Reflections on Digital Detox

“Online” is my life. It’s not strange for me to spend easily 8 hours of my day on my computer, then go to work and teach other people (on computers). There are some days I spend 12 hours online–in social media, or on my computer–writing, updating, emailing.

It’s all good. I love my work, so no complaints. But this spring has been especially intense and very, very busy.

So to say that it was a relief to get off of my computer for a week or two is a big understatement. The last 10 days, I have been at at remote cabin on a lake on the Sunshine Coast. There’s no electricity. There’s no wifi. And my phone, at the very most, had 2 bars of service at any given time.

One of the great things about my job is that I can work anywhere there is a wifi connection, as long as I have my computer. I love that. But sometimes I just don’t want to work, y’know?

Who needs to stare at a phone when you have this awesomeness in front of you?
Who needs to stare at a phone when you have this awesomeness in front of you?

So, yes, I took my computer with me to the Sunshine Coast. I could hotspot wifi when needed, and one day I went into town and worked at a Starbucks for a couple of hours and got a bunch of stuff done. But during the time I was there, I only turned my computer on about 5 times–and a couple of those were to download e-books so I’d have something to read.

I kept my phone on “airplane mode” most of the time, as constant push updates drain the battery, and I wanted to have to tap into the solar- and gas-generated electricity as little as possible. I’d check in to FB, Twitter and Instagram a couple times a day, and text my son, who was staying at his Gramma’s on the Island.

My days were basically filled with three things: reading, eating (and associated chores), and swimming. That was it. There was no schedule. No rules. Just get up when you feel like it, drink coffee, nap, eat, swim, read, go to bed when you feel like it.

It wasn’t a 100% digital detox, but it was as close as I get.

It was a very interesting experience. I have alarm bells in my head that go off every 15 or 30 minutes if I haven’t checked my email or my Twitter or my Facebook. Like many of you, I have my face in my phone all the time. If I’m waiting in line, I’m checking Instagram.

So, it was weird, at first, to fight that urge to look at my phone all the time. But then I started to get used to it, and then something strange happened. Facebook started to feel trivial. Yeah, there was stuff about Josh Duggar and Ashley Madison, and Donald Trump. But it all started to feel immaterial.

A second odd thing that happened was that I stopped talking about my life on social media. I must shamefully confess that yes, I post stuff on there to make my friends jealous. I’m a food blogger, I love to travel, and I love to share my experiences with my friends online. They post stuff, I feel envy, and vice versa. And, even though I was in a beautiful place, cooking beautiful meals and having great experiences, I didn’t feel compelled to share them on Facebook. I wanted to keep them for myself. Or maybe, I wanted to really experience them, rather than experiencing them through the lens of my camera. I did a lot of just sitting and looking, rather than sitting, looking, taking photos and sharing them on Facebook.

It was great. So relaxing. And chill. Really, exactly what I needed.

I’m back now, and it feels weird. As weird as it was to be off of social media, now that I’m back where I could be all the time, I’m not really that interested. Last night, I went to pick up sushi (the one thing I really really missed while at a place where there were no restaurants), and, instead of checking out Instagram or Twitter while I waited, I sat outside and people-watched. It was kind of nice.

I don’t consider myself to be a slave to my iPhone. I always have tried to use it mindfully. But it’s easy to get reeled in.

If you feel like you’re a slave to your phone, here are some tips for a modified digital detox:

  • Set a timer. Get on to FB and Twitter for 15 minutes, then get off when the timer dings.
  • Turn off all push notifications, or at least turn off any beeps. On my phone, I have badges only for notifications. I like to be able to determine when I want to check, not when my phone commands me. I only have sound notifications for phone calls and text messages (which could be related to work or my son).
  • Turn your phone on silent at night, or put it on airplane mode. Read before bed–not on your phone!

Here are some tips for a digital detox by friend Vicki, who does one yearly. She does the real deal, not a modified one like mine!

Have you done a digital detox? Let me know in the comments below!



Summing Up Sage Summit

I’ve been home from New Orleans  days, now, and I’m starting to process through everything that I saw, heard, and learned during the week I was there.

I was in New Orleans for 6 days to attend Sage Summit, the biggest small business conference in the world. I was invited to attend and blog/tweet/Facebook/Instagram about my experience there (you can read all the tweets on #SageSummit). I was, of course, super stoked to go. I love food, culture and history, and New Orleans is all that and bag of crawfish. I was also really excited by some of the guests that were going to be at the Summit, and the prospect of connecting with other social media-loving small business owners.

Hangin' with the cool kids at #SageSummit (aka the Sage Social Team). Photo by @sandyabrams
Hangin’ with the cool kids at #SageSummit (aka the Sage Social Team). Photo by @sandyabrams

First, I have to say how impressed I was at how smoothly the conference was run. I have attended some big conferences, but never one this big. There were over 7,000 people there, and the venue was the Ernst N. Memorial Convention Centre. Our hotel was a short 10-minute walk away, but Sage also supplied shuttles which were continuously going back and forth.

The convention centre was divided into three sections: first, there was a dining hall, where we had breakfast and lunch. There were lots of local favourites served up here, to give us a sense of the local NOLA cuisine, so we got to try jumbalaya, biscuits, bread pudding, and other favourites, without even having to leave the conference centre.

Beside the dining hall was the  keynote theatre. This is where we started each morning with the keynote. Now, I should just say, that my experience of a keynote is just one person, but these keynotes were above and beyond–with as many as 6 people involved in the panel discussion on the second morning. And these were really well-known names.

