Last week, I traveled to Punta Cana with my mom to celebrate my 25th birthday.
For the first time, I was completely disconnected from the Internet- email, blogging, social media. My only connection back home was via text message (and every sent message cost 50 cents, so I wasn’t texting regularly).
Being so connected on a daily basis both personally and for my job, I felt a little pang when I reluctantly flipped the “cellular data” section of my iPhone to off.
The dangers of being connected 24/7 are widely discussed online. There are studies reporting that being connected doesn’t make us more productive, anecdotal experiments linking being constantly plugged in with not doing your best work and countless blog posts outlining ways to disconnect.
In the end, spending five days unplugged turned out to be a fantastic experiment and has encouraged me to make some changes in my daily life to spend more time offline.
Here are three things I learned from spending five days completely unplugged.
1. Disconnecting allows you to actually live in a moment, rather than simply capturing it. How many times have you been on vacation, at a concert or out with friends that you’ve spent precious time trying to snap the perfect picture and then immediately Instagramming it, tweeting it and posting it to Facebook? GUILTY. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time sharing and showing off the moment I’m in that I’m not truly living it. When I was on vacation, I of course took photos, but after I took the photo, I was back to enjoying the moment. It was actually really nice and a little bit of a relief to simply be and not worry about how many people liked my Instagram photo or replied to a tweet.
2. When you unplug, you have time to pursue other hobbies and interests. I read two and a half books and caught up on three magazines (AND even completed a crossword puzzle) when I was away. Prior to vacation, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I completed a book, let alone spent time leisurely flipping through a magazine. Being on vacation reminded me of how much I love reading (I used to have a book blog for goodness sake!) and why I need to make my offline hobbies and interests a priority in my everyday life.
3. Unplugging forces you to have real human interaction. While I was in Punta Cana, I traveled with my mom and although we spend lots of time together on a regular basis, being on vacation completely unplugged allowed us lots of time to talk, catch up and connect, sans interruptions. It’s easy in your daily life to be out and about with your smartphone glued to your hand and FEEL like you’re connecting because you’re constantly on social media, but the truth is, nothing beats real human interaction and face to face communication.
After spending five days unplugged, here are three small changes I plan to implement in my life in an effort to disconnect.
1. Turning email off when I go to sleep. I sleep with my phone at my bedside, next to my head (terrible, I know). Because I use my phone as my alarm, I keep the sound on. When I finally put the phone down and settle into bed, cozy under the covers, inevitably, I hear the annoying little email beep on my phone, and like a magnetic pull, I HAVE to check it. This obviously pulls me out of my relaxing pre-sleep mode and suddenly I’m awake and restarting the entire process again. To solve this problem, I plan to turn my email off (it’s super easy to do on the iPhone) before bed so that I can get a good night’s sleep. I’ll turn my email back on in the morning when I’m out of bed and ready to start the day.
2. No more blog reading/social media during dinner. On nights that we don’t eat together as a family, I’m completely guilty of setting up shop at my kitchen table with my computer and mindlessly eating dinner while refreshing Twitter and reading blogs. I want to stop doing this and spend that time either just eating (crazy!) or perhaps reading a book or magazine, if I have to be doing something else.
3. Reading before bed. Instead of checking Twitter and Instagram for the hundredth time and playing 10 games of Scramble With Friends, I want to spend those last 20-30 minutes before bed reading. Even though I no longer review books, I still love to read and there are so many unread books on my shelf. I think spending time reading before bed will be more relaxing than staying connected to social media and allow for a better night’s sleep.
These changes are certainly going to take time to implement into my life. After years of constant connection and because I obviously still love social media, I’m never going to go cold turkey and completely unplug. However, by introducing these small changes into my everyday routine, I’ll be a much happier and more productive person, both at work and in my personal life. I’ll be sure to check back in a month or so to let you know how the experiment is going.
Have you ever completely unplugged? Do you have any suggestions for unplugging on a more regular basis? Share in the comments below!
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