Plugging back into real life

nature-laptop-outside-macbook By: Deidre Doezema-Burkholder


Have you ever stopped to think about how ‘plugged in’ we are as a society that everyday life events are missed right in front of us? I’ve passed countless people looking at their phones instead of paying attention to their surroundings. I’ve seen the videos of people too immersed in their phones to notice they’re about to walk into traffic or take an unplanned dip into a pool; things that are blatantly obvious if only their eyes were watching life instead of watching their phone.


One time while sitting at a restaurant, I overheard a father telling his teenage son that if he continued to stare at his phone instead of being a part of the dinner conversations, than he would be left at home during the next night out. We are now so plugged in that my 5-year-old niece recently noticed a landline phone for the first time and asked what it was. She lives in a world where there are only cell phones!


social-networks-time-spentTechnology is a great tool that can oftentimes be misused or abused. Facebook, like the internet as a whole, is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family but it can quickly turn into a time suck. On average most people send about 50 minutes a day on Facebook alone. Add in other social media outlets and that number quickly climbs to over 2 to 3 hours, depending on age.


Have you seen the video on YouTube where a young girl goes through her day without a cell phone only to notice the abundance of phones around her? The video currently has over 49 million views and gives a perfect example of what we actually notice when we look up from our mobile devices. The simple act of enjoying life has been pushed aside with distractions of the virtual world.


So, what are we to do?


Well, we could organize burn parties and destroy all the technology! Okay… maybe that is a bit extreme, and bad for the environment, but we can add minor changes in our days. Type in a quick google search and there are many articles out there that discuss just this idea. However, I’ve already done the homework and condensed them down. Below are some of my favorites:


1.) Digital Diet: Specifically a social media diet. FOMO – The Fear Of Missing Out – is real thanks to a constant influx of social media. Turn off alerts on your phone to help limit the amount of time you’re online or delete the App entirely. On top of quieting your alters, try limiting the amount of posts you make. If you usually post multiple times per day, maybe tone it down to one or two. Facebook started as a way to stay in contact with family and friends, not to be a digital diary to spew your innermost thoughts. Well, at least in my opinion is isn’t.


2.) Chose a day to limit technology: Tech free Sunday? Mellow Monday? I’ve done this in the past and found Sunday works best for me. I enjoy morning coffee while reading an actual, physical newspaper. Afternoons are filled with family games or maybe a hike at a local park. Chose a day that works best for you even if you can set aside only part of the day. I have found my productivity to expand exponentially on my technological days off.


3.) Device hub: New house rule, no phone in the bedroom. It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Try it and you might just thank me. Studies have found that consuming technology up to, or in, bed is bad. You sleep better when you back away from the tech world. Try and give the digital world up at least 30 minutes before bed. It’s a great way to reconnect with a loved one at the end of the day. I’ve tried it myself with my husband and we found it mutually beneficial and enjoyable as we both clearly have each other’s attention and focus. Your loved ones deserve your attention at the end of the day, not your phone.


no cell phone4.) Eat without electronics: It sounds like such a simple concept, to eat a meal without a phone check, but people struggle with it all the time. No email, no social media, and no taking a picture of your meal and posting it online. Just eating and being mindful of what you’re eating. Same goes when you’re with friends. We all have that one friend who can’t make it 10 minutes without looking at their phone for some reason or another. Heck, unfortunately it seems this behavior is becoming the norm instead of the exception.


I have one friends that is really good about being in the moment. If we are out grabbing a coffee or getting a meal, she often shuts her phone off. Yes, she turns her phone completely off! It was shocking the first time I saw her do it but quickly realized how important it was that she was giving me all of her attention. When’s the last time you’ve had that with someone?


5.) Make it simple: So, you can’t make it through a stop light without checking the phone? Take the necessary steps to make it more difficult to reach the phone during the car ride. For me, my phone goes in my purse which goes in the backseat of the car. The gentlemen reading this probably don’t have a purse, but a briefcase works the same was as does putting the phone in the center console. Out of reach, out of mind.


With the phone out of reach, I’m more mindful of my surroundings, like the soccer mom in the van coming across the lane because she’s busy texting and driving.


6.) Inform others: Let others in your life know you are cutting back. Don’t send me a message on Facebook if you need my immediate attention, call or text me. If you don’t have my number, maybe we should work on becoming better friends first. Are you planning on not answering your phone during certain hours? Make it known! I do this with my best friend who happens to love the idea. When my friends is working third shift, she can can keep me updated about her day while knowing that I’m not being disturbed by alerts. Thank goodness for the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature on my phone. I keep it on daily from 11pm to 9am.


gertrude stein quoteGive a few of these ideas a try over the next week or two and see how it goes. You might discover how much you’re truly plugged in without realizing it. Disconnecting will give you something real back into your life. Disengaging from technology might take the stress down a little bit as you’re able to better concentrate on the task at hand. Whatever it is that you find, I hope you find a little bit of ‘real’ that you may have been missing in the digital world.


Deidre owns and operates Organisum: Technology Services, a business serving the West Michigan area. In her free time she likes to hike & bike local trails with friends and family when she isn’t pinning, instagram’ing or Netflix’ing.