“You’re addicted, Alyson” my new friend said as she saw me check my iPad yet again while we were relaxing beside the pool on our health retreat break in Portugal last year. She’d also seen me drafting up a client blog on my laptop earlier in the day.

Those words made me think. It is true, I spend a lot of time on various digital devices from phone and tablet to laptop. If I’m not checking my mail I am checking social media accounts for my clients, or one of my own.

Good manners prevent me checking these items in meetings, during meals or when out socialising with friends, and I’m quite comfortable with that. But while beside the pool on holiday? No problem.

When you run an internet business it is hard to draw the line between work time and social time. And it doesn’t just stop when you go on holiday. Especially with social media, as not only do I post on various social media platforms for my business, I also keep in touch with friends this way.

internet addiction e cardWhat is internet addiction, does it really exist? 

Known as Problematic Internet Use (PIU), now recognised by academics and health professionals globally, the University of California* details the following symptoms:

  • losing track of time when online
  • irritability when interrupted
  • isolation from family and peers
  • sleep disturbances
  • panic when offline
  • feeling ‘phantom vibrations’ through their desperation to receive messages on their mobile phones.

It is documented that the average Briton now spends more time online each day than sleeping.

Brain scans show that those experiencing PIU show greater activation of certain parts of the brain, in the same way as those addicted to cocaine. The difference to drug addiction being that in PIU the brain regions that inhibit this behaviour continue to work as normal.

Researchers** have found that

“people who feel more anxious and socially insecure appreciate the easy ways to communicate via social media than face-to face. On the other hand, individuals who were more organized and ambitious were at a decreased risk for technology-related addiction as they resort to using the site as an integral part of work and networking.”

I truly didn’t believe I was addicted, but I knew I spent a lot of time online. But then, maybe denial was a symptom?

The true test would be when my next scuba diving holiday came around. You see I’d booked 2 weeks on a liveaboard diveboat. Two weeks without wifi. No contact with family, friends or business accounts.

So how did I get on with my digital detox?

Well, I’ve just come back from an amazing trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands, feeling more relaxed than I have in years. It was the first proper break from my business in 3 and a half years of being self employed, and was a true holiday, not just a working holiday like the trip to Portugual.

I had taken steps to ensure that my work was covered by someone I totally trusted with my client accounts. Sam has completed the same training as me and we get on well. I knew that I didn’t need to worry about how things were going while I was away.

Lionfish copyright Alyson Reay 2015The day I spent alone on the beach before I boarded the diveboat  I found myself checking personal social media accounts, posting pictures and chatting with my friends back home. Same as normal. But the business ones I left to Sam.

And then I stepped onto the boat and handed over my one pair of shoes to the crew to be locked away. My phone and tablet went away in a drawer in my cabin. No anxiety.

I spent 2 glorious weeks in the warm water doing what I love most. I managed 45 scuba dives in 12 days, had fun with my fellow scubies and enjoyed the tranquility of being on a boat, truly getting away from it all.

I didn’t put my shoes back on until we returned to harbour, and I didn’t restart my phone for 14 days. I was relaxed, happy and barely gave my home or work life a thought. No anxiety and no feelings of separation from ‘normality’.

Hawksbill Turtle copyright Alyson Reay 2015If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to experience those things. The only thing I was expecting, and didn’t happen, was experiencing Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO, as it is known!

But I’ve always had that, maybe that’s the lot of a middle child… I love to know what is going on, and what has gone on in my absence!

But this time, I just switched the devices on and went back to my usual daily habits. I didn’t look back. I have no idea what happened in the news and on social media in the 2 weeks I was on my ‘digital detox’, I just picked up from the day my holiday ended. No FOMO for me!

And even better, when I came back to the UK I found that everything had gone smoothly and Sam was a hit with my clients. Thank you Sam, this is an exercise that will be repeated, and one which enabled me to come back fresh and full of energy for my business.

If you are interested in seeing more of my scuba pictures, I have posted an album on Facebook… obviously!



* The Daily Telegraph  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11348625/5-treatments-for-chronic-internet-addiction.html

** Medical Daily  http://www.medicaldaily.com/facebook-addiction-activates-same-brain-areas-drugs-how-social-media-sites-hook-you-320252