Unplug Your Life - Connect from Disconnecting
"Technology has become a useful servant but a dangerous master."
In today’s hectic world, families everywhere are charged up, connected, plugged in. There’s an app for every corner of your life, mobile news, everything is digitized and modernized. Literally, the vast majority of our day to day lives in some way shape or form revolves around being plugged in - to our smart phones, our laptops, our tablets. We are so busy being plugged in, over organizing and streamlining our lives that maybe we are missing out on those little things that make life our life fulfilled - some may even say what makes our lives worth living.
A Villainous Superhero
Every good story has a villain and in this case, technology is the evil-no-good-dastardly bad guy. Yep, he’s a nasty fella. He makes life so efficient and so savvy that even the most awkward of people can figure out how to tweet and post with ease and sophistication. Technology allows us to find what we need, who we like, all that we desire at the fastest speed and the lowest price - all from the convenience of our own home. Often times while sitting in our jammies. Yep, he’s stripped us of our communication skills and allowed us to say, do, be anything we want, hidden behind our screens.
Now that’s not to say that Technology is all bad. He’s got his good qualities too. He puts us in touch with information that for many would be hard to come by. You can diagnose, find an anecdote, ask a question, check a resource and so many other things - right from your screen. You can find your way, ask a question, get some help, even get an education - all from Technology. How to videos, the ability to see the birth of a baby giraffe (yes, I LOVED watching April the giraffe give birth to a baby boy), show us wonders of the world that we would never be able to see, help us find those that are lost and oh, so many other amazing and wonderful things. Not a total villain - in fact, some might say he has certain superhero qualities. A villainous superhero - Technology to a T.
Impact of Technology on Families
Technology has had a tremendous impact on families. It’s in our workplace, a mainstay in schools, a part of every day life that there is no escaping. Some of that technological impact has been positive and some of that has had a negative impact. Let’s take a look.
Connection. Technology has given us the ability to connect with our families. No matter where you are, how far apart, what time of day or night, we have the ability to text, call, email, get in touch with our loved ones. Grandparents across the United States from their grandchildren simply need to FaceTime to see those babies that they love and miss so much. A husband can shoot a quick text to his wife that he’s running late, kids can get in touch with their parents at the drop of a hat. It allows us to have that instant connection with our loved ones in the hectic daily schedules that we thrive on.
Information and learning. I love this. I think it’s so important. Technology has blown open the door to all the amazing facts of the world. Learn about virtually anything that piques your interest. See pictures of the Amazon, the Grand Canyon. Learn about penguins, find facts, learn how to fix and put back together your dryer (check), how to change a tire, fertilize your yard. It allows us to find information on people we may have lost, long lost friends to reconnect, reunions of the sweetest and most heart fulfilling kind. Almost anything you want to know or learn, technology has made it possible for families across the world.
Connection. I know - I said this was a positive but in equal measure it is a negative. Technology has taken away our connections with our loved ones, with our families, with it’s superhighway of STUFF. Games, social media, videos and more have drawn our focus to them and away from the things that are right in front of us. It has put us in connection with people and things that may compromise our values - but hey, it’s behind a screen so who’s going to know. Technology has stripped us of our responsibility to OWN our connections. And we have all personally seen the fallout from that lack of responsibility - whether on social media or in our own lives. It’s not pretty.
Information and learning. Ah - have we caught on? Yes, like connection, information and learning is as much of a negative as it is a positive. The internet has blown the doors off of the information available to our families and not all of that information is good. And because it is so accessible it is very challenging to control and keep an eye on. It’s allowed kids to grow up faster and learn things that may not be age appropriate or appropriate period and the same can be said for adults - there is information out there that takes away the accountability within the family unit.
Unplugging from Technology
There is a lot to be said for unplugging. For a day. For a week. For a stinking hour if you can stand it. Here are my top five reasons WHY to unplug and ways you can put it in to action.
1. It allows you to readjust your focus.
I think this is huge. In our efforts to become more streamlined and efficient with technology, we often lose our efficiency. Whether it’s checking how many likes we got on our post, retweeting, watching videos, what have you - we are easily distracted when we are plugged in. When you unplug, even if it’s just for an hour during your day, it allows for a more complete focus on the task at hand. Think about how often you’re in the middle of doing something and your phone pings with a message or an alert. What does that do to your immediate focus?
