24 Hours Unplugged: The Lessons

A follow-up to last weeks blog as posted on the Fleishman-Hillard blog:

Last week marked ‘The National Day of Unplugging’ in the US. Based on the Jewish Sabbath, the unplug challenge was a simple one: survive 24 hours, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday with ‘no connection’. No internet, no mobile. A seemingly simple task for a ‘Digital Native’ like myself, surely?

One of the consequences of being a ‘Digital Native’ is that I have lived more years with computers, mobile phones and the Internet than without. Sending a press release via fax machine? This is an office joke I can only chuckle at but never fully understand and so I took it upon myself to disconnect for a full day.

24 hours can’t be that long I reasoned with myself – surely I can survive without BBC News OnlineTwitterFacebook and Foursquare for a whole day? With some trepidation, the sun set over the Fleishman-Hillard Covent Garden offices and the ‘National Day of Unplugging’ had begun…

Panic

I awoke on Saturday – no alarm as my mobile phone was turned off – realising that I needed to transfer some money to my friend. Even with their bank details, I couldn’t log into my Internet banking to make the transfer! Instead, I resorted to digging out their address from an old diary, writing a cheque and then heading to the Post Office with some change for a stamp. Whilst the pleasure of writing a letter and finding a stamp was quaint, standing in the queue at the Post Office on a gloriously sunny Saturday morning isn’t something I want to repeat in a hurry.

By Saturday afternoon I was gearing up for the evening and it dawned on me that without Facebook, I didn’t know where to go for a friend’s birthday dinner. It’s clear that I no longer retain information like before. Perhaps if I wrote it down in a diary or on a post-it I wouldn’t have had this problem, but I realised I have become so dependent on Google Calendar and Facebook Events to run my social calendar. Worrying yes, but that’s why I love technology – it makes your life much easier. With apps like Evernote andWunderlist, it’s no wonder we’ve become so reliant and in my opinion, in a good way.

The sun set on Saturday evening and although the quiet and calm provided me the opportunity to catch up on reading magazines and newspapers, I was relieved when I could boot back up and see what I’d missed. More importantly, a switched-on laptop let me blog my thoughts on my experience.

Lessons

Technology makes life easier

By easier I mean day-to-day tasks are much more convenient. From finding out bank details to transferring money, without the Internet, this becomes a half-day task. With apps such as Pay with Square showcasing mobile payments becoming mainstream, it’s clear that banking is an area that is embracing digital to thrive and survive. Put simply, it makes consumers’ lives easier.

We are more social

Many critics argue that social networks have made us less social beings, constantly hiding behind a screen rather than engaging in conversation. Whilst I agree that overdosing can be detrimental, my experience showed me that Facebook is a great asset in staying connected with friends and making it easier to make plans. With Facebook Timeline launching for brand pages this week, we’re seeing brands trying to become more and more human, and rightly so. So much of our offline interaction is organised using technology and digital methods, so it makes sense for brands to embrace this for success. Indeed yesterday Mashable reported that the brand Timeline pages are seeing a 46% lift in page engagement.

It’s inevitable

Perhaps the best lesson I learnt was that becoming more digital is inevitable, simply because those around you are embracing it. Whilst I enjoyed the relative peace of not watching my phone alerts, what struck me about calling my friend on his land line, something that was the norm only ten years ago, was that we now have so many communication channels (e-mails, texting, WhatsApp, Skype) that we use much more regularly. It made me think; now consumers are active on so many channels, there’s now so much choice in finding the right ones to communicate to them. Certainly a challenge, but it is one that makes me excited to be working in Digital right now.

It was a great challenge and I wouldn’t have learnt these lessons without unplugging, so thank you to @SabbathManifest for a worthwhile initiative.

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