I recently had to replace the screen on my cell phone which required me to leave it at the Apple store for a whole hour. They told me to come back at 5:15pm. No problem I thought- I would just wander round the mall. Holy cow was that hard! First of all, I had no idea what time it was because I use my phone as a watch, second I probably reached for that thing like 20 times out of sheer habit knowing full well that it was not with me and third I had this odd feeling of being cut off. Cut off from what? I decided it was time to seriously take inventory of how I am using technology in my life.
Here are some of the reasons that make we want to change my digital ways…
Its just not that important.
Most of the time when I reach for my phone or the iPad its to distract myself. Its to check my email or Instagram feed or see if anyone texted me. Why? Is it really that important? WE are so reactionary nowadays. If someone did text me I need to know about it in real time and respond immediately. Why? It’s just not that important. I don’t need to be checking my Instagram feed while I’m at a red light. We need to ask ourselves why we are seeking the distraction and 9 times out of 10 the answer is no reason. It’s just not important.
My child is learning how to behave by observing me.
Everly is constantly watching me. Observing my behaviors and reflecting them back to me. When I see her immediately reach for the phone, or iPad or laptop or tv I realize that I must be demonstrating those behaviors. I want my daughter to know that I’m present when I am in her presence. Sometimes at night when I’m vegging out I find myself looking at photos and videos of her just one year ago… she has changed so much in such a short time! I am overcome with emotion and the realization that this time will pass so quickly. Pretty soon I won’t have a toddler and she will be a teenager, wahhh! I need to remind myself how important this time is. My behavior is directly shaping hers. I want to be aware of when and how I am using technology around her especially since this precious time is flying by.
I know how to live without technology.
My generation is lucky. We spent our formative years having to call our friends houses or wait for the AOL dial up connection to see if anyone was on instant messenger. Constant contact was not an inherent part of our communication style. We had to make plans and stick to them or else we wouldn’t see our friends. We had to have awkward conversations with our new boyfriends’ parents when we called their house. We had to share the phone with our siblings and other family members. I had to use a calling card to talk to my boyfriend when he was vacationing in Florida with his family. When I got my pager in high school I had to have a quarter to call my mom back when she paged me. When I traveled in Australia in college I had to go to the library or an internet cafe to send an email to my family. Facebook was just starting in 2005, I remember setting up a profile and not understanding what the point was. I stayed in touch with my friends by sending an email. Photos were taken with a disposable camera and the anticipation of getting them developed was fun! We had to practice a little patience and planning ahead. I feel lucky to remember a time that a miniature computer was not in my pocket. I remember the times that planning ahead and making commitments meant that you didn’t show up late.
There should be clear boundaries between work and play.
We are constantly plugged in. We work, all day and check our work emails throughout the evening. What would really happen if we waited until the next business day to respond to a client or rsvp to a meeting? I’m telling you the world would go on. We need to honor the sacred space of our homes and social gatherings. We need to be present for the situations we are in at the moment. Having the laptop out in the kitchen during dinner is not a value I want to practice in my home, Dinner time is when we eat food. We break bread together. We are thnakful for the components of our meal that took time, energy and hard work to cultivate.
We need to retrain our attention span.
I am multi-tasking these days like a crazy woman, I take 15 seconds to skim an article or breeze through a feed to see images from my friend’s weekends. I have the TV on, I’m texting someone and half reading an article. I am looking up recipes and pinning ideas on Pinterest and always thinking “yes! I’m going to do that, I’m going to be like that, I’m going to travel there” … I am always collecting ideas of things. I am not fully engaged or focused. That sucks! There was an article in Fast Company about how your brain actually changes during a “digital detox” and they found that people improved their attention span after just a few days of being “unplugged”. I want to read a full newspaper article. I want to pick up the phone and call the friend I am texting. I want to write a letter to my grandma or prepare a wonderful recipe that I find on Instagram. I want to finish a thought. I want to sit in silence.
Co-existing with technology in this digital world isn’t hard. It’s a choice. We need to set boundaries for ourselves. Decide ahead of time how we want to be moving through our day. I know it’s possible to enjoy life without the constant distraction.
Here are a few ideas to try in your digital detox:
1. No technology in the bedroom: keep your bedroom a sacred space for you and your partner to connect. When Aaron and I go to bed we leave our phones charging in the kitchen. We have an old school alarm clock that we use to wake up in the morning. We spend the few minutes before falling asleep to chat, read a book or just sit in silence! It has done wonders for our relationship, we are forced to focus on each other! It also helps with sleep. Not bombarding your brain with bright lights or imagery right before falling asleep can help relax you for a full nights rest.
2. No phone zone in the kitchen or common spaces of the house. The kitchen table is a place for gathering, cooking, eating together and connecting. Our kitchen is the heart of our house. We try to leave laptops and phones off the table especially right when Aaron gets home from work and we are cooking dinner. Its a time for music! I want Everly to see us interacting as a family and not see a screen as “competition” for anyone’ attention.
3. Set a time for mindless browsing: Let’s be real, I like checking in with social media! I depend on technology to interact with my clients and run my blog. I LOVE group texts with my girlfriends… sharing funny photos and stories with them is awesome! But I try to be conscious wof how often I am “checking” my phone. I try to reserve those times for when Everly isn’t watching- like when Aaron is giving her a bath, during nap time, after she goes to bed etc. There is absolutely no reason not to be connected to technology but I just try to be in control of the times I engage with it… not the other way around. My phone can’t control me!! haha
4. Let your friends know how you communicate (my friends know that I don’t text back immediately and it doesn’t mean I am ignoring them). I’ve seen people put an automated response to texts for when they are driving (“I’m in the car and will get back to you when I have both hands free)… or let your co-workers or boss know that after 5pm until 8pm you are home with your family and will not respond to emails. Aaron and I have an understanding that texts may not be answered right away but if we call and leave a message it may be urgent so check in.
What are your ideas for doing a digital detox?