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How Digital Fasting Can Help Purge Your Soul

Unplug and unwind from social media—you might just find your true self at the end of it all
by KC Calpo | Mar 25, 2018
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Holy Week is starting this Sunday, March 25. But what everyone’s really waiting for—hoy, magpakatotoo nga kayo!—are the four non-working days it will provide. From Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday, the practicing Catholics in this country will observe religious rites and customs, and spend most of their time with their families and friends. That’s routine for most of us, but what if you’re not a practicing Catholic, you practice a different religion or none at all, or you’re a Catholic but also want to take on a meaningful sacrifice for Holy Week?

This year, we have a difficult suggestion for you: do a digital fast. Also called digital detox or unplugging, it means going offline and using your internet-connected devices for a specific part of a day, or a number of entire days. Basically, it’s a controlled return to the analog lifestyle. Or for the children of the ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s like returning to your roots.

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Come on. We all complain about being online too much and for too long. We think the upcoming four-day weekend is a good time as any to test how reliant we’ve become on social media for almost everything, from conversations and quarrels, to shopping and news gathering and even job hunts/referrals. At this point, going off the grid for a while sounds really enticing to us.

The Benefits

The negative effects of social media and device addiction are already well-covered. You could experience physical symptoms like aches in your hands/fingers and neck, to behavioral and psychological problems like narcissism and lack of empathy. Even kids who have been handling mobile devices from their developmental years onward will eventually have to deal with the consequences.

What about the benefits of temporarily going tech- and social media-less? A 2015 Fast Company article detailed an approach tested by US company Kovert Designs on 35 people. The data the company gathered showed that a digital detox can lead to better interpersonal relationships, higher productivity, improved sleep patterns, and more time to reflect on yourself and your life. Other benefits include a better “connection” to real life and better control over your emotions, and an improved grasp over your schedule.

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So. Are you ready to go offline?

The Rules

Here are a few guidelines we have in mind for your four-day digital fast:

Delete all social media and chat apps from your phone/tablet, and log out from all accounts. If you’re saying goodbye for four days, you better damn well mean it. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, and Vero. Hell, even Tinder or Bumble should be off the table! Remove as many temptations as you can think of. You can reinstall the apps after the detox, you know.

Turn off all notifications. Deactivate all of your preset sound, light, and vibration alerts for all apps. Out of sight, out of mind!

If you can’t last four whole days without any kind of social media interaction, schedule your social media use. Be strict with yourself: only once a day, either in the morning or at night, and only for a short amount of time, say, 30 minutes to an hour. No compromises!

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Announce that you’re going on a digital detox on social media. It sounds like the complete opposite of what you want to do, but it could work for you. You’ll be held accountable by your friends and “friends” if you go online and post anything, and reinforce the idea that this isn’t just a stunt for the long holiday.

Once the phone goes down, it stays down. Again, no compromises. No “quick” checks on your social media feeds, no peeking at e-mails, no nothing!

Make it routine. Why settle for just this four-day holiday? Designate one day a week to go digital-free, and do it on the regular. You’ll thank us later.


The Replacements

Instead of spending hours on social media, you can now do all the things you say you don’t have enough time to do! Consider these replacement activities:

Read and/or write more. If you’ve always complained about your growing book backlog, or not being able to finish that big writing project, now’s the best time to get back into it!

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House-wide binge. We know it's a digital detox, and that definitely includes mobile phones and laptops. But since we now get most of our movies and TV shows online, and we certainly don’t encourage illegal downloads, we’ll be more lenient with this suggestion. Use your Netflix, HOOQ, or iFlix accounts to download every movie or TV episode you want to watch for streaming, then switch to offline mode when you’re ready to binge. You can also dig up your old DVDs and queue them up for a movie-marathon day with the family!

Go outdoors! This is an excellent option, particularly if you’re staying in Manila this Holy Week. Everyone’s going to be out of town, which means no traffic! Hit up those nearby biking and hiking trails, or check out that latest “in” restaurant that’s staying open for the long holiday.

Clean up! Another thing everyone likes to whine about is how they really need to do spring cleaning at home. You now have four whole days to reorganize or rearrange your stuff, do some light renovations and repairs, and/or set aside clothes/toys/books for donation.

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Learn something new. A sport, hobby, or musical skill, perhaps? How about a new specialty dish to cook for your SO? Arts and crafts? What, you can do arts and crafts and be manly, too! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Go old-school. Tabletop games, crossword puzzle books, huge jigsaw puzzles, and mystery/escape rooms are just some of the things that come to mind.

The Justifications

We know it’s not easy, getting rid of something you heavily rely on. Even if it’s just for four days, it seems like forever to some. But you need to stay strong! Every time you feel you’re about to reach for your phone/tablet/laptop and return to the black hole that is social media, think of the following points:

1. Do you really want to see that friend or relative of yours spread fake news, troll people, and/or spam your own Facebook wall or comments section? 

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2. Do you have to post that right here, right now? Usually, the answer is no, you don’t. So relax, and enjoy the moment. The rest can wait—your FOMO can make you miss out on the actual important stuff.

3. Look around you. Count how many people are looking down at their phones and ignoring everything and everyone else. Do you want to be like them again?

4. Doesn’t Facebook have enough of my personal data already? (Cambridge Analytica what? Read these primers from The Washington Post and Vox Media.)

Good luck (and see you in the real world)!


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