7 Important Reasons to Unplug and Find Space

reasons-to-power-down

“We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much – if at all.” —Steve Jobs

Technology has some wonderful benefits. I use it almost every day. And I would never, ever argue against the responsible use of it.

However, that being said, it is becoming increasingly obvious that our world is developing an unhealthy attachment to it:

  • 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device. (source)
  • 67% of cell phone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. (source)
  • Studies indicate some mobile device owners check their devices every 6.5 minutes. (source)
  • 88% of U.S. consumers use mobile devices as a second screen even while watching television. (source)
  • Almost half of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls. (source)
  • Traditional TV viewing eats up over six days (144 hours, 54 minutes) worth of time per month. (source)
  • Some researchers have begun labeling “cell phone checking” as the new yawn because of its contagious nature. (source)

But we don’t need statistics to tell us we are over-attached to our technology. We already know this to be true—which is probably why this powerful video has received over 13,000,000 views in less than six days.

But we need to be reminded again and again: Technology has a power-off button. And the wisest of us know when to use it.

Consider again, just some of the Important Reasons to Unplug Our Technology:

1. Powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness. Researchers recently discovered that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook and more dissatisfied with their lives. Certainly, not every interaction with Facebook is a negative one. But typically, our own experience validates their research. From family happiness to body image to vacation destinations to the silly number of birthday greetings on a Facebook wall, the opportunity for envy presents itself often on social media. Powering-down for a period of time provides opportunity to reset and refocus appreciation and gratitude for the lives we have been given.

2. Powering-down combats the fear of missing out. Scientifically speaking, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has been recognized as a recently emerging psychological disorder brought on by the advance of technology. The premise is simple. Our social media streams are ever-filled with everything happening all around us. Nowadays, we even see the plates of food our friends are enjoying. And within this constant stream of notification, our fear of being left out continues to grow. Turning off social media and finding contentment in our present space is a welcome skill.

3. Solitude is harder to find in an always-connected world. Solitude grounds us to the world around us. It provides the stillness and quiet required to evaluate our lives and reflect on the message in our hearts. In a world where outside noise is coming quicker and louder than ever, the need for solitude becomes more apparent… and easier to overlook. True solitude and meditation will always require the intentional action of shutting off the noise and the screens.

4. Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you. Our world may be changing. But the true nature of life is not. Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you. These experiences will never repeat themselves. These conversations are unfiltered and authentic. And the love is real. But if we are too busy staring down at our screen, we’re gonna miss all of it.

5. Powering-down promotes creation over consumption. Essentially, most of our time is spent in one of two categories: consuming or creating. Certainly, technology can contribute to creating. For example, this article was written (created) on a computer. But most of the time we spend in front of technology is spent consuming (playing video games, browsing the Internet, watching movies, listening to music). But our world doesn’t need more consuming. It needs more creating. It needs your passion, your solution, and your unique contribution. Power-down. And begin contributing to a better world because of it.

6. Addiction can only be understood when the object is taken away. Through a recent technological fast, I learned something about myself. I learned I am far more addicted to technology than I would have guessed. But that is the nature of addiction, isn’t it? We can never fully realize our level of addiction until the item is taken away. And the only way to truly discover technology’s controlling influence on your life is to turn it off, walk away, and sense how strong the pull is to turn it back on.

7. Life is still about flesh, blood, and eye contact. There are valuable resources online to help us grow and evolve. I have been enriched by the connections I have made and the friends I have met. But no matter how much I interact with others through the miracle of technology, there is something entirely unique and fantastic about meeting face-to-face. The experience of looking another person in the eye without the filter of a screen changes everything. Each time, I am reminded that life’s most fulfilling relationships are the ones in the world right in front of me. And spending too much time looking away from them does a great disadvantage to my soul and theirs.

