Year of Deductions: May

May: One Hour/Day Without Technology

For the month of May, I decided to give up an hour a day without technology. For that hour, my phone went on airplane mode and I couldn’t fill that time with TV or any other tech devices (laptop, iPad).

How I thought this would affect me:
I thought I would miss the act of casually scrolling the socials or email without purpose. I’m not obsessed with social media, but it does fill a lot of my time. I’ve noticed I immediately grab my phone when I have the smallest moment of downtime. For instance, if I hit a red light, I’ve convinced myself I need to use the next 30 seconds of this red light to check the latest Insta story. Or, if I’m in line at a restaurant, I should probably spend that line time on Pinterest just scrolling through the latest unreasonable lifestyles. When thinking about what I should eliminate for the month of May, I thought about this habit and wanted to address it.

Another way I hoped this would affect me is the lack of silence in my life. I think we have become uncomfortable with silence (I’ll get to more of this later).

How it actually affected me:
To my surprise, I was most affected by this hour of total disconnect in a completely different way. It had nothing to do with my need to access the world. Instead, I was a nervous wreck that the world was trying to access me and they couldn’t. I know, that seems crazy, but as soon as I turned airplane mode on, I thought “What if my sister is trying to get in touch with me?” “What if something happened to my mom?” “What if this is the 30 seconds Brent has to talk that day (because he’s on radio tour and that’s how life is right now, ugh) and I’m not available?” My problem was not being without access, it was not being accessible.

Which led me to…

How terrible is it that we have made ourselves always accessible? At any moment, someone could interrupt whatever we are doing and pull us off course. Before cell phones, we were never this accessible. So why is it so necessary now? It’s not! It’s just normal. And I’m learning this year that normal is not always the best route to take. So often we fall into the trap of following the crowd without questioning the crowd’s route.

Here’s what I found that’s damaging about always being accessible:

  • You can’t be fully involved in whatever you are doing. If someone texts us while we are doing something, there’s no way we are going to let it wait unread until we finish our task. We need to know what it says NOW. We’re a distracted society, never fully invested in our task at hand because our accessibility always takes precedence.
  • We’re uncomfortable with silence. With silence, our brain will fill that space with all kinds of thoughts. I think this scares some people. Being an introvert, most of my thoughts happen inside my head anyway. For extroverts and verbal processors, silence might be pretty intimidating. Think about your moments at home. I would guess either you are talking on the phone, scrolling socials or texting (this does not count as the silence I’m referring to), listening to music, or the TV is on in the background. How often do you have moments without any of these digital noises?
  • And last, if we are accessible, we are always expected to produce. People thought technology would make society more efficient and create more free time for the people. It in fact did the opposite. Because we became more efficient, we added to our to-do lists because we could accomplish more. What we were already accomplishing was not enough anymore. We had a gap in the schedule so HURRY WE HAVE TO FILL IT! Ugh. Gross. But I’m guilty! I LOVE seeing how much I can accomplish in a day. If I am left “unsupervised” I will fill every single second of the day trying to cross things off my list. I have to be forced to take a break, which is why I thought an hour without my phone would force me to at least cut out some of the self-imposed never-ending production.

And it did. During that hour, I couldn’t check the weather, I couldn’t scroll Instagram, I couldn’t talk on the phone, I couldn’t even play music (well, I did use the record player, but not my phone). During this hour, I cooked nice meals and let my mind wander throughout the silence. I spent a lot of time in my garden (of course), which is one of the most meditative places for me. I drank coffee on the porch while hanging with the neighborhood stray cats. I went on walks with a friend. I read a terribly difficult (and slightly annoying, yet intriguing) book I’m still trying to get through. All of these things are normal things I’ve always done, but this time they were done without distractions.

This month’s elimination always seems to make its way to conversation with friends, and I’m realizing just how common anxiety from accessibility is. Earlier this month, I had coffee with a guy named Pete Dunlap. Pete has done a ton of research and created a solution process to help with this very problem. His platform is called the Digital Detangler. He helps people learn how to detangle themselves from the digital world. Here’s a quote from his research:

“Distractions have become so prevalent that today only 45% of employees’ time goes to primary job duties.  The average employee wastes more than 8 hours of each workweek, and more than half of that time takes place on a mobile device.”

 

We as a society are getting pushed and pulled in every direction and we all just want a moment to unplug. I see it in every conversation I have. We are longing for that moment alone – and I mean truly alone – even if it means being uncomfortable. Discomfort so often coincides with growth.

 

Thanks for reading,

JCM

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