Show of hands: Who out there could completely disconnect from your smartphone, tablet, and computer for 24 hours? How about a full seven days in the interest of being present?
Think about it: A week without email, texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, this blog (gasp!), and much, much more—basically turning off all screens and going app-less.
Anyone experiencing involuntary convulsions at the thought?
Hey now! What’s the big idea even suggesting something so sick and twisted?
Fair enough. Believe me, I get it. Our lives—mine included—revolve around our electronic devices. Most things expected of us at work and in our personal life make it necessary for us to be connected day and night.
Is completely “unplugging,” so to speak, possible in the 21st century? Perhaps doing so for an extended period of time isn’t practical or even advisable.
Disconnect: Be Present
I believe consciously deciding to disconnect at key times throughout the year and in certain situations daily can do wonders for our emotional and physical well-being.
Plus, it can make us a lot more fun to be around in real-life social settings.
I’ve long felt that excessive technological distractions are damaging our interpersonal relations. You just can’t be fully engaged with someone if you’re scrolling through your newsfeed or checking email while he or she sits across the table from you trying to have a conversation (yes, I’ve been on both sides of the table in that scenario).
An article I read recently in an old-school, ink-based magazine got me thinking more about this topic (here’s the link, since you aren’t yet unplugged).
John Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine, observed a scene that is replicated nightly at dinner tables and social gatherings. One half of a couple has his nose buried in his phone and is “checking in” on a social site, while the other half is left to feel like a third wheel on a two-person date.
I’m sure you’ve seen something similar, or maybe even experienced a situation in which an entire group is consumed by their various devices while the outside world—and the opportunity for real conversation—passes them by.
What’s the point in making an effort to spend quality time with friends and family if during it all we are preoccupied with what’s happening inside our phones?
Jen Groover, in her book What If? & Why Not?, talks about the value of “mindfulness.”
“I try to practice mindfulness everyday—stepping out of flow of what I’m doing for a brief time and just being in the moment, appreciating what’s going on around me,” she writes in this blog post. “When you can do that, you can see in a new way.”
Slow Down: Be Present
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”
— Ferris Bueller
Those were wise words said 30 years ago in a pre-Internet age. Even then people had to be reminded to slow down and be in the moment, lest you think I’m singling out a certain generation.
It’s much tougher today to stop and look around as a constant barrage of information is bombarding us at every turn. We also somehow feel the need to immediately document our real-life experiences for our social followers (guilty, though I’m proud I don’t do it as often as some).
Quick tangent: here’s a humorous bit from comedian Pete Holmes on how, thanks to our constant access to technology, the answer to anything is never more than a Google search or two away—and how it can destroy our sense of wonderment or satisfaction we used to feel after finding out something after an extended period of not knowing.
I’m not advocating that we throw out our smartphones. Or that we delete our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or that we never thumb through Instagram to kill some time and drool over some food pics.
I am a big believer in using technology—especially social media—to help expand our world view, connect with others, strengthen our relationships, and even simply have some mindless fun. At the same time, technology shouldn’t interfere with our ability to make meaningful memories that don’t necessarily need to be shared with the greater Internet.
As Holl writes: “We don’t always have to hit refresh and see what other people are doing. We should savor the personal and together moments, the ones we will long remember.”
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