About six weeks ago, I had a conversation with an old school mate, Pat, in which he advised me to ignore my phone and social media platforms between business hours. Social media, especially, is the enemy of productivity, he advised. Logically, I agreed with him, and thus agreed to give this a try. I was somewhat sceptical, however; I’m good at keeping focused and disciplined during my 9 to 5, and more importantly I know how and when to unwind. Besides, there are so many good Buzzfeed quizzes to do during the day, and so many joke Instagram accounts to follow. Plus, I was worried about missing important messages and notifications. But I decided to give it a shot…between 9am and 5pm, I went nowhere near social media.
I thought it would be very difficult for someone like me, who is pretty consistently attached to my phone. But it wasn’t. I didn’t miss out on anything important from family and friends, nor from my professional network. The political news cycle, which I am usually thoroughly on top of, didn’t pass me by; I was still able to stay abreast of developments a few hours after the fact rather than instantaneously. But, and perhaps most importantly, I didn’t feel the need to be on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms every ten minutes. And it felt great to not need them.
Social media connects us in ways that ten or fifteen years ago we never would have imagined possible. But what I’ve come to appreciate, over the past few weeks, is the value of disconnecting. As simple as it sounds, I feel a lot better about myself, and a lot more peaceful, if I leave my phone in another room, or if I’m not connected online, for life is – in those moments – less complicated and stressful. It allows me time and space to sit and be, without being dictated to about pop culture happenings, friends’ meals via filtered photos, or Donald Trump’s latest diatribe. And as a result I now switch off for more hours per day than I ever used to. I feel much calmer for it, and I’m sure my friends and family value it as well.
My enthusiasm for this practice was reaffirmed following a conversation with another mate, Sam, who informed me about Fone Free Feb – a sociocultural awareness campaign about switching off, literally and metaphorically, from your devices so that we can better appreciate and live life. This campaign – and others being run by Batyr – are worthy of your attention.
Even if for only an hour or two a day, schedule in a period whereby you will ignore your devices and social media. Get physical and emotional separation from something that is nice to have, but which we do not need to have, and see how you feel afterwards. My guess is that you’ll feel less stressed, more relaxed, and more in tune with yourself.