In this day and age, especially as photographers and creatives, it can be hard to just disconnect. Imagine not touching your phone for 30 minutes, 3 hours, a working day, 3 days, a week…That’s hard to do, right? Now imagine doing the same without also using other devices. So when we ran into Matt Holland’s story on Twitter, who works as a graphic designer in his daily life, we just knew we had to talk to him about his #DigitalDetox, the lessons learned and the challenges faced.
For the people that don’t know you, describe yourself in 3 sentences.
Three sentences? I can do it in three words: Creative and Outdoors.
I don’t really know how to do anything else other than be creative, whether this is painting, drawing, photography, video and so on plus I love the outdoors which stems from my years of involvement in Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh award. Both of which (being creative and working in the outdoors) I get to do as a living.
What do you do in your daily life?
My daily life mainly consists of being creative and sitting at a computer for most of the day. I make the role of a graphic designer sound so exciting! It is really, I get to enjoy a huge variety of work from video, photography, animation, products, websites and shows. Everyday has a new brief to fulfil which always keeps the work fresh and exciting.
The rest of my time is spent typically writing, photographing and being outdoors, enjoying getting away at weekends for micro adventures to new locations or old and just unwinding and escaping from the digital world I live during the week.
How did you get started in photography?
This is all thanks to my dad passing down his Olympus OM cameras to me. I remember when I was younger picking up this silver box like object with funny dials and a windy tube on the end and just instantly wanted to keep it, well to play with it. At the time I didn’t know what it was but this was the start. Growing up I would regularly use the Olympus OMs out and about and on holidays, eventually moving up to medium format then on to digital with the DSLR.
Now I shoot daily as a creative designer but a lot of my work has shifted from photography to video.
Before we talk about the detox, how important do you think social media is for creative’s and photographers?
In all honesty social media is something that can be a blessing and a curse. As I mentioned before I work as a designer and 80% of my work ends up on social media for my clients. Photography and products I review all end up on social media.
Everything basically ends up here, it’s the quickest and easiest form of marketing and anyone can do it and if you’re not on the platforms you kind of get left behind.
Well that’s not strictly true, there are plenty of amazing creative’s out there that don’t use social media and are thriving and doing incredibly well which makes the prints and items you buy from them even more special I find. It’s like finding a golden nugget, a piece of treasure that no one else would possibly have or posted a picture on Instagram.
Personally, I get frustrated at times with the overload of information and content on a daily basis which kind of stems to why I do my digital detoxes and switch off.
Equally I love it, being able to instantly connect with a community around the world and share amazing views and without my platforms I probably wouldn’t be doing as well as I am today.
What inspired you to do a full-on Digital Detox?
The first digital detox came around as an accident really. During Duke of Edinburgh expeditions we would need to keep mobile phones locked away in case of emergencies, nothing else so you’d dare touch them, especially as batteries weren’t that good and the power banks hadn’t come out at this point.
We were so busy enjoying ourselves and navigating, we all forgot about our phones, computers and the rest of what was going on with school or work. It was a real sense of freedom!
Progressing from there and what I do now is just get away for the weekend but picking locations where there is plenty to do in any weather. Photography is the easiest thing to do to keep myself busy and outside by a long shot.
With our whole lives pretty much revolving around smart devices, how hard was it for you to disconnect?
Hard, it’s an addiction and with everyone getting busier and busier it will only worsen and as technology and are needs to be connected all the time continues our lives will only have more screens in them and be plugged in.
I heard the saddest thing the other day: “Because of my job, I will never be able to disconnect from social media. Social media is my life and my job and I hate that I can’t switch off from them.”
It’s true however, I struggle during the week and I would love to disconnect more but due to the nature of my work I can’t. If I want a roof over my head and food on my table I need to work and this means spending time on social media and at my computer.
However on the flipside I can easily disconnect at weekends and this is where the outdoors and photography really comes into play for me and allows me to have this disconnect and downtime from being creative and plugged in all week.
How hard was it to not look at your phone or check your e-mails within the first few hours of starting your detox?
Honestly not hard but I think this is a generation thing for sure. I’m 25 and I didn’t get my first mobile until secondary school so I was 12 and this was a terrible phone. The most exciting thing it had on it was Snake and Space invaders. You see kids now and they have the latest iPhones, watches and all singing gadgets.
I feel because I’ve grown up with phones that could literally only call someone or send a dozen messages before running out of credit, I’ve always had that benefit and lack of pressure to check all the time. My smart phone doesn’t have notifications switched on and I have next to no apps on it either.
If you were struggling to not look at your phone or emails then switching off notifications for sure helps also just switching off your Wi-Fi or data means you can’t physically look.
What kept you from looking at your phone during your detox?
The easiest thing is simply keeping it away from easy reach, leaving it inside the lid of my rucksack or going to locations where signal is limited that the phone just becomes a block that is pretty useless.
And just keeping yourself pre occupied with other activities. Going to the beach, read a book, photography, making clay models just anything that keeps your hands and mind busy that you don’t feel the need to pick up the phone.
A great one we do when we go away is “Ready Steady cook”. We pick random items to cook with before we go away then the challenge that evening is to cook something up with whatever we found.
How did it feel to stick through it and complete the detox?
The first time I didn’t really notice as much, it was nice don’t get me wrong but I notice it more now than I did previously and the relief of getting away from a computer is great. I find my stress levels and just general health improves.
Going away over a weekend and not using a phone or computer for up to 5 days sometimes and going back to an office and working 9-5 on a computer. It’s a shock and my body feels the affects, especially my head. I can get headaches, eye strain and I get grumpy almost as I have a desire to just get up and go run or do something else.
Fortunately in our office we are pretty keen and active and go for runs at lunch or classes in the gym together which is a huge unwind and micro detox in itself but previous to this I did struggle when returning.
Have you changed anything in your daily life following this process?
For sure, might sound odd and it is connected in a small way but I’ve decluttered.
I’ve reduced essentially everything I own down to what I need and what I want removing distractions and this has led to reducing the number of tech I own.
I’m generally healthier too, actively trying to get more down time from the screen I go for more walks or runs. I changed my diet up as well and eat more fruit and veg, less sugar so I feel less sluggish.
The digital detox started a bit of snow ball effect on the rest of my life and how I look at things.
Any tips for aspiring #DigitalDetoxers?
- The biggest tip I can say is small steps, little victories and build them up.
- Going from computer and phone 24/7 to cold turkey for 5 days is hard so don’t give yourself unrealistic challenges like this.
- Even if it’s not touching your phone for 5 hours whilst you do homework or when out hiking rather than relying on GPS use a map for half an hour and building this up gradually, over time you will notice a natural increase on time spent away from the screen.
- If you do touch your phone in that time, don’t beat yourself up. Start again and keep trying.
- Using an alarm clock rather than your mobile phone to wake you up.
- Leaving your phone away from the bedside table.
- For 30 minutes each morning and an hour before bed you don’t look at your phones to help sleep.
- Switching notifications off on your phone and deleting apps you don’t really need.
The list goes on so I’m going to point you to a site I first started off at and has tonnes of facts about social media, the affects and our addiction to social media – Time to Log Off.