Offline November 2023

By Mark Nuyens
6 min. read😊 Personal

This year was the 2nd edition of Offline November, and this time a dedicated website was launched for the occassion. I hope the event will gain even more traction next year!

Over the past month, I did something unusual. And it has become somewhat of a tradition for me: a digital detox, or more specifically, not use my smartphone throughout November. What started as a personal experiment turned into a more public initiative this year, as I decided to create a dedicated website for the event. My motivation was simple yet profound — to encourage people to reconsider their relationship with smartphones and embrace the potential health benefits.

Building the website quikcly became a sprint as December was quickly approaching, a departure from my usual meticulous pace in client-oriented projects. This actually provided a refreshing break, allowing me the freedom to create without any external constraints. The end result, though created in haste, exceeded my own expectations, to be honest. Perhaps next year, I will create an improved version, complete with a fresh logo. For now, the current version will suffice though.

The rewards of this challenge were just as compelling as the previous year. Reduced anxiety, heightened focus, and improved sleep quality were immediate gains. The constant barrage of notifications, a ubiquitous feature of smartphone usage, was no longer taking my attention hostage. I was also liberated from the compulsion to check emails, messages, or the latest news. I found solace in focusing solely on the present. Nature became more enchanting, city strolls more leisurely, and mornings were dedicated to a natural routine rather than immediate digital engagement.

Yet, as you may expect, challenges soon emerged. Navigating without the convenience of real-time public transport information was a recurring test. Routine tasks like checking bank balances became cumbersome with the absence of smartphone apps. Even the simple pleasure of music was altered, as the FM tuner on my 'dumb phone' presented its own set of inconveniences. Yet, these inconveniences surprisingly unveiled new joys, such as indulging in a good book or relishing the scenery during travel.

A fascinating revelation was the psychological response to the mere thought of reaching for my smartphone. The expected dopamine rush, similar to anticipating engagement with various apps, revealed the extent of the mental conditioning. Even with my phone off, occasional temptations from LinkedIn's notifications hinted at the infamous powers of digital allure and the fear of missing out.

As November concludes, the commitment to using my 'dumb phone' persists. The lessons learned extend beyond the month, prompting a reevaluation of my smartphone usage, once again. Though the holiday season may necessitate more frequent communication, my commitment to minimizing smartphone will probably continue, ensuring its positive impact on my well-being.

In reflection, my 'dumb phone' reveals itself as anything but dumb. Perhaps it embodies a wisdom overlooked in the fast-paced digital age. As the year comes to a close, I invite all of you to join me in the next edition of Offline November in 2024, a collective pause to rediscover the simple joys often obscured by our screens. Until then, I already wish you happy holidays and a productive and healthy new year.