My kids used to get annoyed with how glued I was to my phone. Yeah, that’s kinda weird, huh? Teenagers thinking their mom is a smartphone junkie, addicted to texting and Google… sad, but true. It’s something I denied, but they were right. Frequently they’d be talking to me and realize I was in “the zone” on my phone, and occasionally they’d say sarcastic things to see if I was listening. I wasn’t. I was too engrossed in the virtual world, getting connected, and not paying attention to the actual world around me.
Not too long ago, I found myself in that zone and it was as though I couldn’t even get my own attention. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. So I decided that unplugging the phone from my hands and plugging it into the wall, walking away, and shutting the door would be a good solution. But I had some reservations. What if I got an important call? What if I missed a critical text? What if I didn’t catch that email as it came through? What if someone asked a question and only Google would know the answer?
Oh dear, I was going to have to tackle those questions! Well, one reality is that I rarely talk on the phone. Once every six weeks I make an appointment at the hair salon. Occasionally I have to break down and call a customer service line. Yes, I talk to friends and family; I’m not totally antisocial! But I prefer Skype or FaceTime. No, that’s not technically unplugging, but I only Skype on my computer or laptop and only FaceTime on my iPad. I don’t carry any of those things in my purse or pocket. Wow, one problem solved! (And let’s be real – no foreign diplomats are calling me asking for the answer to world peace. A lot of things can wait.) Confession about emails: truthfully, I don’t even like looking at them on a phone, so was I really going to miss the frustration of typing out a response on a teeny keyboard? Nah. Two problems solved. This might be easier than I thought. Admittedly, I’m a big texter, so not having my phone next to me would mean missing those messages. What if someone felt ignored? That was going to be tough; I hate disappointing people. Last admission… I do love my Google so that was going to take some getting used to. Sometimes I Google a question that pops into my head just to see how many words I have to type in before that question shows up in the dropdown menu. It’s kind of a test to see where I am on the scale of weirdness.
In order to feel less tethered, I stopped carrying my phone downstairs during dinner every day. I stopped texting Jordan to come to dinner. I walked up the 15 stairs, knocked on his door, and walked back down the 15 stairs. That wasn’t so bad! I started leaving my phone in my purse while I was with other people. One night the battery even died while it was in my purse and the world didn’t come to a halt. I know firsthand that the people you are sitting with at dinner or sharing laughs with in the living room won’t always be there. Looking at their faces is better than a 4-inch, cold, glass screen. I set aside time on my calendar for unplugging from my phone and the Internet six hours on the weekend to focus on writing. For the most part I’ve stuck to it. As far as I can tell, no one is angry if I don’t respond to a text or email immediately or if I let my phone go to voicemail. After the initial symptoms of withdrawal subside, it’s kind of nice to unplug. I still have work to do. I hope to keep improving, maybe even to the point of one full 24-hour period of gadget-detox each week.
One little note about unplugging and grief: I am finding that unplugging from devices and plugging into my thoughts really opens up my heart. I feel emotions more clearly when I sit down and write about them (by hand), thinking things through and pausing for reflection. Sometimes I just sit with my grief and do nothing. Stillness and quiet is good. Being present is important. Enjoying the world with all your senses is vital.
Unplugging = Joy
I’m writing this on December 3. On the 5th I leave for a trip to Raleigh and New York City. My hope is that I’ll enjoy travel with minimal attachment to technology. Out of necessity I’ll be online sometimes, and I’ll no doubt post a picture or update my status here and there, but I hope to pay attention to the experience by fully engaging with all that surrounds me and leave my phone tucked away. I don’t want to miss out on what’s really important and exciting because the little screen in my hands wants my attention. This will post on December 9, the day I return. I’ll let you know how it went…
One more note – you’ll get no judgment from me if you’re reading this on some type of mobile device. There’s a place for the wonders of technology. I’m just becoming more aware that, for me, there is also a place for the wonders of everything else in this gorgeous slice of life we are given.