We cannot allow what we hold in our hands to be what blinds us. If left to our own devices, we must recognize that there’s a time and a place to be connected to the interwebs, and darlings, that does not mean all the time everywhere there’s wifi.
Don’t be mistaken, I am wowed by technology and specifically the social phenomenon that has kick started people dumping ice buckets to fund a cure, making Christmas come early for a terminally ill child, and inspiring girls to lead with the rallying hashtag #banbossy.
In college I eagerly joined a brand new community when the only requirement was a .edu email address. I love a good filter as much as the next Mom looking to capture a moment in lackluster lighting. The sheer volume of information on every topic imaginable (and that’s just one website) is exhilarating. I am delighted when I learn how the web has played a heavy hand in fate.
Technology is designed to bring people together in unimaginable ways. And every second of every day, it delivers on that promise. Simultaneously, I see a trend of mobile devices in particular, pulling us away from those who we may be sharing the same table, plane ride or even real-life, real-time conversation.
I’m talking about sharing a smile with a friendly face who passes by or witnessing a child’s kindhearted attempt to make a new friend. When was the last time you felt the wind gently sweep past your arm or take an unfilled moment to daydream? When catching up with a friend, does your buzzing phone distract you from hearing both what she says and perhaps what she doesn’t? The good stuff is what makes us feel part of this world that for just a small blip we get to make our home.
The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices is a blessing and a burden. While there’s always a way to reach out and get whatever answer we think we need (thank you, Google), it steals the fun in being curious and kidnaps way more of our precious time, because the sense of urgency to respond does not waver. The expectation of always being tuned in and at the ready is one I think we can soften.
Here are some ways to experiment with your own tech-free practice.
1. Out of sight, out of mind works.
Mobile devices and the pesky chirps letting us know we’ve been pinged can steal the most important gift we are given each day and that’s the present. When you want to focus on enjoying the moment, put the device in a drawer or another room. Better yet — leave the charger in another room so you’re more likely to unplug at more frequent, lengthier intervals while both you and your device are getting your juice back.
2. Set no tech times.
Draw a line in the sand and take tech out of the picture entirely for those moments you want to hear, smell, feel, see and think with clarity. Your device doesn’t have to smell your Panini sandwich just like it doesn’t need to hear the water falling off in the distance. If dinner is the only time of the day to spend as a family, give that time the undistracted love it deserves. Everything else can learn to wait.
3. Help yourself with codes.
Create symbols or sayings that will remind you of your tech-free aspirations. Maybe it’s a sticker on the home button of your device so you pause to think if now is the time. Are you opening your screen with a particular purpose or just to troll Facebook? Tell your partner about your wishes for more no-tech time and create codes to gently nudge when technology has hijacked a moment that you intended to be present. For example, FON for Focus On Now, or you’re letting FOMO for Fear Of Missing Out take over, and you’re actually missing out on right now.
Pick a day (maybe it has to be a weekend) where you fast from all tech all day. Take on the mindset that “it can wait” and just see what happens. You might end up exploring a new place, trying out a hobby, learning a language, planning your next big move, or making memories. And isn’t that the stuff great Instagram posts are made of anyway? #latergram
5. Don’t be sorry.
When you don’t respond right away, don’t apologize. We can all work together to soften the overbearing response expectations. Appreciate the time you’ve chosen to unplug, unwind and live in the moment. And respect when others may be doing the same.
There’s a risk of being too ingrained in the software that balances in our hands that we miss feeling the fibers woven together that create real life. Technology lacks the texture we all crave to feel alive. The serendipitous nature of life is nothing short of magic. Don’t miss out on it.
Rather than comment on a friend’s post, pick up the phone.
If you have the opportunity for a real hug with both arms versus an emoji, go give it.
Handwrite a note instead of sending an email.
Look up and see who’s looking back.