Mike and I had a chance to get away together this weekend and revisit the site of our wedding for a night of food, drinks, and together time. We’ve managed to do so every year since we got married four years ago, and it’s one of my favorite things to do as a couple together. The whole week, I was so excited to get away together, and yet a little sad as I knew the time was going to fly and before we knew it, we’d be headed back to reality. It’s a beautiful reality we’ve built for ourselves, but obviously at this stage, it doesn’t give us much time to gaze into each other’s eyes over glasses of champagne. As the weekend crept closer and closer, I decided I wanted to enjoy our time as much as possible, and that meant committing to the concept of consciously unplugging. I resolved to temporarily delete the apps that I think of as “timesucks”- specifically all social media, Amazon (it seems I’m always getting lost in product searches and reviews), and my Gmail. I wanted a break from the constant messaging and a chance to be truly present with my husband. When I told Mike about it, he immediately jumped on board and deleted his apps too.
We still had our phones with us, to check on how the boys were doing and snap a few photos together (and for Mike to watch Sopranos in the middle of the night while I slept beside him), but mostly, we just were. We talked, laughed, and relaxed together without distraction. I couldn’t believe how freeing it felt, and how much I didn’t miss it.
Our generation is unique in that we’ve lived through times without much technology at all- we can all remember the days of cordless phones, pagers, dial-up connections, and watching television where skipping commercials was not an option. Yet now, we’ve gotten acclimated to a life of lightning quick wi-fi and charging capabilities everywhere we go. We can surf the web from a plane, we can audio-text from a car while playing music over Bluetooth speakers and navigating directions- we’re multitasking masters with the entire world at our literal fingertips- and we are the ones who understand this phenomenon differently than anyone else can, since we’ve lived on either side.
I embrace it, but I also recognize the danger of the addiction. I often find myself feeling torn, as if I need to “force myself” to unplug- I’ll go upstairs and put my phone on the charger and commit to doing so for certain time periods during the day. But almost robotically, like an addict, I’ll find myself wandering up the stairs. There’s always a reason behind it- I’ll need to text someone a question, or check an appointment in my calendar, or shoot an email. And like a robot, I’ll find my fingers automatically clicking the timesuck apps- usually social media- and I’ll find myself mindlessly taking in the images and captions and often forgetting what I even grabbed my phone to do in the first place. It leaves me feeling distracted and disorganized and flustered. I know my time has value and I’m never sure exactly what to do to quiet the tech “noise” while remaining productive and engaged.
So, here’s what I learned from my app detox this weekend:
- Nothing makes you feel connected like good old fashioned, person to person connection.
- Truly unplugging requires more than a “want”- it requires defining parameters and taking deliberate action. For me, it was a few apps for a clear amount of time. I’ll probably never go totally off the grid, but the choices I made were intentional and clear.
- Time away from social media does not make you feel disconnected. I did not once worry what I was missing.
- Unplugging quickly becomes the culture. After a couple of days without using the apps I mentioned above, I found myself to be losing the impulse to pick up my phone aimlessly.
- Social media is still pretty awesome. When I did log in to Facebook on my computer this morning, I saw my “memories” from that day in previous years- beautiful pictures of my children, which are always a nostalgic, sweet part of my day and a reminder of how quickly time passes. I had notifications that local women had begun selling and buying clothes in the sale group I had created the previous week, which made me feel great. And I got to scroll through and see all of my friends enjoying the Fall, sharing recipes, posting photos of pumpkin picking, and their Halloween costumes. In a limited dose, that was a nice experience, and I enjoyed it.
I don’t have a definitive “rule” I’m setting for myself yet, but I’ve decided to explore this concept more, and practice mindful tech detoxes on a more frequent basis.
After reading this, are you considering conscious unplugging?