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Phone off, FOMO on: a third of us turn to digital detox to escape our obsession with being connected

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Remember the days of dial-up internet? The thrillingly steep arc of development that one moment had your mind blown searching Encarta in the school library, the next stepping into a brave new world of screechy home modems, queuing for the Acorn and booting your siblings off the phone so you could log into ICQ (it was big before MSN Messenger, OK?).

Now we have faster connections, smarter mobiles and no wires tethering our use to the house. We stare at our screens, put our lives at risk to take a selfie, get told off by bar owners for not putting down our devices and that's just the way it is – most of us are entwined with our tech on an everyday basis.

And a new report from Ofcom reveals we're so addicted that a third of us (34%) have actively sought a digital detox (also, we're neglecting the housework, but we knew that anyway). Scaled up in population terms, that equates to 15 million people believing they need time out from the internet.

The media and telecoms regulator has released this year's Communications Market Report looking into our relationship with connected technology, which found that 25% had spent up to a day on digital detox, 20% up to a week and 5% up to a month.

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If this is what brunch with your mates looks like, you might want to look at a digital detox

A third (33%) of those who had time away from their phones, tablets and computers said they were more productive and a quarter said they enjoyed life more, though 16% succumbed to FOMO, 15% felt “lost” and 14% felt “cut off”.

And while 34% of people said they'd find it “difficult” to detox, a huge 59% of the more than 2,000 survey participants said they considered themselves “hooked”.

UK adults reported they spend 25 hours a week online, up from nine hours in 2005, with 41% saying they ended up spending more time online than they intended to.

And apparently it's affecting several areas of our lives, with 48% claiming housework was neglected and 13% having been late for work, not to mention the quarter of people wandering the streets bumping into others because they can't look up and the four in 10 who've felt ignored – phubbed, if you will – by a friend or relative playing with their phone instead.

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“Enjoying the fresh air and greenery #backtobasics #lovinthecountryside”

The report, which surveyed 2,050 adults and 500 teenagers, was geared toward how they feel about being connected and what they see as the advantages and disadvantages.

Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom, said: “The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better. But our love affair with the web isn’t always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked.

“So millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance.”

Given our increasing reliance on apps when out and about, enforced periods of digital detoxing thanks to phone repairs or theft usually results in a lot of trying to remember how we found addresses before Google Maps, coped with waiting for a bus without before Citymapper and resolved pub arguments before, well, the internet.

However taking a proper break from our devices is becoming ever more popular. Of those who disconnected, 16% went for a location with no internet access while 13% left their phones and tablets at home.

Take a look at our pick of 10 destinations perfect for unplugging and if that whets your appetite for a digital detox, check out October's Stylist Live, where speaker Lucy Sheridan, the UK’s first comparison coach, will be hosting a workshop titled ‘Screw social media: How to look behind the digital filter for happiness’ – tackling the idea that social media with its perfect, filtered shots is actually making us unhappy. Tickets are available here.

Images: iStock

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