10 Ways to Unplug

Technology is a marvellous thing.  It’s given me a place to share my writing, and to read other people’s interesting stories, tips, and thoughts.  It allows Rob and me to stay in touch with our parents, across the country.  It’s led me to meet and correspond with some wonderful and interesting people.

However, I have shared my struggles with finding balance And I think that I have finally found it.

I know that many of you have also wanted to unplug and enjoy the “real world” a bit more.  And that’s a good thing.  Spending too much time online deprives us of the wonders and opportunities that actually do surround us.  And feeling obligated to the computer or phone can cause much undue stress.

So, I would like to share with you, some ways to unplug.  You can choose to just try one this week, or pick a few that will work for you:

1.  Deal with the “why” first.  Are you trying to avoid or escape from something?  Do you feel obligated to the people you are writing to?  Are you afraid of missing out on something?  Attend to the reason that you’re spending so much time online, so that you don’t feel stressed out if you unplug a little bit.

2.  Do some paring down.  Look at the websites you frequently visit, the blogs you follow, etc.  What are you getting out of it?  Are you gaining personal growth and happiness from it?  If not, give it up!  I ended up quitting Facebook, checking my message board only once a week (if that), and eliminating a few blog subscriptions (and adding a few, that were much more positive and helpful!).  I did try Google+ and Twitter, out of curiosity, but I haven’t used those accounts much, as I have not found them to be useful.  The things I’ve kept, I’ve kept because they are positive things that bring me happiness and help me grow!  For me, those things are e-mail, this blog, and the blogs that I follow (mainly smaller minimalist and blogs–I only follow a couple of the larger ones).

3.  Become a slacker.  We put so much pressure on ourselves to “keep up.”  And keeping up isn’t necessarily the best thing.  When you answer every e-mail the day you get it, the conversation can become boring, really quickly.  I prefer to wait at least 3 days before responding to a run-of-the-mill e-mail.  There are of course situations where responding faster is more appropriate–use common sense.  What benefit is there to slacking?  It allows life to happen, so that you will have much more to talk about!  Of course, if the other person is a slacker, you might want to write back sooner…But the point is to make sure that your online activities are enjoyable, not obligations.

4.  Turn off the phone sometimes.  When we’re out having fun, we turn off the phone.  We don’t need to be on call all the time.  If we’re visiting the zoo or aquarium with Beanie, or eating at a restaurant, we’re not going to answer calls.

5.  Treat your cell phone like a land line.  We used to velcro our cell phone to the wall, right where our land phone used to be mounted.  It didn’t travel with us, unless we were expecting an important call.  Now, we take the phone with us when we go out (mainly for the GPS!), but it doesn’t come with us on walks, bike rides, or trips to the pool.  We’re not THAT important.  And we’ve got voicemail.

6.  Take a digital break when you need it.  If life is hectic, and your online time is becoming a distraction, or causing you anxiety, take a week or so off.  You will return more balanced and able to set limits.

7.  Consider taking weekends off.  I have a friend who turns off her computer and her phone all weekend.

8.  Find some real-life hobbies.  I’ve caught myself mindlessly going online when I’m bored.  Cooking, photography, board games, and even just going on family outings have led me to decrease my online time.

9.  Aim for quality over quantity.  I used to write a blog post everyday, and comment on all of my friends’ posts.  As I’ve decreased the frequency with which I do both of those things, the quality of my posts and comments have gone up.  The quality of my e-mail exchanges has also improved, since I’ve become a slacker.

10.  Take a good look at the world around you.  Get up and watch the sun rise.  Notice the clouds, the stars and moon, and all of the wonderful and interesting people.  There is a real world out there.  Give it some attention, and you won’t feel like spending as much time in the virtual world.

Balance is key.  Whatever you choose, make sure that technology plays a positive role in your daily life!


29 thoughts on “10 Ways to Unplug

  1. Bethany, this may be one of the most important articles you’ve written. I like the comment that you aren’t that important. Cell phones were popular many years before I bought my first one, during that time I noticed so many of the people with cell phones had them because it made them feel important, although the reverse is true as well, when their phones aren’t ringing and delivering a constant stream of texts they feel unloved. It’s beyond sad to have your self-esteem tied to how often that little contraption dings at you.

    • I never thought of it that way, Lois, but I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s a matter of looking outside for what needs to come from within. I felt a lot of anxiety when I first left Facebook, because I felt important, documenting my every move, like I was in some reality show. And it was hard to become an e-mail slacker for the same reason. People really do still love us, even when they’re NOT talking, texting, or e-mailing us!

  2. Hi Bethany…I agree with Lois above that this is a great post….and it just FEELS more relaxed and unplugged! I think we all have to find our balance with our blogs and with our lives. Even though my writing fulfills me in so many ways–it too can become an obsession unless I keep it all in balance…and you offer some REALLY great reminders. Quality over quantity is a BIG one for me….~Kathy

    • This move has been a good thing, Kathy! 😉

      With all the communication available, quality is often thrown out for quantity. We forget that a heartfelt letter–that had some time put into it–brings much more joy than a Facebook picture of someone’s breakfast!

  3. Fabulous thoughts Bethany. I am currently working on my iNtch (a new word I have coined – short for Internet Itch) and find my focus once again.

    The benefit is that I am finding more space in my life for what I love, rather than just a bunch of things I like.

