The Grand Velas Resorts in Mexico have introduced a “Digital Detox” program. If you sign up for the program, a “Detox Concierge” will cleanse your suite of digital distractions upon your arrival, such as by removing the flat screen television from the room, replacing it with classic board games, and taking your personal electronic devices from you and storing them in a safe. I was interested to hear Sharon Brody’s commentary about the program on NPR this morning, which the NPR web site entitles, “Digital Detox Vacation: For Those Who Have Everything–Except Willpower.”
Brody criticizes the program as a luxury needed only by those “rich enough” to pay for someone else to perform what she views as the trivial act of de-digitalizing the vacation experience. In Brody’s view, such wealthy patrons lack “the self-discipline to turn off a doohickey,” and therefore deserve our mockery. This view, while common, fails to recognize that although we all have willpower, it is a finite resource. Every exercise of willpower–even resisting the pull of a ringing smartphone–depletes some small amount of it, making it less available to us unless and until it is replenished. In light of this feature of our brains, removing willpower-depleting temptations from our environments is a rational strategy, especially while on vacation or during other times of rejuvenation. Although we can argue about whether vacationers should be charged a premium for the “luxury” of having such temptations removed for them, rather than merely offering a variety of environments as standard options, I see the fact that resorts are beginning to recognize that offering more in-room devices to their guests is not always better as a sign of progress.