The Digital Detox: how one day can change your perspective

Many of us will have witnessed attempts to detox from 21st century addictions; be it Carol’s latest fad diet, Alan’s month-long sobriety or Sharon cutting back to twenty a day. But it wasn’t until I spent hours scrolling through Facebook and losing the war against eleven separate Messenger chats that I sat back and thought, “oh my God. I’m addicted to social media.”

How many hours of my life have I lost to flicking through ‘epic fail’ videos and the latest attempts at trending memes? How much of that time could have been used to eradicate my current lack of book knowledge that could really help with my University degree? Why has the quest for likeability underhandedly overtaken every other aspiration of my life?

Meanwhile, my to-do list has grown out of proportion. My room is a mess; clothes overflowing the washing basket, endless coffee mugs breeding on my desk, important paperwork fanned across the floor. All visually representing my busy brain, while my body sits deactivated, staring at a screen.

Social media has become a highly influential factor of any and every business aspiring to get anywhere. This is because us millennials are symbiotically attached to it, and thus it is the perfect way to reach a large, previously somewhat unobtainable consumer market; the market of the future. The consumer has been consumed. But in order to get into a decent job, you more often than not must know the ins and outs of social media, to jump on the latest ephemeral trends. And thus the vicious, unbreakable cycle continues.

So, like any true addict giving justifiable reasons behind not completely giving up, I decided to try one day social media-free. No Facebook. No Instagram. No Snapchat.

It was liberating.

I got so much done, and I imagine more psychologically than anything, I felt so much more intellectual. There was no mindless scrolling; my mind was active all day. There was no requirement to talk to anybody; just myself and pure, uninterrupted thought. My only conversation was with the barista at Caffé Nero as I ordered my cake and latte. Then I sat, read, and gazed out the window at the Nottingham skyline, a sense of peace in the knowledge I was doing something useful. 

I did my washing, tidied my room, took control of my washing up, caught up on reading for my lecture on Friday, ran errands in town, did copious amounts of research for an extensive piece I am writing both for and beyond coursework, began reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (which coincidentally ties rather well with the themes of this article) and still had time to game and write! What have I been doing for the past 160 days since I began my Masters? How about in the past ten years since I joined Facebook? I dread to think.

(There’s an online tool that shows me how much of my life I have lost to League of Legends, which depressingly informs me I could have read 152 books in that time instead. That plus Facebook… my brain should have been a library by now!)

And yet, despite its positives, it was so damn difficult. My itchy trigger finger occasionally pressed the button on my phone before I could even realise what I’d done. I quickly swiped away any notifications before I could look too closely at them. I think, more than anything, the habit of checking my phone is like a tick; if I had something to fidget with (downright refusing to get a spinner) I would be fine. But my brain kept wandering back. I wonder who’s messaged me. What if it’s important? Go on. Check.

There were also many things I would normally post about that happened during my day; like when I bought a copy of The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski from WHSmith, they gave me a free copy of The Sun, as if they finally realised it wasn’t worth selling. Which amused me greatly and I assumed others on my Facebook would appreciate. Similarly, my order at Nero looked so pretty that I took a photo, and instantly wanted to upload it to Instagram. I believe I have a common case of social media tourettes.

Have it here anyway as an aesthetically pleasing break from reading. I imagine your attention span is probably as twitchy as mine –



Ooft, that cake…

Anyway, I believe Aldous Huxley was on to something; the trick is conditioning. Condition yourself to remain conscious of your actions. Sometimes having to sign in rather than being automatically logged in can make you consider this. Before you press the Log In button, just think, “do I have to? Could I do something else?” Or it could be that every time you scroll, you think of a trigger phrase like, “Job Seekers” which will scare you back into being productive.

There was a fantastic TED Talk we were made to watch during a Time Management course at my old job. I highly recommend watching it. And when I occasionally resurface from 21st century autopilot mode, I remember, particularly the end of this video, and it motivates me to get my ass in gear. I hope it can do the same for you:

So at the end of this day-long experiment, I have decided to take a break from social media for one day each week, not only for increased productivity, but also for the sake of my mental health. I cannot recommend it enough, and now fully believe everyone like me with social media Stockholm syndrome should find a way to escape once in a while. Go on, try it! Finish reading this and turn your phone off. Do that thing you’ve been putting off. Don’t just look out the window, use the door! There’s a whole world out there.


The Reaper

Gary had always loved the sound of their screams. At 6am every morning, he cut off another pretty little head and left it purposely to rot beside those still living, imprisoned in their earthen pits. A warning of their imminent future.

