“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” —Anne Lamott
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. Addiction to our technology and overall cell phone addiction is becoming too common:
- 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 addicted 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 (and over 51.7 million as of September 2019).
But we need to be reminded again and again: Technology addiction is powerful but it does have a power-off button. And the wisest of us know when to use it and when to take a more minimalist approach to our technology.
Consider again, just some of these important reasons to unplug:
1. Powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness.
Researchers discovered something frightening about Facebook addiction: 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 an opportunity to reset and refocus appreciation and gratitude for the lives we have been given. It allows us to remember how to be happy without all the screens.
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 massive increase in technology addiction.
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 learning how to live in the moment are both important skills in this modern world.
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 overconsumption.
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).
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. Technology 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.
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 at 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 unplugging?
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. Perfect for combating Facebook addiction.
• 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 on digital minimalism. 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.