This year I have participated in two voluntary technology breaks. It is only 4 months into 2018 and I have said YES to limited interaction with screens and social media. I gave myself no warning to unplug from Facebook and went dark for 30 days at a time. I made a commitment to myself that I would consider a phone call before sending a text and not opt out of the connection of voice. A loftier and more rewarding term I set upon myself this wear was to challenge myself for 30 days that I equalled the number of texts I sent to the number of letters I wrote. It become exciting and addictive. I more than tripled the amount of text messages I sent with letters in the month of January. It was effort that brought such a sense of pride and accomplishment.
It is the latest tech pause that I think truly woke me up. It was not voluntary. It was not planned, welcomed, or scheduled. It was a violation, inconvenience, and betrayal. Yet from those words, I saw things, listened more, and awakened inside.
My phone was stolen at work. Someone went into my personal space and took my phone. The search and rescue was extensive and shattering. My phone was literally shattered. Wen the thief was about to be caught, they threw the phone out of a window and it plummeted to the courtyard below and smashed into a horrific tangled mess. My phone was recovered and returned however it was no longer useful. I was informed that insurance would grant me a new phone but it would take a few days to get it all sorted.
We were about to go on vacation. There I was without a phone and away I went. I spent approximately twelve days unplugged and it was a combination of relaxing and frustrating. I have to admit that it was great not getting sucked into Instagram after I post a picture of my day. Instead I simply kept living it. I didn’t feel the buzz with every text or email. I also miraculously no longer needed to check the time, ever. Why is it that when I had a phone, I felt the need to check the time repeatedly. Without my phone, time didn’t seem to be a marker in everything I did. I am sure that it helped I was on vacation. It was a small gift in a way.
The frustrating and difficult part about being unplugged was trying to communicate, relate, and share with people around me still tethered to their technology. I was more aware of how many devices one person will “use” at a time. Most of all, I found it impossible to feel like I was truly on vacation with my husband. It seemed as though we were on two different trips with scheduled meeting places. Even though we were together, the space in his attention span taken up by his phone, computer, or the TV felt like it wedged miles between us. I grew irritable with his need to check, recheck, call, respond, or scroll. There were times I was fantasizing grabbing his phone and chucking it into the sea or skidding it beneath the garbage truck just before it zoomed by the house.
I did not live out any of my fantasies. I did get angry and short tempered at times. It helped me look back on a lot of my interactions with people in the past. I was able to identify moments where perhaps my anger or confusion is because I felt disconnected from them because technology was taking too much space in the relationship. I saw how much our children are learning to accept technology taking a more important role than their thoughts, ideas, and connection. This is not the way I want to raise my children. Although we had limited their screen time, I realized perhaps we need to limit ours as well. We have a steadfast rule in our house – no electronics during meals. This experience made me see that we can do better. Also I learned that it is important to unplug at the same time as others with the intention of connecting or sharing space in a closer way. It will be more meaningful if I decide to take a pause at the same time as my husband or friends or colleagues. It felt lonely and frustrating and it doesn’t have to fell that way. That will be the next challenge. To unplug together and make it mean something.
I have my new phone. It is next to me as I write this…I am going to turn it off (not silent) while I write. I am going to BE with my writing for a spell and enjoy that in itself.
Here are some things to consider doing:
- Have time in the day that you power off as many devices as possible.
- Only open ONE tab on your computer.
- Make a unplugged date with someone. Stick to the rule and enjoy each other’s company.
- No electronics during meals.
- Have scheduled times that you check certain websites or emails.
- Go dark on social media for a week or a month at a time.
Feel free to let me know how it goes.