Millennials take 40-day digital detox

On March 5, 2018 Sarah Quinlan and Anthony DeSilver deactivated their social media accounts, and cancelled all of their video streaming services with a commitment to stay unplugged for 40 days.

Sarah Quinlan and Anthony DeSilver say the fast has helped them reconnect with people and old hobbies

Pastor Brian Ciaranitaro, left, Sarah Quinlan, centre, and Anthony DeSilver, right. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

According to two millennials in Windsor, the digital world of social media and video streaming services has consumed their lives, and a digital detox was what they needed to bring their "thought-life" back into perspective.

On March 5, 2018, Sarah Quinlan and Anthony DeSilver deactivated their social media accounts and cancelled all of their video streaming services with a commitment to stay unplugged for 40 days.

"I felt this would be a good thing for me to pursue in giving that up because it was ruling a lot of my time," Quinlan said.

She logged back on to Facebook after 20 days away, but the "rush" was gone.

"It was almost disappointing... I only had twenty notifications," she joked.

"It's showing me that it's not really important."

She then deactivated her account again.

How bad was it?

Quinlan admits she used to binge-watch television series and movies, and even spend hours a day on YouTube.

"Before the fast, I had an Amazon Prime account, Hulu, YouTube Premium, Netflix, basically any subscription you could have, I had for video. I really was disturbed by that."

Digital Detox

3 years ago
Duration 2:05
Millennials unplug for 40 days from social media.

DeSilver is shy to reveal exactly how much time he spent on social media prior to March.

"It was a lot — more than I'd like to admit to be honest," he said. "It was probably several times a day."

He gave up his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and noticed time away from the screen allowed for more socializing with people face-to-face.

"The interaction I was having with people seemed a lot more genuine and a lot more prolonged," he said.

When there was break in the conversation, DeSilver couldn't just pull out his phone to fill the dead air, he noted.

"Okay there's a lull in the conversation, lets continue to explore, talk more in-depth about something or find something else to talk about," DeSilver said.

Quinlan has also noticed an overall improvement in the quality of her daily conversations, and recognizes when people around her escape to their phones at social events.

"When you're out for dinner with friends, if they're on their phone, I'm almost offended," she said.

Quinlan says the detox has given her more time to draw in her sketch book. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Pastor Brian Ciaranitaro is with Windsor Christian Fellowship, the church Quinlan and DeSilver are active members of. He said fasting helps bring people closer to their spiritual lives — and in this case, God.

"Part of fasting is that process of self-denial, self-discipline," said Ciaranitaro. "And we replace the things we do...with spending time with God through prayer, so we can experience break-through in our lives or situations."

What has changed

This fast has given Quinlan an opportunity to return to some of her childhood passions.

"I'm probably on my fifth book in the last 40 days, and I'm drawing a lot more," she said while thumbing through her nearly-filled sketch book.

Her shift in priorities and perspective has her encouraging others to take the detox challenge as well, even if it's only for a day.

"It really does change your thought life," she said. "I really encourage you to do that."

Meanwhile, DeSilver said he will be logging back on to his social media accounts on Monday, but he will limit his time spent on the apps.

"Just set up restrictions so that I can still enjoy being in the moment and having the social interactions with people."


Amy Dodge is a video journalist based in Windsor. She covers a wide range of stories, and she always wants to hear yours. Connect with her on Twitter @AmyDodgeCBC or send her your stories at


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