by Tom Henihan
Only a few years ago, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, trailer parks and campsites, highlighted the availability of WiFi for guest and patrons.
Being connected to the internet was an essential selling point without which an enterprise seemed archaic and literally and methaphorically out of touch.
Now that such service is an accepted fact like running water, the pendulum has swung the other way and many of these establishments are selling the fact that they are WiFi free.
This reversal is in response to the recent effort by many people to move away from hyper-connectivity, from the incessant “conversations,” and the overwhelming barrage of information.
It is also a move against the broad assumption that everyone is available all the time and the blurred lines between a time to work and time off.
The term used for this growing trend is “digital detox,” and predictably, there is also a growing market to cater to those who feel their time online has overwhelmed other aspects of their lives, most importantly relationships, such as family and real flesh and blood friendships.
Typically, the solution offered is to replace one extreme with another. In the UK, Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, about an hour southwest of London, now offers a Digital Detox Spa Retreat, which accommodates guests with a reprieve from the digital world.
The amenities available at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire’s retreat include a 66-foot swimming pool, outdoor vitality pool, gym, sauna, steam room and fitness classes. It also includes Sodashi therapy, involving a foot cleanse, full body exfoliation and deep massage using warm crystals. Yoga classes are also available.
This detox spa boasts of bringing its guests one step closer to “reconnecting with the essence of life, without a screen for company.”
It may be offline but it is still a long way from the real world, a long way from family and friends.
The indulgences listed above do not sound like the essence of life for me or anyone I know.
While this is a very extreme example, it does illustrate the tendency that if we need to reign in our behaviour we should pick up the phone and book ourselves in somewhere to be coddled out of our bad habits.
This is why the term “digital detox” is objectionable; it turns a manageable bad habit into a clinical condition that calls for outside intervention.
It is a positive development that more people are recognizing that too much time spent in a digital world can be to the detriment of their involvement in the world around them.
However, it defeats the issue if they then remove themselves from the regular world and go to “digital detox” or a retreat as in essence they are still in an unreal, artificial environment.
Because there is a marketing opportunity in every trend, any suggestion of using willpower to overcome online habits is poor strategy. Self-control is never recommended in dealing with the futility and tunnel vision of constantly staring at a screen.
Not long ago, however, rather than self-pampering, austerity and self-discipline was the recommended route to equilibrium and enlightenment.