Photo: Save the Earth coop

I was half-way up a hill in the wooded, wilds of North Devon on Sunday when my phone leapt into life, bombarding my pocket with a string of family Whatsapp messages from my three adult offspring. It was all kicking off in London, says Elaine Kingett.

‘Anyone heard from Mum?’

‘Nope.’

‘Did she get there? Did anyone pick her up from the station?’

‘She’s not been on Instagram. Or Facebook. Not like her not to be in touch or online.’

‘Was the party last night?’

‘Think it’s whole weekend thing.’

Slapped head and glass of red emoji…

‘Don’t joke, Will.’

‘Not like her’.

‘Anyone got a contact for [insert cousin’s name].’

‘Nope.’

‘You tried calling?’

‘Went to answerphone.’

Shrug emoji.

I’d left London on Friday on the 14.20 train and decided, without mobile reception in the almost-stately home where I was staying and Wi-Fi only in a chilly passage way, to go off-grid until Monday morning. Do what I was meant to do, what my kids always suggested. Put my phone down, stay off social media and enjoy the world around me. Talk to people, play games, socialise – live in the now. The first 24-hours had been weird. No Googling the name of the book I’d forgotten, no checking the weather in Seville or the latest political shenanigans in Washington. No late-night Facebook stalking of the ex. Cocooned indoors at Howard’s End with a large group of friends and family, also without phones in their hands or on the table in front of them, it was a much more intimate experience. The television didn’t work, there was no radio – and no Spotify to call up on my phone. No sirens screamed outside, no buses or trains rattled past at regular intervals.

I was free to slow down, relax, rely on my memory and engage with people face-to-face. I was amazed how long my phone battery lasted and how quickly I managed to emotionally extricate myself from it’s needy screen. I spent time awake doing absolutely nothing. Yes, I should have checked in with my kids when I arrived but as a friend remarked, ‘Well, your body’s never going to lay rotting undiscovered in your apartment for months, is it?’ With the obvious proviso of reassuring your nearest and dearest, I thoroughly recommend a few days out of touch to feel needed!

Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down.

Garb to go off-grid in (or what we’re wearing in London right now):

9 thoughts on “Digital Detox: going off-grid for the weekend

  1. If you’d stayed down here a few more days Elaine you could have had the full end of civilisation as we know it detox experience!

  2. Sounds rather nice – I’m a bit envious of you and Maureen.
    I like ‘shrug emoji’ too. I might start saying that to people….

  3. It does sound nice doesn’t it to go off grid for just a short while and re-connect with yourself. I also absolutely LOVE that camper van in the photo. Where do I get that from??!

  4. I have made the conscious decision to stay off facebook as i have a tendency to addictive behavours. Made me an excellent student but need to avoid gambling and alcohol like the plague. Luckily I dont have FOMO but am finding more internet access is only via facebook. Now i call that a true first world problem.

  5. I’m glad I grew up in the time before t’iternet, when the only way to keep in touch was a phone box or letter. I love my phone and the connectivity it gives me, but I have never picked up the habit of ‘text me when yo leave/arrive’. It just creates so much unnecessary pressure. And it’s an insidious form of control. I don’t want my every movement ‘tagged’ and I don’t need to know what my 21 year old son is doing either. I go by the principle that if something goes wrong, the right people will get to hear about it. Meanwhile, just crack on!

  6. Amusing comments about sending texts to grown children when arriving and departing. I do this when I board a plane especially for the long haul (I’m nervous about flying but it’s a means to an end of going on an adventure)
    I noticed sons respond immediately and have adopted this habit when they travel. Something maybe about the risky business of flying to the other side of the world.
    This is not the case normally nor would I want it to be. They ring me when they want to talk. Phone conversations still go on and are frank and informative. The older rings mostly on walk home from work. Multitasking or a distraction from the walk. Who knows.
    As someone deliberately choosing not to join more media platforms I realise I’ve spent large parts of the day reading and replying and sending emails about arrangements. But I’m good at switching phone off. Not looking at it etc. As for night time use as am alarm clock etc no thank you. I have a real clock. Phone is off and in handbag. No beeps or electronic glow. And no Fitbit worn night and day to monitor sleep and its quality. Too much information.

  7. Not on this topic at all. But of interest and related to post about Street style at Fashion Weeks a few posts ago by Alyson and featuring her among the models celebs influencers etc. Several comments were about the lack of stylish older women with a sharp sense of their own style.
    I just read a feature in Sunday Times Style magazine, Sunday 04.03. Entitled Rise of the Grown up Street Style Star by Pandora Sykes herself around 30. With the exception of Lyn Slater, one of Alyson ‘s acquaintances who features in her book and previous posts, at the ripe old age of 64, the majority are mid 40s if that. Only slightly older person is Linda Fargo from Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. I’ve seen her in documentary about dressing the Christmas Windows there. Super slender sleek with white bobbed hair bright red lipstick and infinite choice of designer outfits. Age given as 50s. Doesn’t really advance the cause of seeing real women looking good in real clothing that Alyson is attempting to promote. As ever Keep up the Good Work.

    1. Very good point and agree wholeheartedly. It is up to ‘real’ women like us to blaze the trail and get out there in all our various manifestations. We WILL be noticed.

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