Original image by MTSOfan on Flickr.com, edited by Megan Ciampa
By Megan Ciampa, Contributing Writer
Advances in technology are all about helping us, are they not? About streamlining our lives, making it easier to get more done and in a quicker fashion to boot? Without a doubt, changes in technology over the last 10 years have drastically changed how we go about our daily business and we conduct our lives. With the push of a button I can reserve a movie at Redbox, send important information to a friend or loved one, capture my child’s first steps, and audiostream my favorite musician’s latest album. Some days, I just love technology and the tools it provides me. I can be a tech-junkie and I love to share. No shame there.
And yet, other days, I find myself hampered by it. I love staying in the loop and being connected, but I’ll be the first to admit, having the connectivity can come at a cost, and most of the time, the price is paid at the expense of those I love most: my family. While I’m staying connected with my friends online, I’m losing moments of connection with my nearest and dearest.
When you find yourself unintentionally over-connected, over-stimulated and ready to unplug, let me give you a few suggestions to help yourself unplug, your mind decompress, and reconnect with your loved ones.
Take a Break From Your Phone and Put it in “Timeout”
It may sound drastic. Like, what if you miss the most important phone call or text message of your life? But don’t worry, that message will be waiting for you when you come back to your phone in a few hours or the next day. If it’s that urgent, tell yourself you can check your phone every 1-3 hours for the message and then leave it alone.
Example: I was over at a friend’s house once when I saw she always put her phone back in the same spot–it was hanging out in a leaning magazine rack from a wall in her kitchen–a common spot for her to be, and so she always knew where it was, and could refer to it when necessary, but it never occupied her attention or sent her in a tizzy the next time she tried to find her phone. She always knew where it was and at appropriate times during the day she could check it for important messages. Read here for more suggestions on when to unplug.
Social media sites are interesting, and savvy too. They know just how to keep you coming back to their apps, by pinging your phone every time someone updates. It doesn’t take too long before those fun and cheesy updates can become a nuisance, and a major distraction from your phone. Adjust the settings on your phone so that you’re not getting a notification every time someone posts a picture or updates their status. It’s just really not that necessary.
Delete Apps on Your Phone (if Only for a Time)
No doubt you’ve had friends update their statuses on Facebook or Twitter to say, “I’m going to be offline for a while, so if you need me, email/call/text me.” We may wonder why they’re going “off the grid” to a certain extent, but it wasn’t too long ago I did the same thing myself and found my time away very refreshing. After 24 hours away from Facebook I did not feel compelled to get on a computer and get online to see what was new. If it was important enough, I knew I’d get a text, an email or talk to someone in person who would inform me of some important event. The whole Facebook vacay lasted around two weeks, and I even got a few extra naps in, because instead of checking my phone during my kids’ quiet time, I was getting a little R&R instead!
Switch Back to an “Unsmart” Phone (i.e., a basic-feature phone)
This may sound like a drastic move in today’s world, but I would be lying if I didn’t say the idea has crossed my mind before. These phones allow you to what cell phones were originally invented for: making phone calls, and sending the occasional text message. There are no hefty data plans necessary and it would be less expensive as well.
Note from Kate: I have an “unsmart phone.” so does my husband. It is cheaper and we use them only as needed, not constantly. Would it help my business to have a smart phone? Maybe. But for now, when I’m out with my kids, I’m out with them and that’s it — no business. I use the phone to text or call friends I’m meeting or if something comes up and that’s it.
If some of these tips seem too drastic for you and you cannot afford to be disconnected for personal or business reasons, then give yourself appropriate boundaries and only check your phone for messages and updates at allotted times that will not conflict with your time with your family. We have a family rule that no phones are allowed at the dinner table, and it tends to carry over until our kids are in bed for the night. For us, this provides our family with everyone’s full attention–no distractions, no beeps, no calls, just our family. And everyone’s the better for it.
When I’m struggling on this front, I often have this internal conversation: If it’s really important, I’d call that someone whom I believe needs to hear this message. If it’s really important, they’ll call me. Or someone else who is close to me to get ahold of me. But if it not all that important, then it truly is not a big deal. Thirty years ago they did not have text messaging. 100 years ago, phones were hardly in existence. If my grandparents survived without all this connectivity, so can I (if even for 4 hours).