Friday, May 8, 2015

Unplug and Connect

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at a beach pub in Roxas City with a few friends, smoking a cigarette while waiting for our drinks. I looked around and… Voila! Everyone has their eyes set on their smartphones and tablets. The availability of free Wi-Fi almost everywhere has resulted in significantly more people logging on to check their Facebook accounts and other social networking sites during their vacations rather than using their time off from work to reflect, relax and enjoy their surroundings.

   Technology is supposed to make us more connected, but our mobile devices are actually getting in the way of real socializing. Reading e-mails in the kitchen and sleeping with your smartphone by your bed are now considered normal. Furthermore, people are glued to their gadgets even during fun times like concerts, parties, holidays, family reunions or intimate moments.

   Now, don't get me wrong; I also love my tools, and some might consider me a tech nut. But guess what: When I go on vacation, I disconnect myself from the Internet. I take a break from tweeting, and I choose human interaction over rapid finger movements. I don't want to check e-mails on a pristine white beach when I should be reading a hefty paperback novel. And I certainly don't want to see stupid cat videos or receive filtered photos of anyone's lunch while I'm out having mine.

   If you check your mobile device for social media updates before breakfast, or if bars and restaurants with no Wi-Fi make you uneasy, then maybe it's time to disconnect for a bit. An unplugged getaway this summer might help you find ways to de-stress, and engage with your environment and "real" friends. Last year, I went on my own two-month-long digital detox. It was the longest I've gone without Internet in 12 years.... and it was life changing.

   You don't have to go to a secluded resort in the Bahamas, or a remote area in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the "disconnected" life. Digital detox can be done anywhere. All you need is self-discipline. But first, you should be clear about what you'll give up, for how long, and when. If you're agreeing not to use social media on weekends, be clear about exactly what hours this takes effect.

   Here are 7 quick steps to getting your digital detox started immediately:

  • Don't sleep next to your phone or tablet.
  • Grab a bite to eat with a close friend or family member, but go device-free.
  • Create space to meditate, take a long shower, or read a physical book before going to bed.
  • Engage in some arts and crafts.
  • Resist the urge to look at your mobile device first thing in the morning.
  • Reward yourself with something special for every day you refrain from surfing the web. Treats could include a vinyl record of your favorite band, a good book, a LEGO minifigure or a nice Swedish massage.
  • Those who want to unplug for a longer period of time might consider planning a vacation that focuses on little to no use of technology.

   I can’t promise that these things will be easy. But I assure you the benefits are massive. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
This was originally published on GIZHAVEN, my blog about gadgets, tech stuff, social media, and digital lifestyle.

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