How then, in our ever-connected world, might we take appropriate steps to find balance and intentionality in our approach to technology? If you need help getting started, try one or more of these helpful tips to unplug and find space:

• Choose to start your day elsewhere. Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The first hour is the rudder of the day.” Spend it wisely. Commit to not turning on technology during your first waking hour. After all, the world ran just fine without you for the previous 7-8 hours, one more won’t hurt. Blocking out that one hour to focus on meditation or your upcoming day will help you wisely shape the other 23.

• Power-down for one period of time each day. Choose a specific period of the day to intentionally power-down. As mentioned above, this may be the first hour of the day. Or maybe the last hour of the day works better for you… or maybe lunch, dinner, or the hours just before your kids go to bed. The specific time of the day is not important. What is important is the discipline of learning when and how to power-down. Choose something that works for your specific lifestyle and stick to it at all costs.

• Better manage the time-wasters. There are a number of Internet tools that can help you better manage your time online. Freedom will disable your entire Internet connection for a time period set by you. Selfcontrol will allow you to block access to uniquely specified websites (for example: Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, your favorite blog) for a period of time, but still have access to the rest of the web.

• Take one extended break on a regular basis. I have found great value in choosing 40 days each year to power-down unnecessary apps (leaving only phone and text privileges on my phone). And I have completed the exercise each of the last two years. It has taught me about technology, relationships, and myself. Whether it be for one weekend, one week, or 40 days, there is great value in taking an intentional extended break from technology. Pick something. And get started right away. Your life is waiting.

Learning to power-down technology is an important life skill with numerous benefits. It is becoming a lost art in our ever-connected world. But the wisest of us take time to learn the discipline. And live fuller lives because of it.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks- This is great post! I am glad to see you touched on addiction (#6) as it really seems to be an epidemic crossing most socioeconomic and age categories in the US. Like you say “We can never fully realize our level of addiction until the item is taken away.”

  2. Brendan says

    great article – inspiring me to give consideration to take a “fast” from technology for a week. might be tough considering i need to use a computer etc for work but could start small maybe. am so sick of being addicted to checking phone etc constantly.

  3. says

    Great post. I just came back from 7 weeks in the woods with (hardly) any technology. With the exception of not blogging for that long, everything else was spot on as far as your bullets above go. We all need a detox, more often than not.

  4. Audrey says

    How true. I have observed people on dates who were more interested in their iPhones and Facebook that the live breathing person sitting with them. As well as families who have gotten together (live in separate states) and they were all on their phones instead of talking and sharing life with each other for the short period of time they were together. They were together yet very alone in their actions and thoughts. I originally thought this was a generation thing, but have discover it is not.
    I saw something where when people go out to eat with family and friends and they pile their phones one on top of the other, and in order to have real people time, the first one to check their phone gets the bill. I like that idea because when I go out to eat with friends and family, I want their attention not their phones. They tried to convince me I was just “misunderstanding the situation” and I’m just old fashion. I like face to face and I think a lot of people crave they also.
    As always I really enjoy your post and seek you out whenever possible.

  5. says

    Hey Joshua ~ You’ve hit the nail on the head. What you’re saying is backed up with those real-life conversations I have with counseling clients, especially the impact of Facebook and that whole FOMO thing.

    And I can’t begin to tell you how hurt I was during those dinners with a friend where texting took the place of any real life connection we could have had. I finally got the hint that I wasn’t all that important after all.

    After getting your newsletter yesterday, I posted one of the images you sent on my blog. Because you’re right. This is important. And it needs to be kept front and center …

  6. says

    I love the idea of taking a break from cell phones and the internet. It’s all too easy to get sucked in to their vortex! Lately I’ve been designating my son’s naptime as my time to power down. I started turning my phone off and blocking all calls during that time when he was a baby because I didn’t want the ringing phone to wake him up. Now I’ve continued to do that because I like the break so much! I can nap or read uninterrupted.

    • says

      I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but doesn’t it make more sense to *power-down* when your son is awake so that you are more present to, and in-the-moment with, him?

