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Alex Cann's Weekly Blog - 16th April

"You must be completely mad". "Oh no, I definitely couldn't do that". "Why?!" Common responses I've been getting since revealing I'm planning to go on holiday next week with Mrs C and leave my mobile switched off at home. Admittedly, my wife will be bringing hers for any emergencies, which we'll check once or twice a day. But the last thing I want when I'm lying by the pool sipping a mojito with extra crushed ice is the ping of an email, revealing I've forgotten to do something important at work, omitted to pay a bill, or something equally mundane.

It feels like a lifetime since I last got on a plane in 2019, and the pandemic has only served to make it feel longer, I think. I've been thinking a bit more about the documentary I watched on Netflix last week, The Social Dilemma. Our smartphones are essentially designed to keep us hooked, and I want to break that cycle of scrolling, and really live in the moment whilst on holiday.

I know some people have their bank card, boarding pass, and essentially everything vital to their lives stored on their devices. But we managed quite well without them for years, before they became ubiquitous.

I wonder if we should just switch all social media off for the week I go away? Only kidding. How are you going to get your slightly unhinged Liz Truss clips, funny cat videos, or updates about Meghan Markle's range of homemade jam? I'm fully aware that all of this is a first world problem, and there are some truly awful things going on in the world. It's almost unbearable to watch the news most nights at the moment.

If you've never done it, I recommend having a look at how many hours of screen time you clock up on average per day. Mine regularly tips over the six hour mark, and up to half of that is spent on WhatsApp. I kind of miss the days when one phone call or text was all we required to make arrangements to meet up. I've lost count of the number of WhatsApp groups I'm in. How do any of us ever truly switch off? I know you can mute notifications, switch to Airplane mode, and numerous other things, but for me I need the peace of mind of knowing I'm not going hear a single ping for a whole week.

Could you do it? Perhaps when I'm back from holiday, I'll swap my device for a brick phone, and rediscover the simple joys of an indestructible handset, Snake, and a battery that never dies. Writing a text message using the number keys also used to take ages! Simpler times. Phones nowadays are a bit like portals. We can be sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, check one message, and be transported down a rabbit hole, before we know it. You almost forget the other person is sitting in front of you.

If you need more proof that I'm not totally bananas, a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that "work-related smartphone use during non-work time drains limited regulatory resources and thus holds risks for well-being and subsequent self-control functioning. In order to protect themselves against these consequences, employees need to become aware of how long they actually use their smartphone for work during after-hours and, if necessary, reduce the intensity".

Paper boarding passes are printed. A disposable camera has been purchased. I have a notebook on standby for important reminders. I can't wait for a dose of digital minimalism. I also have my passport, complete with EU-style cover and the worst photograph of me I've ever seen (plus I had to pay £10 for the privilege...unreal!).

In fairness, we coped fine before Google Maps was invented. I hope to find lots of hidden gems by following my nose. My sense of direction is absolutely appalling, and I've been known to lose my car in the supermarket car park, so what could possibly go wrong? In the olden days, the world didn't stop turning if you didn't check into every bar, take a selfie at every pretty view, and essentially take your friends with you in your pocket on holiday with regular updates throughout your time away. I will, however, be writing another column before flying off, otherwise the editor won't be happy. Although if he does try to call or E-mail me, I won't pick them up!

More from Alex Cann's Weekly Blog

  • Alex's Weekly Blog - Tuesday 7th May

    I survived a week without my phone! I know that on the grand scale of human achievements, this doesn't rank particularly highly, but it was a real revelation. I wrote in this column previously about my plan to go phone-free, and some of my friends got in touch to say they thought I'd lost the plot.

  • Alex Cann's Weekly Blog - 16th May

    Back in May 2022, the government delayed parts of its obesity strategy. Plans to restrict TV advertising of junk food before the watershed and paid-for online ads were also paused.

  • Alex Cann's Weekly Blog - 9th April

    This week, I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix, and I would highly recommend that you give it a whirl. As one of the quotes at the beginning says: "Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse" (Sophocles), and if you're anything like me, you'll be left questioning how much information you've given away to social media platforms over the years

  • Alex Cann's Weekly Blog - 2nd April

    Not a lot makes the headlines from Belgium, but this week, a collection of cassette tapes was unearthed in the city of Ostend containing unreleased Marvin Gaye songs. The BBC reports it has potentially been there for over 40 years, and there are thought to be 66 demo songs.


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