Year-End Resource Round-Up
Digital Detox Game Plan, Strengthening Memory, and Building Language
My husbandand I are currently working on another in-depth, practical article that will focus on how we can “sow seeds of anachronism”. Keep your eyes on your inbox early December. Until then we will leave you with resources that focus on reclaiming attention, memory, and language, all of which are essential ingredients for unmachining.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
The Advent season is upon us and with it time for reflection, hospitality, and generosity. Among all the things one is lured to purchase and give, the most valuable commodity is absolutely free: attention. It is precious to our spouses, children, relatives, friends, and to the soundness of our own mind. Yet we face a fierce battle to either receive it or bestow it onto others.
Recentlyaddressed a note to me in relation to a post by on hospitality, “I’m so deeply trying to curb my phone usage and am struggling so much”. , who has been writing about his self imposed “vacation” from being online all the time, asked me “What’s your #1 tip for how to free myself from this tech addled mess?”
My answers to both of them point back to the 3Rs of Unmachining: Recognize1 the damaging impact of technology wherever it happens, Remove2 it, and Return to one of the most essential things about human life—our embodied relationships. The remove and return steps go hand-in-hand, helping us to turn away from the virtual and toward each other.
Over the last few months I have included resources as part of the articles that help to reclaim attention, memory, and language. I hope that revisiting these practical, small steps, will offer support in reclaiming our stolen focus.
Before diving into the resources…. and I also wanted to let you know that we are thinking of putting together a book on unmachining that will combine our work on Pilgrims in the Machine and School of the Unconformed into a practical handbook for individuals and families looking for anchors of hope in a time of upheaval. If you want to get an idea of our background and our early formative thoughts on “unmachining”, you might want to read The Making of UnMachine Minds.
We are profoundly grateful for the support of our paying subscribers, who help to make this work possible!
From Digital Detox to Digital Minimalism
But as a society — as a collective and as individuals — we are addicts in the full-on, active addiction… I know addiction when I see it. I know addiction when I’m in it — even or especially if that addiction is collectively sanctioned and celebrated. Even or especially if that addiction is “normal.”
Dana Leigh Lyons (participant in the Digital Detox Community this spring)
If you have been a long-time subscriber of School of the Unconformed, you may have participated in the digital detox community during the Lenten period earlier this year. If you would like to read about participants’ experiences see my post here:
While a “digital detox” is only a temporary measure, a time-committed effort such as the Advent season, offers an ideal opportunity to re-evaluating the place of technology in our daily lives.
Here is a game plan that I devised based on Cal Newport’s ‘Digital Minimalism’
1. COMMIT TO A 30-DAY DETOX
Select a time period when you will commit to a 30-day detox.
The beginning of a calendar month is a good starting point. The Lenten or Advent period are particularly suitable, but do not delay your detox unnecessarily. Commit and take the leap.
Be sure to plan your detox, specify your usage rules, and make a list of activities that will replace your time otherwise used on digital devices.
Committing to a detox together with a spouse, your family, a friend, a small group, or church community, will allow you to support each other, and make it more likely that you will succeed in sustaining your new habits.
Specify your usage rules
Before you start the detox, write out when and how you will allow yourself to use your phone, computer, or other devices. Being too vague or too strict can set you up for failure. Think about which uses are not optional for the duration of the detox. Be specific, for example:
I will check my e-mail at_______and at _________.
I will use my phone to arrange a meeting via text.
I will use my laptop when writing an article.
Inform family and friends about your digital detox and when you will be checking your messages.
Compose an auto-reply for your e-mail indicating the expected time frame for your responses.
Abstain and reframe
Use this detox time to abstain from digital-drip practices. This will initially lead to discomfort, restlessness, and may cause anxiety.
Leave your device at home whenever possible, especially if you are out for a walk.
When taking your device along, do not keep it on your body. Place it in a bag out of easy reach.
At home, put your laptop away on a shelf, or in a closet; keep it out of sight.
Use a watch and agenda to keep track of time and appointments.
Create new visual and practical cues around your home that you can turn to when restless (if you were born anywhere before 1990, just use whatever strategies were part of your life before the Great Rewiring). These might include:
A journal or notebook
Knitting, crochet work, sewing
Cooking & baking
List of handy tasks to be completed around the home or garden
2. ENGAGE in analog social connections, solitude, walking, physical work, other high-quality, technology-free activities:
Solitude- Cal Newport emphasizes that time alone with your thoughts and experiences helps to ‘clarify hard problems, to regulate emotions, build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships.’
Walking- Go for a walk daily. Even ten minutes is helpful, but the longer the better. Leave your phone at home.
Nurture analog relationships - As Sherry Turkle notes, ‘…face-to-face communication is the most human - and humanizing- thing we do.’
Work with your hands - create.
3. DECIDE which technology you allow back into your life
Determine which digital device use will actually serve your greater vision of life. Thus, merely being convenient or having a perk is not enough to make the cut.
Delete social media (or if you must use it, delete junk food and keep whole grains - see Stay Grounded). Others will likely say that this is too extreme and that there is a ‘middle ground’ or healthy way of integrating SM. Because of its highly addictive algorithms, any use will likely captivate, distort, and distract and compromise any ‘cognitive liberty’ gains you have made during your detox.
Move to a flip phone/home phone if possible.
4. FORM COMMUNITY with like-minded people
Maintaining digital discipline or abstinence is challenging when
surrounded by an ocean of people who think your efforts are crazy or futile. Conversely, it is helpful and strengthening when you connect with like-minded people, who are also working towards ‘cognitive liberty’.
Parents need to have active involvement in establishing phone-free friend communities for their children:
Host board game or table-top role-playing game (RPG) nights
Organize sports for fun: basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, bouldering, running, etc.
Have teens cook and host a meal for friends
Organize a hike or orienteering activity
Play music together
Gather for dog-walking afternoons
Host creative writing, calligraphy, craft evenings
Teens can meet at local cafes for book club meetings
This list could go on; you get the idea. These are not outlandish suggestions. We have hosted or organized all of the examples mentioned over the years, and they were phone-free, high-quality, engaging real-life activities. And never having owned a cell-phone, I can affirm that life without it (albeit inconvenient at times) is very possible.