  4. Lots of my friends have tried to get me to go on Facebook, but I refuse. I work on a computer all day and the last thing I want to do is continue it at night. I allow myself about 45 minutes in the morning to read the blogs I like and the newspaper and check e-mails. Recently I was at a get together and sitting poolside trying to have conversation with people when I started to notice the phones and I-pads getting looked at. I couldn’t believe it!! I thought this was a problem with young adults but these were people in their 60s!! I think people would be much healthier if they put these things down and got some exercise.

    • LOL, I’ve met quite a few Boomers who are constantly checking their Smart phones, etc. It’s really sad that so many people are completely unaware of the world around them.

      And the devices DO keep them from meeting and talking to people in real life. I noticed that much more up north. I would think someone was talking to me, at a store or somewhere, and it turns out they were talking on their phone, using a Blue tooth!

  5. I left facebook last year. We were having some problems with teachers and appropriate facebook behavior, and I just decided I wasn’t getting anything positive out of it. It actually made me anxious- I would see what others were doing and start to feel bad about myself, like I wasn’t doing enough. I struggled with the blog also, when I write things I always get the urge to take it back (afraid of judgement maybe?)
    Sometimes I think about going back on facebook to get in touch with people I haven’t talked to in a long time, but my life is so busy (and about to be more so now that our 2nd baby is coming) I really prefer phone and email anyway. If someone really wanted to get in touch with me, they could do it through means other than facebook.
    I keep the blog because I like writing and meeting like minded people (like you!) but I don’t hold myself to post because I should- I post when I feel inspired to do so. I had a blog before this one I tried to update everyday and promote with facebook, and after a while it sucked out all the enjoyment I got from it.
    Anyway, sorry this is so long, I really connected to this post. Your blog is one of my favorites- I always find myself reading and nodding my head and saying, “yes! exactly!”


    • That was kind of my thinking too. If the other person and I both don’t value our friendship enough to take the time to e-mail (or even communicating through blog comments), then it really is time to go our separate ways. Facebook really isn’t connecting, it’s just pretending that it isn’t time to separate. It’s been a sad reality to face, sometimes, as people (especially people from my former job, since the move) have not kept in touch. But that’s the way life, and friendships work. People come and they go. I’ve made some new friends here already, and I have kept in touch with some people that I didn’t necessarily expect to keep in touch with.

    • LOL, half of your comment didn’t show on my WP app… 😉

      I was replying to “If someone really wanted to get in touch with me, they could do it through means other than Facebook.”

      Thanks for the compliment, and never apologize for the length of anything–a comment, blog post, e-mail, etc. I tend to be a bit long-winded (in writing, at least) myself. I try to address all the things that we think are unique to us, and that we feel ashamed of sometimes. Because our stories are more alike than we realize.

  6. Bethany! A nice list of ideas! When we walk each morning, no cell phones allowed. And weekends see very little computer use even though we really love working on our blog. It keeps us sane. Well, almost. Have a great start to the school year!!!

    • I think exercise (well, long, quiet exercise) has a really meditative quality to it. Inspired by your walk, I have decided to start riding my bike (yes, I’m still bicycling in Houston!) to work. It’s only 11 miles, and if I make it off of El Dorado’s death sidewalk, I’ll be good. There is even a bike path through much of the Pasadena stretch. And of course, no cell phone, because Rob will have it (so Ili’s school can call the first time she has a reflux episode there). I might buy a helmet, though…

      • You should buy a helmet. I had a bad accident on my bike in 2007; I went over the handlebars and landed on my head. My helmet was cracked in multiple places, instead of my head. While the concussion wasn’t fun, the helmet probably made the difference between being here typing this and not. And for it to work, you have to have the ‘always’ habit…

        • Wow. I have a friend who is an er nurse, who said that the kids who wore helmets get looked at and go home, and the kids without helmets go to the icu. With the crazy drivers here, I’ll definitely be getting one.

  7. Bethany, these are great reminders. We are really limiting our computer use on weekends, and it’s been great. Since we don’t have Internet on our phones and often have them on Silence, we can enjoy a great deal more of what is in front of us. I love how you mentioned not commenting on every post or waiting a few days to respond to email. I was feeling a bit guilty for just simply deleting a post in my Inbox (or ten!), but I just can’t keep up all the time. It’s simply not productive and why do something that is stressful. Life is too damn short. Speaking of which, please get a helmet. This is Crazytown! Take care and good for you for biking to work. What an inspiration!

    • Yes, if somebody posts everyday (as I used to) I just delete and check-in once a week! People did that here, and I was fine with it. 😉 Of course, you and CJ are such a hoot, that I read your posts as soon as I can!

  8. Definitely things I need to work on! I’ll admit, I’m really afraid to get rid of Facebook. You’re right, though, most of my connections on there are thin, and I know that the ones that are strong enough will be kept, regardless. As usual, your posts are so relatable and give me much to think about!

  9. I never really thought about this until very recently. My brother and his girlfriend were visiting and some other friends of theirs joined us for a get together. Throughout the evening, they were busy on their iphones and Ipads, checking the weather, and other things I guess. My brother’s girlfriend also took a phone call in the middle of our get together and then was texting as were the other people as well. I sat there is amazement. I thought only teenagers and young adults did this, not people in their 50s. I sat there with a stunned look on my face. The next time I’m going to either say something or I’m gonna get up and walk away. I thought it was really rude.

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