavioural observations. Many journalists returned to their digital devices soon after the retreat. Some tried to make small changes to their digital habits but they maintained similar relationships with their devices.
It appears key is finding a balance. That itself can be a subjective goal. But if you put down your phone for a minute, that may not be such a bad thing.