  7. says

    I so agree with you on this. I don’t watch TV, or maybe once or twice a month (usually I read a book at the same time!!!)

    I do love the Internet. To prevent it becoming an addiction, I do not own a smart phone nor a tablet or anything in the like.

    I only use my cell for emergencies, i.e. never.

    Technology isn’t your friend anymore when you’re a slave to it.

  8. says

    Thank you for this mindful post. No matter how much effort one puts into minimizing on a daily basis it always feels nice to read reminders like this one.
    Unplug, Disconnect, Open the Door, & Get Out is our motto at the studio~

  9. says

    My significant other and I have created what we call No Screen Sunday (NSS). It’s exactly as it sounds – no TV, no phones, no laptops, and no tablets are to be used for the whole day. We use the time to our discretion, but it typically consists of spending time together cooking, reading, bicycling, and going on walks.

    After we started NSS, I noticed I felt remarkably more refreshed and less stressed which resulted in more energy to tackle the work week.

  10. says

    I feel as if I am inconveniencing people with my presence as they gravitate towards their phones. This is why I seldom go out to dinner or other social events otherwise I will just lose my temper and yell at people for being phone zombies.

  11. Katie says

    Is it just me, or do all those stats make anyone else want to check their phone? Just kidding. I think part of what makes tech so ubiquitous is that it gives us the feeling that we don’t need to be bored or that boredom, discomfort, and waiting are experiences that need to be avoided. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom and wonder to be gleaned from accepting what is happening right now–even if it’s uncomfortable. Thanks for the post and for all your writing.

  12. says

    Great post. Having grown up pre-cellphone and Facebook, I often wonder if kids growing up now will ever learn the relationship skills that we did. Not that people my age are immune to spending too much time “plugged in.” My 13-year old complains, but every other weekend we have 24 hours with no TV, computer, etc. I think he secretly likes it, though, because we spend time hiking, playing board games and really LIVING.

  13. Bobbi says

    Two weeks ago I had a very serious realization that the role of Facebook was playing in my life….I was suffering from both 1 and 2 on your list!! I have always been very introverted and independent and have often enjoyed entire weekends spent alone reading, watching movies, cooking and working on personal projects, never wondering what my friends were doing or what I might be missing out on. I was happy and didn’t care. When I did learn about their weekend activities it was during after-work dinner/drinks/catching up so there were no jealously issues because I was doing something fun with them at the moment! But over the last few years, since Facebook has become such a huge part of daily life, that has changed everything (as have smart phones and the ability to be plugged in to the internet no matter where we are). I was plugged in all the time! And I was comparing my life to others in a way that I never have before. And feeling a feeling that has always, for the most part, been unknown to me. Loneliness. So, I have made a very conscious decision to limit my access to facebook checking during short work breaks (if I have time for them) and unplugging from it completely during my evenings and weekends. I haven’t checked facebook once outside of work in two weeks and while it was hard at first it is now a relief to no longer be a slave to it. I also no longer check emails in the evening and only check them once a day on weekends. Now, the only reason I even get out my tablet during my personal time is to access my recipes and my music….

    • Audrey A says

      Bobbi,
      I really appreciate your reply here. I have been feeling exactly what you have written. Because of your post here, I am have changed my facebook, and will continue to tweek it so I do not see what my friends are doing. If I want to know what’s up with them, I will call or email them.
      I couldn’t agree with you more about the feelings of loneliness, and ironically a feeling of disconnect. I am looking forward to the transition off of my addiction!

  14. says

    Cheers Joshua.

    About two weeks ago, I downgraded my fancy smartphone to a barebones phone. It’s still smart but on the dumb side of technology, much slower for data, and I’m trying to use it more for talking and texting (and taking notes and seeing my calendar) and not much else.

    On Facebook, I decided last night to stop posting updates on my wall and stop commenting on others’ walls. I’m remaining on groups and pages and that’s all. It’s my way of stepping back without killing it completely.

