Hans-Christian Schwingen

Digital detox – just switch off sometimes

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Why Deutsche Telekom advocates timeouts from digital communication.

Hans-Christian Schwingen

Hans-Christian Schwingen, Brand Chef German Telekom

The term "digital detox" has already found its way into the renowned Oxford English Dictionary, where it is described as "a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers." Also known as "smartphone fasting," the process is supposed to lower users’ stress levels and help them focus more consciously on communication with the physical world and their fellow human beings. Digital detox offers an antidote to the option of being online anytime, anywhere. The message behind it is that sometimes you are perfectly entitled to simply switch off your smartphone or other digital device.

Deutsche Telekom expressly supports this idea, and is even launching a television advertisement about the Heins family, which will air in Germany from November 21. In this ad, the members of the family decide to take a break from their digital devices for Christmas, enjoying a traditional German Christmas Eve celebration together without smartphones or the Internet. The spot ends with the phrase "merry unplugged Christmas," underscoring the importance of face-to-face communication in personal relationships.

Television advertisement Heins family

At first glance, it might appear contradictory that a company like Deutsche Telekom should appeal to people to go without digital communication sometimes. After all, we make our money selling products and services for connected life and work – products and services that users can access in best-network quality 24/7.

But Deutsche Telekom sees no contradiction in marketing digital services and advising users to occasionally do without such services when they think it appropriate. The company has long been aware of the social responsibility that is part and parcel of its business activities, and has acted accordingly. In its own internal guidelines, Deutsche Telekom has formulated rules for business communications at weekends for those of its employees who have company smartphones. The guidelines are unambiguous: communication on business matters is generally taboo at weekends, and permissible in exceptional cases only. In this way, Deutsche Telekom has emphasized how seriously it takes concerns such as burnout and information overload. The company’s position is based on the conviction that digital communication will retain its value for people and society in the long term only if the communication services are used in a sensible and responsible manner.

This conviction not only finds expression in our employee guidelines, it also shapes the dialog we maintain with our customers across many different channels. The majority of our customers associate Deutsche Telekom with high performance, technical expertise, innovative strength and professionalism.

That means not only offering compelling digital communication services, but also advocating the safe and responsible use of digital communication forms. Internet communication, the use of smartphones and tablets, comprehensive information and a wide range of entertainment via online television – all these are intended to make life easier and more interesting, strengthen relationships between people, open up new perspectives and make possible innovative ways of working. But these benefits of digital communication presuppose that the users always bear one thing in mind – namely that online connections are only one aspect of daily life and experience. Much more important are personal encounters and experiences, which ultimately form one of the foundations of digital communication.

Deutsche Telekom is already involved in many projects to promote the responsible use of modern communication media. In the Teachtoday Initiative, for example, we are providing parents and teachers with tips on how to instruct children and young people in the judicious use of these media. As more and more social and economic processes are digitalized, the importance of the careful use of digital communication tools will continue to increase. As a telecommunications leader, we will keep a watchful eye on this trend going forward.

Telecommunications connect people. And yet, Deutsche Telekom will continue to make people aware that simply switching off their digital devices – like the family in the ad at Christmas – can also be beneficial for personal relationships.