The Better Me Project—Day 12 (Disconnect to Reconnect)
Toss your phone out the window! Okay, maybe we don’t need to be that rash, but almost all of the books and articles I read regarding happiness and success suggested that maybe our reliance on technology is not such a great thing for our social skills. Social media, intended to bring people together, actually seems to be tearing us apart. Maybe we ought to try to disconnect from it.
Now don’t get me wrong—Facebook has so many positive virtues. I’m able to keep in touch with family that I wouldn’t normally see on a regular basis, I get to watch my friends’ kids grow up before my eyes, and I’ve met dozens of fellow authors through Facebook groups, people who have immensely aided my writing career. I can be assured that one of my friends will post a video of a puppy or baby every day to make me laugh, someone will mention a great new restaurant, and of course, I’m alerted to the fact that it’s supposed to snow or there’s an awards show on TV.
But over the past few years, Facebook has become less about what people ate for dinner and more about conflict. Who doesn’t agree with whom politically? Who thinks someone else is doing a lousy job parenting? Who can’t believe what their kid’s teacher did today? Who wants to point a finger and waggle it around accusingly? Everything and anything, including those cute pictures of your friends’ kids (she let her daughter wear that to school???), are up for debate and discussion.
Can’t you just ignore it????
I’ve been trying to scroll by all that soul sucking nonsense, but unfortunately, I’ve found myself debating and waggling fingers with the best of them. I’ve found myself wasting endless hours reading people’s responses to crap that I don’t even really care about. I’ve found myself angry and fuming, cursing people for their “stupidity” and basically for not agreeing with me. I’ve literally had heart palpitations and flung my phone across the room. That’s definitely not the sign of someone who is calm and happy and has her $hit together. I should give up Facebook, I decided. I need to disconnect from it. And I was going to, but…
It’s Almost Impossible to Disconnect Completely
I just read an article about how Facebook has made it impossible for people to get rid of it and it’s completely true. I need my Author Facebook to reach readers and engage with them. And I need my personal page to keep in touch with all the other people I care about as well. Everyone is way too busy in this day and age to keep in touch any other way. Sure I could make phone calls and write letters like we used to, but who would participate with me? It’s one thing to make a change for yourself, you can’t force others to do it, too. I couldn’t be the outlier here—I’d be all alone. I thought long and hard about this decision, but I ultimately decided that the “good” could outweigh the “bad” if I took the control of the situation for myself.
That meant setting up “rules” for myself. These rules were not only born out of my desire to disconnect with social media, but to help me reconnect with the real world. The day I decided to do this, I calculated how many times my hand went to my phone either to check Facebook or another app, from the time I woke up till the time I went to bed. Are you ready for this? I gave up at 251 times. That was only at 3:15 pm. Holy crap! How much time was I really wasting aimlessly scrolling through people’s posts and reading responses and muttering to myself? Plus, how much time was I wasting checking my blog stats and watching videos of cats push things off the table? How much time was I wasting playing Sudoku and freaking out over my book reviews on Amazon? The answer is so, so, so much time. So much time, I can’t even compute it. And what was I missing in the “Real” world if I was so much involved in my online world?
Can I Do This????
I definitely needed to cut down, if I couldn’t disconnect altogether. How could I cut down on my online world? For starters, I decided that I would only check Facebook on the computer and NOT my phone. I would post daily to my author page and answer that way ONLY. This would not only limit the amount of times a day that I could actually go on Facebook, it would also limit the amount of time I would engage in it because who the heck wants to sit behind a computer screen? Sure we have no problem hiding behind our phones, but forget the big old computer screen. I deleted the Facebook app off my phone (I did keep the Facebook Pages app though, so I could see if I needed to check it or not.) Since many of my posts are automatically scheduled (Thanks Hootsuite!), within two days I nearly forgot about Facebook. Yes, really. Without the app on my phone, I had to make a conscious effort to actually go on the computer to answer the posts. I had to remind myself at the end of the day, “Wait! Facebook!”. And you know what? I didn’t even miss it! I thought I would sit around wondering what other people were up to, but I realized I was getting so much done that I didn’t even wonder at all.
I’m Living Without Facebook! Yah!
One problem solved, but I still had the compulsion to break. I was still picking my phone up several (hundred) times a day for no reason. I knew that I needed to stop myself from touching my phone. How could I accomplish that? I could put the phone out of reach. If I didn’t have it in front of me, I knew I most likely wouldn’t go look for it unless I really needed it. So I put it in my purse until I had a panic attack. What if someone needed to reach me? What if someone was calling me and I couldn’t hear the phone because it was in my pocketbook? Okay, so I’ll put the phone in front of me but I WON’T touch it. Wait? Was that a message that popped up? Oh, no, just a weather alert. I don’t need that…I can see it’s snowing from looking out the window. Okay, back in the purse. Wait, is it buzzing? No? I could have sworn I heard buzzing.
Forced to Disconnect Involuntarily
I was actually forced to follow this rule late last week. We took a drive down to the condo in OC. I insisted on driving (hence the lack of hubby’s road rage on the trip). About a half a mile before we were supposed to get on the Turnpike, I realized I had left my phone home. I could actually see it in my mind’s eye…sitting on my night table. I had stuck it in the charger for some extra juice before the trip since my daughter absconded with my car charger a few weeks ago and I knew I wouldn’t be able to charge the phone if it died on the trip. Panic set in quickly.
Hubby told me to turn around, but I didn’t want to make the trip even longer. I mentally ran through all the reasons I would need my phone for the next 60 plus hours or so and realized my reasons didn’t warrant me turning around. (My biggest concern was actually breaking my Timehop streak, but I knew I could send someone over to the house to check my Timehop for me and not lose the streak…no I am not a loser.)
If I Can Do It, So Can You
So I actually put this into real practice—not just cutting down on my phone use, not using it altogether for exactly 57 hours. I thought it would be a lot rougher than it was (it probably helped that I was with most of the people that I would normally be texting). I also couldn’t take pictures, but hubby managed that for me. So you see people, it is possible. And it’s amazing how much it opens your eyes when you put down your phone…not only to the world around us, but to everyone else…ON THEIR PHONE.
Once I was without my phone, the first thing I noticed was how much everyone else was in their phones. Walking down the street and driving in their cars. At restaurants and even in the bathrooms! Kids in high chairs and strollers are on their parents’ phones! No one is actually talking to the people they’re with…my own family included. I’m wondering if our generation and the one after ours will all require chiropractic services or neck surgery at some point in time. Not to mention therapy. People! There’s a whole world you’re missing and you don’t even need to buy extra memory to enjoy it! Disconnect! Put down your phones! See the whole world, not just the view from over your phone!
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