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.