Putting this to action:
During your workday, when you can, shut off your phone. Put it on do not disturb. Set aside a period of time where you can focus on what you need to get done or to get a significant start. This goes with time at home too or whatever it is you do on a day to day basis. You don’t have to start big - do it for 10 minutes initially. Give yourself 10 minutes of time that is completely free of technology to do whatever it is you need to do. Increase that time in smaller increments as the days and weeks go by - it will be almost unnoticeable to add five minutes on. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish when you are unplugged from your distractions.
2. It lets us simplify.
Unplugging is a godsend when it comes to simplifying. We at times allow technology to overcomplicate our lives. We use an app for everything from doctor’s appointment reminders to counting our calories to tracking our sleep patterns. We got by as as a society for hundreds of years without knowing how many steps we took during the day or counting our macros. Sometimes, getting back to the basics, simplifying our life keeps us in check and serves as a reality slap. And from child to adult, that is necessary to keep us grounded.
Putting this to action:
The next time you go to the grocery store, bring a list. A handwritten list that as you walk through the store you can cross off. Turn off the fit bit and get outside to take a walk because it is a beautiful day - not because you need to get your 10,000 steps in. Choose a healthy lunch, not because you need to get in 40 more grams of protein but because you want to do good things for your body. Pull out your agenda, your organizer and write in your appointments, the yearly birthdays and have a hard written copy of those things that you need to be “in the know” of. There are multiple ways that we can take out technology during our day and just simplify - get back to basics.
3. It forces face to face communication.
Okay, I’ll be honest. This is my FAVORITE. Unplugging from our phones, our ipads, our laptops, etc. forces us to communicate with those around us. With words. That come from our mouths. And are spoken to another person - not Siri. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a restaurant and there sits a family of four with everyone’s head bent over their phones. No one talking. No one engaging. No one communicating. Put down, turn off, unplug and look at one another. Talk to one another. It’s a beautiful thing, I promise you.
Putting this to action:
I used the example above in the restaurant. I think it’s important. We have a no phones policy at dinner. All phones are turned off, turned down, placed on the counter. If we are watching a movie, phones are put away, laptops not allowed. Have a no technology policy from 7:00 pm on, no phones or tablets on a certain night of the week - and this goes for us as parents as well because we are as much a part of the problem. Reconnect with your kids, talk with them and make sure that they know how to engage with other people. Look at it this way - even in a world where Skype interviews and Face Timing is the ‘norm’, our children still need to be able to look another person in the eye and have a conversation. Face to face is where it’s at.
4. It helps to shut down our brain.
Let me explain. When we are constantly plugged in, on our phones, watching videos, playing Words With Friends or Clash Royale, etc. our brains are constantly engaged. And often times we are plugged in up until it’s time for bed. It takes your brain time to shut down from all the activity. Think about it. How often are our children on their phones, playing Xbox, etc. with the plea of “Just five more minutes!” And then we expect them to go to bed and fall asleep. Their little brains are still going a million miles a minute and it can take them a good hour to wind down from their plugged in activity. Give your brain a rest. Turn it off and just chill. I don’t know - READ A BOOK! Meditate. Be. But unplug and let your brain have a time out.
Putting this to action:
No phones in the bedroom for starters. I started doing this several years ago and the difference in how my children slept was night and day. We don’t allow any video games past a certain point in the night most nights and I make every effort to make for mandatory down time before bed - meaning no phones, ipads, laptops. Even during the middle of the day - force those electronics to be put down, put away, UNPLUGGED. You may get some grumbling and whining but stick to your guns.
5. It makes us choose alternatives.
Again, I love this one too. When you unplug from technology, it can force you to choose an alternative. Read an actual book. Draw on a piece of paper. I don’t know - play with your Legos. Pick up the phone and make a phone call. Write a letter. Go to the library and use the Dewy Decimal System to find a book and read up on how to do it (do they use the Dewy Decimal System any longer???) When you take away the lure of technology you open up the door to choosing a less modern but often times just as enjoyable (one might say more so) alternative.
