Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Text Messages. Email. In our day and age we are ALWAYS connected. With the advent of the internet and smart devices, it is almost impossible to disconnect from the constant stream of information scrolling through your news feed. That is, unless something drastic happens...like, for instance, when you go over to a friend's house for a barbecue and you accidentally take your phone for a nice long swim and turn your iPhone into a really shiny paperweight! Whoops!
So after my phone did it's best Dory impression, I was kind of without a phone for a week. I wasn't completely disconnected since I could still access the internet on my computer. But I didn't have instant access to every corner of the internet like I was used to having in our smartphone saturated culture. Once I got through the initial withdrawal stage (the struggle is real people), I had some time to reflect and think a litte bit about how being constantly connected affects us.
Before I begin, I must confess that I am not advocating that we all go back to the stone age and start foraging for berries and hunting our own meat with sharp objects. I am an unabashed Apple fanboy (sorry Androidians!) and geek out (probably a little too much) over the latest iDevice or iOS update. So please don't take what I'm about to say as an endorsement of a completely disconnected lifestyle (although if that's your thing, more power to you!). Now that I've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, here are 5 things I learned from being without my trusty iPhone for a week:
1. Let's get THE most important one out of the way first. If you don't read the other 4 things I learned, at the very least, read this one. Here it is...Real relationships happen in real life with real people. This is something that I am sad to say, I forgot far too often. It is way too easy to assume that because your Instagram picture got a ton of likes and comments, or you have a constant stream of Facebook notifications, that you have lots of friends, contacts, and acquaintances and that people REALLY know you. As valuable as online relationships are, I learned that they are NOT a substitute for real live, face-to-face, interactions with other living, breathing people. It was truly eye opening to spend undistracted time with Megan and the kids and to really observe their personalities in action. We all know that family and friends are the most important things we have in this life, but sometimes we forget just how important they are when we are constantly being distracted by all that buzzing and dinging going on in our pockets.
2. The world is an awesome place! I didn't realize how often I buried my face in my phone as the world just kind of passed me by. Whether it was while I was walking to my car (I know, I know, texting and walking is a public safety concern), sitting inside checking out Facebook during an amazing sunset, or just constantly checking your phone throughout the day for no reason. Not to get all existential on you, but after a week without a phone, the birds seem to sing a little louder, the sky seems a little bluer, and a nice breeze is just a little more refreshing. Weird? I know. But it's true. Maybe it's because without a phone, I was just a little more "present" in reality, but I found myself noticing and appreciating the little things just a little bit more.
3. I got so much more done! Without the constant distractions it was so much easier to stay focused and complete tasks. Dishes got done faster. Kids got put to bed on time. Daily chores didn't have to "wait till tomorrow." It's not that I was being lazy (well maybe sometimes), but without the constant starting and stopping during a task while you check email or see who's texting you, it was so much easier to get stuff done. I even picked up that ancient technology known as a book and read TWO of them! I found that instead of looking back at my day and wondering where the time had gone, I was able to look back and see all the tasks that had been accomplished.
4. I remembered how to talk to people! True confession time. I am an introvert. No, that doesn't mean I sit in a cave all day and endlessly whisper "my precious" in a creepy voice to my iPhone. It also doesn't mean that I don't enjoy being around other people. What it does mean, however, is that I'm terrible at small talk and that sometimes I need a little extra "alone time" to recharge my batteries after being around other people for a while. What I realized though, is that far too often I would whip out my phone during those "awkward silences" at gatherings or during conversations. It was way too easy to get all Gollum-ish (minus the creepy whispering thing) with my iPhone so close at hand. Instead, without that "safe haven" just a pocket away, I was forced to really engage with people and maintain a bit of back and forth conversation. Crazy right?! Don't get me wrong, no one will mistake me for and extrovert anytime soon, and small talk still kind of makes my palms sweaty, but after a little practice this week with no phone, I am fairly confident I can keep the small talk train rolling down the tracks...at least for a little while!
5. Finally, don't be afraid of the "B" word! Being bored isn't always a bad thing! Sometimes people eat because they're bored. Others whip out their phones and play Crossy Road. I'm not judging...I still giggle everytime Poopy Pigeon makes that "poopy" noise. However, after not having a smartphone for a week to magically whisk me away to car-dodging paradise any time I want, there were times where I was left to sit with nothing but my thoughts. In our consumer culture, we are constantly bombarded with things that want to "entertain" us and our smartphones are no exception. As I commuted to and from work with nothing to do but think about my day, wonder what the kids did all day, or contemplate the meaning of life, I realized that sometimes it's ok to be bored. In a weird way, I think our brains need a bit of time to sort thoughts, reorganize ideas, and get back on track, and boredom proved to be a really good way of getting my mind right.
Now that the week is over, and my new iPhone arrived in the mail, I'm trying to remember what I learned and change my habits a bit so that I don't fall into the same traps I did before. I utilize the vibrate and "do not disturb" function a lot more now than I used to. I try and schedule times to check social media instead of just "always being on." If there's a living, breathing human in front of me, I try my best to keep my phone in my pocket and give them my full attention. I'm also trying to maintain my new found reading habit. When its time to unplug, I try and leave my phone in another room because "outta sight" in this case really is "outta mind."
I still love getting on social media, hopping through traffic with Floppy Fish, or scrolling through articles on Feedly. But, after a week with no phone, I realized that a little less time with your phone and a little more time with the ones you love is a sacrifice we should all be willing to make.