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Melanie Morris: After my digital detox, I'm spending Christmas with some real people this year


Photo: PA

Photo: PA

Photo: PA

I love my smart phone. And my laptop. But right now I feel chained to the things.

If I'm not on one, I'm glancing at the other. Because, like so many people, I'm currently like a hamster trotting on a wheel that spins from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to bank app to eBay and back.

My face seems to be on a permanent tilt, never more than 45 degrees to the floor.

This past weekend I've spent way too much time answering emails that aren't even urgent, checking out X Factor comments on Twitter (er, why?), uploading pictures of my dog in an elf suit and messaging suggested gift ideas to my husband on Viber as I trawl the town Christmas shopping.

I feel compelled to keep my social media channels up to date - all of them - and not to put the same stuff on each one (apparently, that's annoying and makes for bad SM etiquette).

I don't know why I feel a responsibility for filling the cloud with as much utter crap I can think of, but like most other children of the (digital) revolution I've invested time and emotion in this palaver since the early days of Bebo, so I can't stop now.

As I trawl channels for internet shopping discount codes and document my college Christmas dinner, I stop for a millisecond to wonder what or even who am I actually doing this for?

And as the festive/social season reaches a peak, something has got to give before I hurl my phone off the end of Dun Laoghaire pier.

I need to get back to real life and away from the virtual world.

I know this to be so because I recently underwent an (unintentional) digital detox. My husband Trevor and I went on a fantastic week-long cruise holiday, but what we didn't realise ahead of setting off was that wifi cost $1 (plus 17.5pc service charge) per minute, and a phone signal on the high seas was usually pretty non-existent.

So we put the phones away. Threw them into our bedside lockers and got on with having a real holiday. And what happened next was quite a revelation.

First, we discovered there were so many more hours in a day. Sitting over a cup of coffee, we could take in what (and who) was around us.

The coffee tasted more deliciously intense without the distraction of the usually omnipresent phone and, yes, we talked. Or sat in companionable silence.

Or, as was the case most of the time, laughed longer and more frequently and more deeply than ever before. In fact, we laughed so much I was in danger of disgracing myself a few times.

We didn't go completely cold turkey. When we got to each port we'd find a cafe, hotel or restaurant with wifi and log on to check Ireland was still standing and our friends and family hadn't forgotten us. Occasionally I'd download an audio book, but other than that we were happy with our limited exposure to the www.

As the week went on, we became less aware of and less in need of our phones. We got used to going without. Dinners became longer, more languid affairs and we started speaking to people around us. Yes, real people, in real life.

By the time we returned to Ireland, we were fully refreshed, more so than on other holidays. The week was the length it should've been and we'd packed a whole lot more in.


So, as lords start leaping around me, geese start laying and maids start milking, do I really need to know their status updates or do I need to see their filtered photography?

Possibly not, but I know in reality I won't switch off until the last present is bought and the last dancer is left standing on Strictly. Then I might just tune out.

The thought of powering down the phone just around the time Santa heads off from the North Pole really could bring peace - if not on Earth, at least to my little corner of it.

And it might put a stop to one of the things that annoys me most in the world - bets being settled through mid-meal Googling.

But more than that, it would just give us a chance to live Christmas 2014. For real, instead of through a series of Vine videos and Facebook check-ins.

Peace on Earth indeed.