Putting this to action:
There are so many great ways this can be put into action. For kids, when you take away the electronics and the temper tantrums are done, what I’ve found is that all of a sudden children find their imagination. Yep. They find those old toys that were brought for Christmas, the tired and forgotten basketball behind the shed, the bike (gasp) to be ridden around the block. For adults, maybe the newel post will finally get fixed or instead of going to Epicurious to look up what’s for dinner you pull out your tired and worn better homes and gardens cookbook that was passed down to you from your own mom. Take away the new and look for an alternative.
How I unplugged
Those of you that know me know a couple of things: I am attached to my phone and I can’t stand that my family is attached to theirs. I have two children that live away from home so that makes it hard to not be attached and let’s just say that I don’t mind social media. I see the value in having my phone on me and with me all the time. Given that I have three teenagers, I see more of the tops of their heads at times than I do their faces and my Rob’s job - well, he is on call 24/7. So technology is a beast and a burden and a blessing for me.
House rules RULE
There are no phones allowed at the dinner table. Ever. You get up to go answer your phone and well, let’s just say you won’t have a phone to answer next time. When we are watching a movie together, playing HORSE outside, whatever family time we are spending - there are no phones allowed. I catch you on it, you can tell it bye-bye. And if we are going somewhere as a family - whether it’s out to eat, to a friends house, what have you - your phone stays in the car. And I gotta tell you - that’s my favorite one of all. And other parents love it. More often than not you will other parents say, “They aren’t on their phones so put yours away too.” And the kids do something crazy - like go outside. And PLAY. (gasp)
It hit home about six months ago. We were watching Jeopardy and I look up from Words with Friends and none of us were watching. We would glance at the tv on occasion but we were all locked into our own phones. I hadn’t seen my husband all day, had no idea about his day and vice versa. We’ve had to work at staying off of our own phones at night and engaging with one another or simply being - but without the iPhones in hand. We slip up and get lazy for sure but the effort is consistent and improvements have been made.
I had a houseful for the weekend and I came down Easter Sunday to the tops of everyone’s head. So I promptly went around, grabbed all the phones and hid them in the garage. Gave them an hour on the Xbox and then told them I didn’t care what they did but stay off the TV, the internet, everything. Stare at the walls, pick lint from the carpet but NO ELECTRONICS. Took about 25 minutes but before long one was practicing her guitar and two were outside on the driveway playing basketball. And it was a version of that for the entire day. We laughed, we teased, we connected. And I was grateful.
Not Unplugging can be okay
In my life, there are areas where I don’t unplug and there are reasons behind. I write so therefore I am on the computer daily. And I communicate primarily through email. So ‘unplugging’ from that can be difficult and at times not possible. I have had to shut off my phone, put it on do not disturb at times, etc. in order to get work done. But for me unplugging on a day to day basis is not always an option or the opportunity isn’t always presented.
And I live far away from my family. Like not an hours drive but literally they live on one end of the United States and I’m on the other. I have found that words for my sister and I are best left to text and Facebook messages and that’s okay. I think when you’ve suffered a loss that spoken words can be so difficult and you need the barrier, the protection of a screen. And sometimes that screen allows you to be vulnerable and open and get things out that face to face contact doesn’t allow for. And that’s okay. I’m here if she needs to talk but those spoken words are not necessary if that’s not what is best for her.
And sometimes, when life hands you lemons, lemonade tastes better when it’s written first. We’ve had a lot of loss this year, a lot of sickness, a lot of turmoil, a lot of bad news. And sometimes, putting voice to the words, telling someone that the cancer is back - it’s just too hard and plugging in gives you the voice to be heard. There has been so much that a group text lets everyone know without having to relive the conversation over and over again. And that - that is okay.
Our lives are so crazy. So busy. So full. We maximize the hours, the minutes, the instances in order to get everything we can out of each and every day - a modern day version of living life to the fullest. But I urge you, I beg of you - take a minute, an hour, time out of your days and your weeks and UNPLUG. Reconnect the old-fashioned way. Pull out the board games, put away the tablets, go shoot some hoops and keep score with a pencil and paper. Simplify your life by plugging in to the people that take up space in your heart. You won’t be sorry!
"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you."