    And so forth. I’ve been self-employed the past four years as a digital marketing trainer and consultant. It’s been successful but not in terms of income stability, so I’m stepping away from that too and looking for a full-time role in the workforce doing communications work.

    I’m tired of all of this daily technology. I’m jaded, even. I’m taking back control of my life and purposefully stepping away. Thanks for inspiring me to rant with this comment.

    • Tia says

      Your comment really resonates with me. I have experienced that completely burnt out feeling. I worked in social media marketing for a couple of years. I was on it 24/7 for work, and when I ended that position, I took a few weeks off social media. And ENJOYED my life again! It made me want to pull the plug for good, and I am also working in a different area of communications.

  15. says

    Great post. So true. Reminds me today that I’ve been on my laptop since I got up and haven’t done my morning meditation and yoga… I’m unplugging as we speak! :)

  16. says

    This is so important when you are travelling (we’re going all the way down to Ushuaia in a 1998 Honda Civic). It is so easy to stay glued to your laptop in the pretense of doing ‘work’ when all you are doing is looking at archives of Calvin & Hobbes comics or the dreaded FB. I have to ask Thenix to stop with the technology craze and come for a walk with me on the Malecon (waterfront). The technology can wait, but the sunsets never can.

  17. Shari says

    Great article! I have 3rd and 6th grade kids at home. My 6th grader was issued an ipad at school this week and in the elementary school, the 4th graders were issued ipads! Our schools are pilot schools for this new technology at school. I’ll have to say this first week back to school was overwhelming with all the new applications of technology the schools are using. My 3rd grader’s teacher has a twitter account and will be tweeting, the middle school teachers have accounts to text reminders to students and parents, textbooks will be online (with the option to get hardcopies), and on and on. I can see that it will be a real challenge for our kids to learn and understand the importance to power down. And up to us as parents to help them with that. But as with airplane emergencies, we must help ourselves first:)

  18. Tara says

    I have no interest in Twitter, Facebook or any other social media. I only have a dumb phone and never look at it unless it rings (which happens rarely). I avoid TV and internet like the plague as much as I can – I have to be on email/internet all day at work, but I almost never touch it outside work hours. Unfortunately my SO is a TV addict and I have to beg him to turn the TV off. Sometimes he will do it because he knows I am at the breaking point, but not nearly enough. I crave silent time with my pets, books and family – the world is such a noisy and media-filled place lately, it is hard to escape.

  19. says

    This is an important essay. Thanks very much Joshua. I once called out my sister and brother-in-law during a visit when it quickly descended into a pit of their playing with their mobiles while peeking up long enough to see what was on the TV. Also, I wrote an essay that touched on similar things a couple of months ago. Anyone wishing to take a look can find that essay here: http://thehousenewf.blogspot.ca/2013/06/10-fear-freedom-and-power-to-disconnect.html
    Thanks again for sharing a valuable and insightful essay!

  20. says

    I love this! Thanks for sharing….I especially appreciate the statistics. I used to have a Facebook account but deleted it nearly two years ago. I was tired of losing portions of my day to the FOMO addiction. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done with technology!

  21. Bob says

    Friends accuse me of not checking my cell phone enough but I check it every day. I open the drawer and there it is — right where i left it.

  22. Kevin Piper says

    I have one been without a mobile phone for 10 months, frankly it has improved my life one hundred fold.i am a COO for a large company , and one would think that I of all people would need to be contactable. Of course that is true, but on the rare occasions people do need me. In an emergency , and there are very few, there is always a way to get to me by email or skype. It is all about redefining the purpose of communications tools in your life, ensuring that they are tools to serve your purpose, not tools that manage you.

  23. Betty says

    Awesome article. Guilty as charged (except for tv – haven’t owned one in over 30 years — intentionally!) But, I must rid myself of the facebook addiction!

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