Hi, I'm Sharmin. Let me start off with a confession: this project almost didn’t happen. Every time I would sit at my laptop, I would type in a web address before my conscious mind could stop it. Sometimes that web address would be Twitter. At other times it would be The Guardian. The same tools that made it easy to learn new things, get lots of free content and access unbelievably good television were also the same tools holding me back.
This project, or something like it, has been years in the making. I knew I wanted to do something on the internet and the role it plays in our lives -- whether that's our wellbeing or our productivity -- but I didn't know what form it would take.
I thought about a blog, an online magazine, maybe even a documentary.
But I was always too distracted by the internet, too obsessed and insecure about 'statistics' such as 'likes', 'views', 'comments' and 'retweets' to persevere with anything for long.
More than that, I was sick of 'talking about the internet'; the conversations were circular, unsatisfying and full of moral panic. I wanted something practical; something that gave me permission to change my behaviour, self-experiment and help other people.
Late last year, I created a practical programme to combat my worst online habits.
I started with a few questions: "How do I want my online behaviour to change?" "How do I get more control over my social media use?" "How do I spend more time on things I love instead of feeling awful about myself repeating the same behaviours?" I started experimenting with different timeframes and methods, using a blend of introspection and action.
The impact on my life was instant. Not only was I able to focus on other things that mattered more to me -- I reduced a lot of my anxiety. I would write more. I could take in information on my own terms. I'd make the effort to say yes to things and go out more. It was as close to a silver bullet as I could get to boosting my wellbeing and productivity.
And it didn't involve a single day of going without the internet. It didn't involve giving up my smartphone. It didn't involve flying to the other side of the world on an expensive retreat and putting my phone in a box. It didn't even involve giving up social media.
I proved to myself that it is possible to use my digital devices in a way that could empower me instead of hold me back. I'm currently redesigning the programme after countless conversations with Millennials and young people about their relationship with the 'internet'.
The programme is genuinely about balance - and not about digital detoxing, reducing screentime for its own sake or dumb phones. Digital Cooldown acknowledges that the 'internet' is not a space that you can dip in and out of, or 'unplug': it's about balance, intentional use and aligning what you care about most with your online habits.
WHAT I DO
Since launching Digital Cooldown, I have spoken at the Humane Tech London Meet up and Glimpse's "WE WANT OUR ATTENTION BACK" inspiration evening and I'm working with States of Mind to help facilitate tech and mental health workshops for teenagers at London schools. I was part of Enrol Yourself's learning marathon, which helped me prototype digital wellbeing workshops
My professional background is in digital marketing and web usability. But I love many other things too. I directed and filmed a short documentary, "The Toothless Tiger", which won best short film at the UK Asian Film Festival and I'm also a Meisner-trained actor. I read English/Philosophy at the University of York and have an Mphil in Criticism and Culture from the University of Cambridge.