Is it me or does life seem to be speeding up? Every year, month, week, day, hours – even minutes – feel as though they are just flying by.
Because of this warp speed feeling, I've recently been making a concerted effort each day to live an analog life and unplug from technology. Some days I am more successful than others. It is cliche with my generation (Gen X) to speak of days when we would go out and play until the street lights came on, and most of the time our parents had no clue where we were or what we were doing. Landlines, VCRs, cassette tapes, records, film cameras; almost nothing in our lives was digital. Nowadays I work for a digital media company. In our family we have two cell phones, two laptops, two iPads, two iPods, a Smart TV, smart appliances, digital alarm systems, etc. We are all connected, all the time, and can locate our loved ones within seconds. This technology will only continue to evolve. Who knows - my kids generation could have RFD chips implanted into their bodies and we will all be human computers. It seems like something straight out of a science fiction novel but it's the reality of the world we're living in today. It can be overwhelming. (Think I'm paranoid?
As an adult I understand the crutch that technology has become for my wife and me, as well as for our kids. It is hard to imagine a day without internet, power, or a phone to pacify my children when we're in pubic and they're being little PITAs. I am one of the fortunate ones who still gets to just unplug a few weekends each year. The reason I try to force myself out of the digital world as much as possible is for my own sanity. Ever find yourself sitting and talking with someone, and all of a sudden you are unengaged in the conversation and scrolling through your phone. Happens to me unconsciously every day. My wife is constantly calling me out on my cell phone use, and for that I love her. She can call me on my own bullshit when I attempt to justify why “I have to check my phone.” Sometimes I find I have too much swirling in my head to meditate or work on controlled breathing, or just focus on a single task or idea. Much of this mental chaos, I think, comes from the amount of information we now have at our fingertips. Our world is the most technologically advanced society in the history of humans. Just think about that for a second, we live in pretty cool times. In addition, most of this technology advancement has come in the past 100 years...CRAZY! Here is what I do to calm the storm on a daily basis. (I also make a point of taking a long weekend once a year in an area where cell phones don’t even work. Yes, those places do still exist.)
1 | Disconnect for short periods of time.
I try to build this into each and every day. Think of this exercise as your first baby step. Your goal should be to just turn off your phone. Go for a walk with your family and leave all devices at home. Dinner time - no phones or technology at the dinner table two nights per week. Kids sporting events, leave your phone in the car. At church, same thing, technology stays out of the building. You will be amazed how quickly your focus will sharpen up and how much your brain is able to just relax. I will warn you, when you start to build these periods of time into your week, you will constantly get pulled back in – you hear a buzz from a new text, you want to check Facebook, or wondering what is happening in the news. Just be mindful of these distractions, recognize them for what they are, and then move them aside and reengage with your non-tech time. Baby steps!
2 | Disconnect for a day.
Scary right? You can do this. Go camping, a buddies weekend, fishing trip, golf day, etc. There are a ton of activities you can do that do not require technology. Just leave your cell in your car, and DO NOT CAVE! Believe me, the world will still be there when you wake up the next day. Enjoy and engage in conversations with your friends and get to know them again – not through technology but actually listening to their stories. Seems simple, but does take some work. I also recommend trying to meditate, pray, write, read, do puzzles, or something besides a digital object for you to give your 100% attention to.
3 | The long weekend.
Okay, this one is tough. You have to find a safe environment to accomplish this. This means for an entire long weekend, three to four days where you are not checking your phone once. I go to a family hunting/fishing camp in the middle of nowhere. There are no phones, or even electricity. We run our camp off a solar panel and car battery and get warmth through a wood stove. My dad told me last year he found an area where he can get a signal. I told him to keep that information to himself... Love ya, Dad! There is no better feeling than coming out of the woods and actually learning about all that I have missed. Most of it, no big deal that I missed it. As we get older and look to understand why we are here and what our mission on this ball of mud really is, silence and focus will be harder and harder to attain. The longer you go without unplugging the harder it will seem to do. Just rip off the Band Aid and give it a shot. Start forming new habits today. I would be amazed if not every single person noticed a profound increased appreciation for this technology, as well as an appreciation for what the world was like before we were all digital.