Unplugged: How To Become Disconnected in the Digital Age
Do you lose hours on Facebook? Find yourself checking email and status updates before you rise from bed for the day? Live for the sound of the phone telling you someone is calling/texting/tweeting? If so, you may need to join a 12 step program - or maybe just follow some of the advice below for becoming disconnected.
How Many Hours Do You Spend "Connected" To The World (Wired/Wireless)
Did you just find yourself clicking on the above links so you can purchase an iPad or Kindle Fire and stay even more connected than you currently are? Do you live for the day when you can have a phone/tablet/laptop all in one and not have to tote around your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook? Are you always on the lookout for the newest Andriod phone because you can't miss a moment of your friends' tweets and status updates? Do you know how to do simple math without a calculator or do you always use the tip calculator on your phone to ensure you leave 10 or 20 percent?
I am a people watcher and also love to watch documentaries. I have noticed this rising trend in people sitting in the same room and yet not being together - but world's apart. Families sit at the dinner table while each child is texting with friends and parents are facilitating million dollar deals on their Blackberries and iPhones. I wonder what happened to the days of doing worksheets and playing with flashcards. Playing board games such as the full version of Yahtzee instead of Yahtzee Flash. What happened to the days of our children not touching a computer until they were responsible enough to understand that a friend isn't someone you meet online with no friends in common? Or can we even say that when we ourselves are experimenting with social media and online dating?
How do you change your life and go from being super connected to disconnected? How do you go from checking status updates while playing games with friends and having dinner to enjoying time again in the real world? I have some ideas to help you based upon my own transition from needing the computer and my phone to breathe in the morning to enjoying only a set amount of time using technology daily.
Step One: Reevaluate Your Technology Needs
Look at your surroundings and determine what is truly necessary. Is it necessary to have six televisions, four Wiis, an XBox, 2 phones, 2 laptops, and 3 iPods in your family? If not, give some away to charity by blessing a family who does not have any technology. Give them to a local school system or battered women's shelter. Have a bonfire if your fire code allows it. Whatever you do, start removing the waste from your life by getting rid of the technology that you do not need.
Step Two: Evaluate How You Use The Technology You Keep
Do you really watch all of the television channels you pay extra to have? If not, downgrade. Do you need to read 30 blogs a week? If not, remove your subscriptions to some of them. Sit back and take time to really look at how you use your television, phone, computer, and music devices. Ensure you are using them wisely and not spending a lot of wasted time when you can do things more efficiently.
Step Three: Start Black Out Times
Now the hard part comes in. During this step, you may find yourself doing completely crazy things that you never thought you would do. It is okay. You may catch yourself actually going in person to ask a friend how she is doing. You might strike up conversations with strangers in line at the bank or grocery store.You may find yourself playing games with your family, coloring, even dancing from time to time. Don't be alarmed. Just go with it. The disconnected you is emerging and will take some time to understand well.
Set specific times when you will not answer the phone, text, connect to the internet, play video games, or do anything that takes your attention away from life itself. Television and ebooks are optional, as single individuals may find it very relaxing to watch a movie or read a book uninterrupted. For families, e-books are out. Go to the library as a family, check out the real book, and enjoy the illustrations from the author! Be sure NOT to Facebook that you have finished reading it when you are done!
An alternative is to set blocks of time when you CAN use the technology, such as after the kids go to bed, after dinner is cleaned up, or from noon to 1 and again 8 to midnight. This is the time when you respond to messages, write blogs, update your status and check others' daily posts, play games, etc.
Step Four: Set General Guidelines
Set general guidelines such as no phones at the dinner table. Do not answer the phone when you are on family outings, dates, or activities with friends. Do not spend your child's sporting events merging your company with its competitor. Make these moments sacred and enjoy them.
Step Five: Give Yourself a Break
Don't be hard on yourself if it is not easy in the beginning. You may find yourself needing extra food to calm your fingers, which want to type the next blog. You may talk to yourself more and find yourself saying things like "I enjoyed dinner. It was the best I made in a long time." You will experience moments of sadness when you realize that it isn't your block of time and you have a great status update...but don't fret- no one will know that you didn't JUST have that epiphany! And some friends will respect that you are only posting once a day instead of 30!
Technology itself is not bad. It can be attributed to some of the best changes we have experienced. Anyone who has reconnected with a loved one, found themselves supported during down times, or become part of a community of others with like hobbies or beliefs knows the great benefits. However, when we allow ourselves to be sucked in, we have to set boundaries and remember that we are still a part of the real world. When we find ourselves become reclusive and avoiding true human relationships or rushing home from work to join in World of Warcraft or log into Second Life, we must accept that we have left reality. Hopefully these steps will allow you to find the balance in your life that will join technology and old fashioned communication together without overtaking your human interaction. If you want to make this change, you can!