Last weekend, I turned off my phone. And my computer. And my laptop. And the tablet. I said goodbye to emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone calls and Googling for 48 hours. Shocked? I was too, at first. So was everyone else.
What does it mean if we’re not connected? What if I can’t be reached? What if someone is trying to get a hold of me? What if I need to Yelp the location of the nearest taco place? For me, my reliance on my devices was starting to feel like too much. I noticed myself getting anxious and tense when I couldn’t check my phone, and was beginning to feel like responding to emails was my full-time job.
I needed a break. And the first gorgeous spring weekend of this year seemed like a great time to do it.
So what happened in those 48-hours of tech silence? I learned a few things:
1. It can wait.
Well, the world didn't end because I didn't reply to my emails immediately. In fact, Monday morning brought only 39-unread real emails and 64 newsletters/promotional ones. Not unmanageable, and certainly nothing urgent.
Because I so frequently find myself anxious about the number of emails in my inbox, and can often rate a day's success based on how many I've cleared, it's nice to be reminded that these are not the beginning and end of the world.
2. Without my phone, I noticed so much more about the people around me.
I watched a dad deftly manage his toddler’s demands at the store. I watched an elderly man eat his lunch on the train (and considerately clean up the floor beneath him before leaving). I had a conversation with a homeless fellow on the sidewalk, because I noticed him there and noticed the sadness on his face. He was fascinating.
3. Technology addiction is everywhere.
Have you paid attention to how tremendously reliant on these little rectangles we all seem to be? We sit in rows with our headphones in and thumbs a-typing, disengaged and disconnected. It was so strange to be an observer of something I am usually a part of.
4. Connecting with real people is so much more enjoyable than connecting with pixels.
The irony of being constantly connected actually disconnects us from the people immediately with us. Without the distraction of my phone, I had far more enjoyable conversations with my husband. We had two really great days together, playing tourists in our own city and building a fort in the living room. We connected in a way we couldn’t have had we both been distracted by our devices.
5. Managing a phone these days is actually managing seven things at once.
Email, social media accounts, texting, phone calls ... Putting it aside for even a short period takes a lot off of your mind. Suddenly, I had far fewer things to worry about and way more time and brain space to be present, excited and flexible. Perhaps I have more free time in the week than I think.
6. I rely on Google for most things.
It means I don’t give myself enough opportunities to think for myself. Taking a break from consulting Google meant having to make educated guesses about everything from how long it would take me to run to midtown and back, to which train we should take to the Staten Island Ferry.
I'm by no means anti-technology. I am just grateful for this experience to separate from it for a little bit to see how it impacts my life. It's interesting to acknowledge that I found myself actively fighting the urge to check my phone while standing in line or waiting on the train. I know now that I don’t have to remove myself from the present moment to see what I might be missing. I can just be.
Here are my big takeaways from two tech-free days:
- I don't work for my phone. My phone works for me.
- I will commit to avoiding the use of my phone when walking and out in the world. I would rather engage with the world around me.
- I will schedule time to check Facebook and email, and it won't be around other people.
- I like myself (and my experience of being alive) quite a lot more when I don't feel obligated to being connected all the time.
So, consider scheduling taking a few days off from your devices. If I can do it, you can do it too!
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