DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT- Business leaders on the need for DIGITAL DETOX.

Disconnect To Reconnect

What is it about technology that is so alluring and addictive? Try as we might to deny it, the truth is we are hooked on the digital world, be it browsing, checking email, playing games, downloading music or simply texting. We spend so much of our time in the virtual realm that we are slowly, but surely losing contact with the human world.

RITZ gets chatting with some of the movers and shakers from South India to dwell on the pit-falls of being glued to electronic devices and understand whether or not it is necessary for us to sit back and find that elusive ‘off’ button, cut back on the digital stimulation and go on a much needed digital detox

Consuming too much technology is like eating empty calories without adequate nutrients. The brain gets overloaded with information and needs some ‘unplugged’ time to reprocess everything stored within. It’s true not everyone can switch off or unplug from technology for a set time each day, for it is critical to stay connected to work, family and friends. However, one must understand the need to impose upon themselves a periodic digital detox in order to stay sane and in human contact with the rest of the world.

Renowned author and business leader Subroto Bagchi, best known for co-founding Mindtree explains: “When the steam engine arrived or the first flight took off, people had some inkling of the impact but they had no idea of the consequences – whether negative or positive. As the world goes irreversibly digital, we are as ignorant of what the consequences would be in 10, 50 and 100 years, downstream. How may we change and morph and mutate? All I can say is that we should do everything in moderation, digital included. The genie is out of the lamp; we cannot crawl back to mother’s womb but irresponsible use of technology, deploying it to serve humanity or inhumanity, is a choice we must make. I believe, in the past, the human track record, for it hasn’t been disappointing. Things have worked out overall.”

Interestingly, people are now even using technology to take breaks from technology itself. One app called Freedom can be downloaded and set to block Internet access on a Mac or PC for up to eight hours to allow users time for offline productivity. Anti-Social is another productivity application for Macs that turns off the social media parts of the Internet. Digital Detox is a free app for Android smartphones that was inspired by Adbuster’s Digital Detox week and irrevocably disables a user’s phone for a user-specified period of time.

Disconnecting from technology has not stopped there. The trend has manifested itself as a sales tool in the travel industry with the creation of digital-detox vacation packages!

Mittu Chandilya, CEO of Air Asia India, is quite active on social media. He uses the platform as an effective tool to promote Air Asia in the country. Speaking on the subject of digital detox he says, “In today’s world of multitasking and split-second decisions, technological advances and the digital world are a blessing and a competitive advantage. There has never been a better way of reaching your customers, employees and all stakeholders in such a direct manner. Our smartphones are probably the one thing we can’t leave home without. For me, personally, this is critical and I rely on it tremendously. I do think a digital detox is a very good concept for medical reasons (studies are still being conducted on the effects of mobile phones and the screen’s blue lights effect), relaxing the mind to think more clearly and getting some real downtime. But I think in today’s world, especially in particular sectors, it’s hard to go on digital detox.”

The benefits of a digital sabbatical are many. Research has shown that too much tech can interfere with sleep patterns, making us feel insecure and often hyperactive and restless.

GV Keshav Reddy, grandson of GVK Reddy (Founder Chairman and Managing Director of GVK, the Hyderabad-based infrastructure conglomerate), advocates the need for periodic digital detox in order to stay sane and physically and emotionally connected to the world. “Yes, one should definitely go on a digital detox because it allows you to embrace the moment and enjoy the world around. I love going on a digital detox especially when I’m on a holiday on a beach or near a forest. That’s when you actually realise how much beauty you’re missing out on, otherwise,” he tells.

He might be considered the Willy Wonka of the digital world, but the fact remains that in an interview with Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs revealed that not only did he and his wife limit how much technology their kids used at home, his children did not even have iPads! Issacson, the author of ‘Steve Jobs’ has said: “Every evening Jobs made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or a computer.”

Jobs wasn’t the only tech giant to impose strict limitations on the kid’s screen time – many Silicon Valley titans ban all digital gadgets on school nights and allocate austere limits for weekends. Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired who’s now heading up drone maker 3D Robotics, has stringent time limits and parental controls on every device in his home.

Speedster and Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok feels that a periodic break from the digital world can only be beneficial for us. “I feel that it is important to take some time off from the digital world. Because with emails and text messages people expect replies instantly and you miss out on what’s happening around you. I get my detox when I get cycling because I normally switch my phone off and enjoy the peace for a while. I also fly a lot so my time on flights is a detox period as well. I hate that planes have WiFi now because I really enjoy those ten hours to myself,” he says.

Hyderabad-based actor and producer Allu Sirish agrees with Chandok’s view. “Yes, a digital detox is a must. Technically, the brain can’t multi-task; it can only do a rapid-switch between two tasks which only reduces the brain’s processing speed and power. Constant beeps, alerts and notifications disturb our ability to stay focused and immersed in one task. The only way to be focused and immersed is to “be offline” during crucial tasks,” he declares. “I go on a digital detox in a small way, everyday. I switch off the “data” on my phone while watching a movie, going for meetings or doing a task that needs focus. It’s a huge challenge to be disconnected, but then I push myself to do it.”

Indraneel Ganguli, Global Head, Tech Mahindra contributes valuable insights on the subject of digital detox. He says, “Today, either we are connected, or asleep – even wellness devices are monitoring our sleep! But it is important for us to recognise that just being on a network, with a device and on a channel, does not make us better thinkers, doers and communicators. We need to try and carve out time to introspect, reflect and find the pristine joys of nature and life through one’s faculties. So if time is the new currency of success, spend it well.”

Like many who haven’t heard of the term before, Suchitra Ella, Co-founder and Managing Director of Bharat Biotech International Limited finds the concept and idea of undergoing digital detox intriguing. “Interesting description!” she comments. “I haven’t tried it so far thanks to my hectic work schedule. My role in Bharat Biotech demands that I respond to the communication I receive, instantly. Yes, there are times when it’s overwhelming but the option of staying away from the cyber world is daunting. Nevertheless, early mornings and late evenings are totally dedicated to my family when I’m with them. That’s my time of digital detox.”

Take a tech-free vacation, enforce a Sunday gadget-free rule at home, impose a one-day-a-week ban on technology for yourself, refrain from checking your Facebook account as soon as you wake up – a break from digital communication, whether for a day or a few hours each day, can refresh us and enable us to become more productive in human relationships and at work. Your hands may itch for something to tap on and you might just imagine your phone is ringing in your pocket. But eventually your brain will get back to normalcy and you will reconnect with the things that really matter in life.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon Limited, shares intuitive advice. “There is no either or situation, I strongly favour the idea of embracing technology and getting connected digitally. This is a communication era which has really transformed our lives through 24×7 access to a wide variety of information available through views, ideas, opinions, shared on various social and digital platforms from people across the world. In that sense it has truly created networks that transcend geopolitical boundaries. However, we must remember that tech-nology can never replace the warmth of  genuine, caring human relationships. So, individuals who have been spending too much time locked in their virtual worlds may find a periodic ‘digital detox’ necessary to rejuvenate their health and their relationships. I think by and large, mature users strike a fine balance between the time spent online and offline with their friends and family.”