In these uncertain times, he was lucky enough to have a job he truly enjoyed, even if the salary was poor. Lord Mycroft had entrusted him to keep the estate immaculate, and thus given him free reign of the grounds. He must have known about Gary’s hobbies, having regularly witnessed him massacre thousands at a time, rotating blades with glee as their bodies spattered and fell about him. And yet, he still kept him in his employment. In fact, he encouraged it. Asked him to bury innocents; hundreds of them in neat rows, just to pillage their limbs several weeks later. Gary was all too happy to oblige.

He would often linger in the toolshed after hours, caressing the equipment of his sadistic pleasure. The shovel was a personal favourite. At a touch of the worn metal, he imagined pushing it deep into the flesh of the earth, feeling the agony of the ground beneath, begging him to stop. Of course, that only drove him to continue, until a gaping wound had been made. In this he would bury a fresh victim for his games. It was an obsession. There were millions just waiting to feel pain at his hands, and nobody was going to stop him.

Oh yes. Gary fucking loved being a gardener.

The Grinning Guise

Amanda watched her mother die and smiled. The blood pooled wide around her head, creeping towards Amanda’s kneeling body, and she smiled even wider. Tears fell freely down her aching cheeks, but her maniacal expression was unwavering.

“Amanda?” It was Toby. She turned and grinned, eyes shining.

“She’s dead, Toby.”

“No!” he cried, the familiar corpse swimming into view. For a split second his face expressed something else. His sister’s eyes flashed a warning, and then he too was smiling. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, both siblings lost in grief and looking positively joyous.

“What happened?” The words caught in Toby’s throat.

As if on cue, an army of seven men with latex gloved hands and pristine white uniforms entered the room. They formed a perfect, ghostly ring around the scene. One bent down and retrieved his ornate dagger from the still-warm chest, careful to keep his clothes clean and maintaining eye contact with Amanda throughout. The rest observed the new orphans, ensuring their own high smiles were reflected in their stricken faces. There was only one major difference; the smiles of the men were sincere.

The writing prompt:

Make our Federation great by smiling every day. After all, what Federation is greater than a happy Federation?


Delta scanned the shelves of Walmart, looking through various attachments and enhancements for what she needed. There were mechanical arms and living wigs and the odd Brita water filter. After a few minutes of panic she finally reached the section she was looking for; genetic modification.

There was only one T3NT4 mod left. Delta snatched it up and hugged it close to her chest. She walked quickly to the back of the queue and stood, feet twitching. The girl in front of her turned and looked enviously with her cat eyes. The man behind her growled with his canine vocal chords.

Come on,” thought Delta. “Hurry!

“Next please,” the cashier drawled. With her first and second arms she took the T3NT4, and with her third and fourth arms worked the till.

“That everything?”


“You want to add insurance for 30 extra credits?”

“No, thank you.”

“Would you be interested in our special offer today? Segway Legs, only-”


“That’ll be 200 credits then please, love.”

Delta tapped her wrist on the machine and her hard-earned money passed over.

“Thanks, have a good day,” said the cashier lifelessly.

Delta picked up her precious cargo and left the store. But she couldn’t wait until she got home. Ducking into a doorway, she ripped open the packaging and let out a small, “oh.” It was beautiful. Twelve whole inches of smooth, purple perfection. Her fingertips ran across each section of puckered flesh, and she shivered excitedly. Unattaching her current arm, she primed her new limb and connected it to the stump.

As it came to life, it began to flick and sway at the end. Delta was mesmerised by its movements. Her movements. So when the mugger tried to reach for her tentacle, he took her by surprise. In a new reflex action, she let out a spray of ink, accidentally blinding her assailant. She slapped him hard across the face, which sent him sprawling into nearby bins. As she advanced, Delta realised something that both terrified and exhilarated her; the tentacle wanted blood.

The soft flesh slid around his neck, sucking at his skin as it pulled tighter. Ink ran from his eyes and he let out a pitiful cry. His pain urged her on. Delta squeezed harder until he went limp across the pile of bin bags. She released him and observed the red circles branded around his neck, like a pretty necklace of bruises. The end of her new limb flicked happily. The tentacle was satisfied.


Bundled into an oversized coat,
thick-fingered gloves and a matching hat.
We tiptoed up slippery pavements,
lights dancing across wet tarmac;
feverish prickle of electric
on the way to the frosty fair.

I was first in line for the giant slide,
a crest above the tide. The ocean
slopped more darkness on the shore,
and the booming beat of the bass rocked the floor.
On a coarse coir rug I plummeted.

Together we jumped in the bumper cars
with their bright designs, metal hooks
flashing blue bolts as we bashed into each other
with the cold of winter nights in our laughter,
and after I’d beg for a cloud of candy floss,
warm like burnt sugar. Or hot popcorn,
a sweetly salted caramel on the tongue.
But all too soon it would be time;
You’re supposed to be in bed by nine.

