Where Sheila’s not been for the past few weeks – more healthy living than digital detox?

So I’ve just come back to work this week after my summer holidays. By the end of three weeks I had almost forgotten about related work emails and tweets. I wasn’t staring at a screen for most of the day. It was a bit of  to quote the phrase of the week, a “digital detox’.

However I didn’t go completely cold turkey on the old inter-web. I just was interacting in a different, more relaxed way. More photos shared via  instagram.  There was no hidden altruism there –  I wanted people to know I was eating lovely food, in lovely places, not at work.  There was less tweeting, though my automagic daily update provided by Paper.Li keeps going regardless. It seems when left to its own devices to have taken a  particular liking to smart cities. I have nothing against smart cities, and do tweet about them,  but perhaps it has skewed my “presence” a little in the past few weeks.  That might be a topic for another post around digital presence.

I was still keeping in touch with friends, the world, but not as much as non-holiday times. A large part of my professional life and work is centred around networking and sharing so not having to be online is now something I really look forward to during holidays and increasingly weekends.  But I wouldn’t want to be totally disconnected. I am constantly shifting the balance of my connected, digital life. Being able to instantly share, explore, find out about “stuff” is something that has brought an added mostly positive dimension to my professional and personal life.

This weeks annual Ofcom Communications Market report has whipped up a bit of a  media storm around how many people are now more actively taking a break from their “smart” devices.  The internet is taking over our lives, families no longer talk they just sit around the house gazing at their phones/tablets. It would appear that in the UK we are are spending more and more time on line, as the report states

“Our Digital Day research shows that we are spending more time on media andcommunications than on sleeping. The average UK adult uses media and communications services for 8 hours 45 minutes, and sleeps for 8 hours 18 minutes.”

What we are actually doing on line does vary depending on our age.

“16- 24 year olds are more likely to embrace these newer on- demand and online services. Today, instant messaging is more important to this age group than any other means of communication, and playing video games is seen as being as important as watching live, recorded or paid- for on-demand TV. However, for older adults, watching live TV remains the most important media activity.”

But there is hope for the old foggies:

“Despite this older people are increasingly exploiting digital communications technology. .  . Although they tend to use more established services such as linear TV , SMS or email,many are also embracing social media or on- demand services (among 55- 64s, 51% use the former and 42% the latter in an average week).”

The infographics in the report give a clear picture of the break down.  Below is small selection.

If you have time, exploring the Ofcome digital day research site is also quite fascinating.

Looking more closely at the report one thing that struck me was in relation to what people are actually doing online was this:

“While watching is the most popular activity overall, young adults spend more time communicating”

Not unsurprisingly whilst skimming through the report, I was thinking about the similarities between broadcast media and broadcast education. We still rely heavily on the broadcast lecture in HE.  It’s the norm, the expected, the comfortable and at times necessary and effective.  Moving to more interactive, collaborative models we know is better for actual learning, understanding and knowledge creation as opposed to transmission of knowledge.  I blogged about this earlier in the year in response to a post from James Clay. However if our average undergraduate (18-24) is communicating more then surely that just strengthens the case for harnessing more digital communication within education. We don’t need to take over SnapChat or What’sApp, but we do need to be integrating more flexibility of communication within our curriculum design for formal and informal learning.

Having your nose “stuck in a book” has always seems to have had positive connotations, particularly in relation to education and learning. So maybe having your nose stuck in your smart phone (even when in a lecture) should increasingly become seen as a positive thing too? Just as with bookworms, reading all the time isn’t healthy or safe, if you’ve ever seen someone trying to walk down a busy street whilst reading a book you’ll know what I mean.  Neither is being online all the time, or constantly looking at your phone (related to this check out this great post from Simon about the dangers of people and  PokemonGo). We need to help everyone find the right digital balance so we can allow everyone to  integrate digital technologies in the most effective way for them.

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