First up, there was a bit of a bromance between General Colin Powell and Deepak Chopra. Their mutual admiration and respect for each other was really sweet, and, even though it seems like they come from opposite ends of the spectrum, they both had similar points of view: success, they agreed, comes from two things: Love and Service.

The second day’s keynote included Chad Hurley, the founder of  that video-sharing site you may have heard of… YouTube?

And a second session called “Down but Not Out,” featuring three ladies that had faced adversity and prospered in the face of it. They included Baroness Karren Brady, Jane Seymour, and Brandi T. Temple, and the theme of persevering and “failing in an upward direction” continued.

Not to be outdone, the third day’s keynote included similar-themed messages, like this one from Dolly Singh, who has invented the world’s first comfortable stilletto (can’t wait for them to hit stores!):

The final keynote included Tony Hawk, Matthew Weiner, and Trevor Noah. This panel focussed a lot on social media, and it was really informative.

Each day, as we entered the keynote theatre, we’d be greeted by a host of excited staff, whooping and hollering and pumping us up for our day. Now I know what it feels like to be a rock star!

The rest of the day was spent hanging out in the third section of the conference centre, where there were vendors and booths, the social media centre (where we’d see our tweets projected on the big screens, if we were lucky!), and about a dozen different areas for individual seminars.

One of my tweets was famous! Photo by @miss604
One of my tweets was famous! Photo by @miss604

You guys, if you’re not getting the picture: this thing was big. Huge. It was also incredibly smooth and well-run, with attention to small details. One day, one of the conference staff was handing out band-aids to gals who had blisters from their shoes and walking too much. The final night, they handed out personal, battery-operated fans to cool us down in the concert venue. Oh–and the final night? A private concert just for us by Walk the Moon.

All-in-all, a pretty amazing experience. I feel like I’ll still be processing what I learned for a while to come. And I’m really hoping to be able to get to next year’s Sage Summit–it’s in Chicago!

Stay tuned to this space–I will be writing posts about specific workshops I attended, and what I learned from them, and I’ll also be doing a BIG Sage contest and giveaway!



Social Media is the New Lynch Mob

I was away, immersed in ConferenceLand all last week, so, while I spent a lot of time pushing information out (via Twitter, mostly), I didn’t spend a lot of time absorbing what was happening on Social Media.

And a lot happened. Specifically, a man killed a lion in Africa. Walter Palmer, a US Dentist, shot and killed a lion named “Cecil” last week. Social media exploded. Blew up. People called for him to be extradited back to Africa and tried, people called for him to have his legs cut off and thrown to the lions. His dental practice is besieged with protesters, and unable to open.

Now, let me be really, REALLY clear. I am not a hunter. I have trouble killing a spider. Lions are beautiful, majestic animals, and this guy killed one by bribing a bunch of people. I’m not down with that. But this blog post is not about whether or not what Palmer did was right or wrong. It’s about looking at what social media has become: a mob of people with flaming torches.


I love social media. I love it because it gives us, the little guys, power. If I had a problem with a business in the past, I had little recourse. I could maybe try to call a customer service line, or send a letter. But now, with Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Trip Advisor, my voice is suddenly very, very loud. And that’s a heady feeling.

I love social media because it has been a great democratizer. But it sometimes goes too far. There are no real consequences to you talking smack about stuff on your Facebook page. But when a million people jump on that bandwagon and start to talk smack… that snowball effect can have some pretty powerful consequences.

In my classes, I often use the example (of what not to do) of Justine Sacco. This gal was in PR and should probably have known better, but to her credit, she had a twitter feed that she was trying to fill with irony (hint: irony doesn’t translate well on Twitter). She was flying to Africa, and tweeted, “going to Africa, hope I don’t get AIDS, just kidding, I’m white.”  By the time her plane landed, her life was over. Her tweet was trending #1 worldwide, and she had been fired. The year that followed was a very difficult one for her. By the way, Sacco had less than 200 twitter followers at the time.

The question I’m asking here, is not, “did they do something stupid?” but “does the punishment fit the crime?” We have no idea how our small actions add up to immense consequences for those that the social shaming is aimed at.

Author Jon Ronson has written a very interesting book on the topic: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, where he cites dozens of examples of this social media lynch mob mentality.

Here’s what frightens me the most: what if this lynch mob mentality kicked into gear when you really hadn’t done anything wrong? What happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” We are playing with people’s lives, here.

I’ll leave the last word to my friend Sean, who is a lot smarter about this stuff than I am:

To me, it is just the latest example of the erosion of the rule of law and a shift towards a lynch-mob form of justice through the use of social media. Without any presumption of innocence until proven guilty, without a fair trial, without a full review of the evidence or knowledge of all the facts, without any opportunity to defend one’s self, the court of public opinion has taken it upon itself, once again, to pronounce judgment and impose a sentence.

Not only do I find it reprehensible that more and more people are deemed guilty in a manner that is contrary to the principles of justice or fairness, the punishments imposed by knee-jerk popular opinion are often disproportionate to the crime (if there even was a crime).

It also bothers me if it is a matter of morality rather than law. Just because the majority might deem something to be right or wrong does not make it right or wrong. I also question the morality of responding to an act that may be perceived to be immoral through the use of vengeance, extreme ostracism, or some other draconian or disproportionate form of punishment.

But I will leave the very last, last word to Mr. Berkeley Breathed, who has delighted the world (including me) this past month by starting to write Bloom County strips again.


Stay safe out there, friends. Be kind. Use your social media powers for good.