I’d count the nights ’til we returned,
but when we did, a barricade of breeze blocks
and steel fences barred our way.
Inaccessible, unrecognisable in its array of
monochrome machines and wretched dreams.
They’d drained the colour. Killed the lights.
There’s no delight in rusting girders, splintered
shells of shacks, fluttering tarpaulin. Sawdust and salt
grit the corners of my mouth, turned down in despair.
It’s just not fair.

The Fantastic New Year Dream

Nothing like a nice nightmare to end the year, eh? Would appreciate it if this isn’t the narrative for my 2018, thanks very much!


On a night out, casually drinking in work, one of the guys asked me to take a few plates to the potwash. For some reason we had two of them; the one in the kitchen and another in a shed-like building out back. I decided to explore the second.

During this exploration I had an omnipotent cutscene play in my head. A paramedic sat in his ambulance, and something about him seemed off. He wasn’t doing anything, simply sitting there, waiting. Watching.

Outside of the restaurant was like a completely different city; chainlink fences, hard concrete, graffiti. I dumped the plates on the side and explored the crumbling brickwork of this alley.

As I reached its end, I heard a scuffling noise behind me. I turned to see a woman at the other end of the alley, slowly raising her arms to point a gun. With a second flash of omnipotence I knew she would fire it, and I even saw the bullet spinning straight for my head. I ducked beneath a stone pillar and stayed down. That bullet missed me, but a second shot pierced my chest. I couldn’t scream (if anyone can scream in dreams I’m amazed), but the pain was astonishing.

The woman stopped firing. A man appeared from my end of the alley and stood over me, looking thoughtful. He was dressed like a stereotyped chav; cap, puffed jacket, trackies and chains. “Please,” I begged him. “Please help me!”

He raised his own gun and shot me in the shoulder.

As he walked away, I reached into my pocket with my good arm and pulled out my phone. I began to type a status of help on Facebook, but I’d barely written “been shot” before the woman appeared.

“Stop that,” she said in a Spanish accent. I tried to get up, but she booted me in the back and I felt a rib snap. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to finish me off, why they wanted to cause me such pain, but she too left me there.

I got to my feet and staggered through the halls of University. There was a distinct lack of blood and not as much pain as you’d imagine. I just felt numb. Why had this happened?

I jabbed 999 into my phone and began babbling about being shot and needing an ambulance from the front of the University. They asked me which entrance and I broke down. There were so many damn entry points that I couldn’t figure out which would be nearest.

As we concluded the phone call, I once again envisioned the ambulance driver. It was clear this was the man I had been talking with, and as we finished speaking I saw him smile, hang up, and fold a piece of paper. The last thing I remember thinking was, “at least I didn’t give him my home address.”

Next thing I knew I was in the ambulance, only it was more like a minibus. My head was fuzzy and there was a stiffness in my neck, but I realised I was not alone. I looked up to see several others in similar drug-induced states to me, and at the front of the bus the paramedic grinned. From the driver’s seat he picked up a machine gun. Not again.

I undid my seatbelt and slowly slid below the seats. I heard the rapid cracks of firing, but there was no blinding light, no screams. I don’t even think any bullets fired. But sure enough, the first three rows of people all dropped dead. I peered over the top of the seat to see sparks flying from the necks of the recently deceased. Touching my own, I felt a small electrical box on a collar. I ripped it off.

I guessed the gun automatically triggered the boxes whenever they were aligned. And everyone else was too out of it to realise. What were we, test subjects? How had they chosen us? Why?

I waited until the paramedic had left his warm corpses before sneaking off the bus. In my messed up head, I didn’t think of walking myself to hospital. Right now I trusted no-one, so I hobbled all the way home.

But they must have followed me. Before long a For Sale sign appeared in my garden, and without any of mine or my parents’ consent, the house was sold. Eventually my parents disappeared. There was no note, no slight indication as to what happened to them, but after recent events I feared the worst.

I was told the new tenants had decided I could still live with them. I waited in the living room to meet my landlords. The front door burst open and the new owners walked in. It was the woman who had shot me. And her loving husband.

They gave me a small space in the kitchen and one of the cupboards for my belongings. They emptied the house of everything they didn’t want, and sat on my parents’ sofa watching my parents’ TV. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor, trying to think about nothing.

Obviously, me being alone for five minutes without fresh pain wasn’t an option.

“What you have?” She growled. “I want to see.” She reached for my cupboard door, and upon looking in smirked at my measly possessions. “This all you have, eh?” She poked me in the side and saw me wince. “Oh sorry,” she purred. “Do you have a broken rib?” I nodded through tears. She laughed and punched me.

As another flash of agony reared up my side, I thought, somehow, I’ll get my house back.