I feel different after just seven days into my “tech detox”, Insta-battical, #IRL adventures. This isn’t to say that I’ve become a luddite and have eschewed all things digital (let’s be honest, part of what inspired me to do this was a friend’s Instagram post), but I’ve become more conscious in my tech consumption and have noticed some surprising patterns and reactions.
First of all, I got sad. Perhaps I am mourning the constant connection or accessing deeper feelings, but sadness seems to set in when I resist the urge to scroll. In the same way that cigarettes used to quell that emotional itch, I can feel the same scratch when I don’t pick up an iPhone. It’s a resigned sigh that redirects me back to the moment and into the feeling that I’m looking to distract myself from. Is typing in “F-A-C” the moment I open a browser just a bad, ingrained habit? Is it a loneliness, a dissatisfaction or frustration that I’ve been diverting by constantly losing myself in otherness? Or the anti-climax of a day without the mini-highs of “likes”, “matches” or other validations? By walking through these feelings and connecting in other ways, I’ve started to witness an emotional transformation as those pangs of sadness begin to blossom into a soft serenity and openness that reverberates and resounds.
Without the clutter of constant information and updates, I’m starting to find emotional and physical space within that new softness. Mornings are no longer set into what used to feel like an out-of-control email snowball before I’d even lifted my head from the pillow. Meetings aren’t as stacattoed with interruptions popping into my inbox. Emails aren’t as defensive or haphazard. Walks home aren’t peppered with typing stops or Instagram shots. These moments, which used to feel exhausting, overwhelming and even dramatic, now feel full, rejuvenating and balanced. I can quell that urge to scroll or upload with the notion that I will dedicate myself fully to connecting when I do so with conscious intention, which means that I’m actually able to be more thoughtful and effective… and less likely to shoot back an emotionally-charged retort.
I’m enjoying time more by letting go of the fear of missing out. Spending July 4 (one of the FOMO-est weeks in digital history) without peeking at who’s at which party or overlooking which gorgeous vista enabled me to enjoy my own holiday experience in the way that was right for me. It allowed me to move from experience to experience in full appreciation instead of transporting myself, even for just a moment, somewhere else. I don’t think that I missed out on anything that I didn’t need to know; all of the important pieces of news were communicated directly, including two engagements (one prefaced with, “I wanted to text you about this so you didn’t find out on Facebook…”). My new FOMO is faith in the Need to Know.
The first week of “Jul-IRL” has been about taking time to access that compass within, which often starts with a small emotion that gets squashed by living in such a stimulated world. This isn’t intended to be a diatribe against social media, because I love me some LoFi and I do take pleasure in seeing who’s pregnant, engaged or on a lovely vacation. But it edges subtlely into my internal time to connect with myself and with others when I’m listening but looking elsewhere, or concentrated on turning a moment into a shareable shot. This experiment may not really be about disconnection, but about conscious connection and, really, a deeper reconnection.
A few of you have asked me about my Jul-IRL process, so here’s what’s been working for me (take what you like and leave the rest… and please share your tips as well!).
• Spending 20 – 30 minutes in the morning, meditating and setting myself up for the day.
• Turning off my email settings (work and personal!) on my iPhone between 7 pm and 7 am, and on weekends.
• Avoiding mindless texting and moving (walking, biking, subway-ing, driving both behind the steering wheel or in the backseat.)
• Closing my computer during work meetings (unless I need to access a file). Someone once told me that if you can’t dedicate your full self to the meeting, it’s not important enough to have.
• Remaining logged off of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. (with an occasional peek over the shoulder of someone else’s feed!)
• … And always, practicing genuine curiosity with those in the moment with me, whether a cab driver, a barista or a new friend.