Disconnect to reconnect

Disconnect So You Can Connect

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.

The Rules

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!

(But don’t forget to FOLLOW my blog so you can keep up with my crazy Bad Mommy life.)

More on this topic:

Life Before Technology Ate Our Brains

Shock Collars for Social Media

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Snow Day From Hell

Before any of you complain about your snow day, I’d like to share MY snow day with you. Today my husband had to work, but he asked me to go online and order him tickets for a concert he wants to go to in the summer. This proved to be a comedy of errors that I can only laugh about now. There were quite a lot of tears shed and serious threats to “No Alcohol” March. I got NOTHING done at all today and I don’t just mean I lounged around and was lazy. I mean, I was so distracted by acquiring these concert tickets that I couldn’t function.

How is that possible, you ask? You just click and order, really not that hard, right? Let’s look at this in real time, shall we?

10:27 am: I realize I forgot about the concert tickets hubby wanted me to order him. I text him for the link.

10:32 am: Hubby sends link and “fan club” info (what a dork).

10:35 am: For some reason, my computer is having trouble loading, so I try the Chromebook. I am able to pull up several tickets, but they only give me 1 minute and 15 seconds to claim them. By the time I am able to contact hubby via text to check if the tickets were what he wanted, the tickets are gone. I try again and different tickets pop up, but they’re not too far from the original ones. I click “place order”. After putting info in, the Chromebook starts giving me error messages and I can not complete the purchase.

10:51 am: I pull out my phone and while squinting at the tiny screen (and trembling because a countdown clock has that effect on me) I am able to get tickets and click fast enough, but then it only gives me a few minutes to fill in my account info. Now I have an account but apparently the password I THOUGHT it was…was not. (This is also a SUPER annoying drawback of technology—a bazillion account numbers that all have to have different requirements…who can remember them all????) At this point, I know if I request to reset the password, I will lose the tickets AGAIN and have to start all over. So I decided to create a new account with my secondary email. I quickly change the email information and voila! I have a new account. I am able to order the tickets literally five seconds before time runs out.

Go me. I got hubby the tickets he had wanted and a VIP package to boot. Happy birthday, Happy Anniversary, and Happy Father’s Day!

11:00 am: I am so pleased with myself until I read over the receipt. I nearly drop my tiny phone in the toilet. In the process of changing the email address, I only changed the first part, not the part after the @. Which wouldn’t be a problem except one email address is @msn.com and the other is @outlook.com. Now my etickets are floating in cyberspace, quite possibly landing in the inbox of a person with a similar email address.

11:02 am: Panicked, I pull up the account (with the wrong email) and I am able to see the tickets. Relieved, I print them out, but then I realize that the etickets were still getting emailed to the wrong address. Now, I doubt HIGHLY that the person with that wrong email address would also print out the tickets and try to use them, resulting in chaos on the day of the concert, but having insane anxiety and OCD like I do, I know I will not rest until I am sure the situation is completely resolved.

11:09 am: I call the 800 number at the bottom of the concert website and am put on hold for over ten minutes. A perky girl on the other end of the line answers and sympathizes with my plight, but explains that she can’t do anything about my problem and I will have to call Ticketmaster directly. She gives me the number and bids me good day.

11:21 am: I try the number about seventy-six times and get a busy signal (more dumb-asses that undoubtedly put the wrong email address in). On the seventy-seventh try, the phone rings. The automated voice on the other end assures me that chances are, my problem can be solved by checking out Ticketmaster.com (they can not be). The annoying voice further assures me that if I say my order number, I will be transferred to an agent who can assist me. As I speak the number, my stupid call waiting beeps and the number is cut off (it was a telemarketer nonetheless). This causes the automated voice to have spasms and put me on hold until the next available representative can help me. It explains there is a high volume of callers and the wait time may be more than ten minutes.

11:56 am: TWENTY-SIX minutes later (I feel like Phoebe Buffay waiting on the phone in “The One With the Screamer”) another perky voice answers my call (what do they put in these peoples’ coffee???). She says her name is “Kelly” and asks how can she help me. I explain the whole situation, trying not to cry—I am nearly hysterical at this point in time, imagining that my credit card info is being sent to this random email address and someone is stealing my identity as the moments tick away.

11:59 am: “Kelly” puts me on hold AGAIN, but then quickly comes back on to assure me that the problem is resolved. She says the order is cancelled and the old tickets will be null and void and new tickets and a new order number will be sent in the next 10-15 minutes to the CORRECT email address. She assures me that no credit card info has been sent in any email. She asks if there is anything else she can do for me today. I say no, I thank her profusely, and hang up the phone.

It’d be great if my saga ended there. But it doesn’t.

12:15 pm: I still haven’t received the email. I make a sandwich to distract myself.

12:30 pm: I still haven’t received the email. I take a shower to distract myself.

12:52 pm: Still haven’t received the email. I watch a show and put my phone in the other room so I don’t obsessively check it.

1:07 pm: I log onto the site with the “wrong email” account and see that the tickets are still on there. Fuming, I click the CHAT button in the lower right hand corner. I am number 33 in the queue.

1:19 pm: A chat bubble pops up—“Martin” would like to help me. I explain the situation. “Martin” then tells me that he cannot help me and that I need to call the 800 number I called before. He asks if there is anything else he can do to assist me today. I angrily close the dialogue box.

1:24 pm: I call the 800 number AGAIN. I am assured that my call is important, but there is a high volume of callers. I am not shocked. I twiddle my fingers.

1:49 pm: My call is answered by “Andy” whose native language is clearly not English. His heavy accent on my hard-of-hearing, nearly-nervous breakdown ears makes me want to cry. I explain the situation and give him my order number. He then tells me that my order number does not exist. I think I am hearing things. I explain the situation again, realizing that “Kelly” had deleted the order and created a new one. “Andy” tells the tearful me that he can’t help me and I have to call another 800 number. He asks if there is anything else he can do for me today. I hang up on him.

2:00 pm: After a brief session of kicking the ever loving crap out of my punching bag, I dial the other 800 number. I am put on hold due to…you guessed it…the high volume of callers.

2:20 pm: I switch ears since the left one has gone numb.

2:22 pm: I switch back to the left ear because the right ear feels too weird.

2:31 pm: Someone named “Andrew” picks up. For a second I think it’s “Andy” screwing with me, but then I realize his English is perfect. I explain the situation. He chuckles and says “Wow, that’s quite a pickle”. I resist the urge to snap at him. It’s not his fault…yet. He checks the order number and assures me that the order IS still there (WTF “Andy”???) and the ticket order was never deleted. He says that the account was changed from the incorrect email to the correct email (password and everything changed…how weird is that?) and that the tickets are in there. He says the original tickets are still valid and the order was never voided and whoever I talked to did it completely wrong. (WTF “Kelly”???).

2:34 pm: I don’t trust him. I log into the account and see he’s not messing with me. I tell him that I still want the original tickets voided and new tickets sent. I will not feel comfortable until I get new tickets in a confirmation email. “Andrew” says he understands and puts me on hold again.

2:45 pm: “Andrew” says he has sent the new tickets via the correct email address. I make him stay on the line while I check. “Andrew” starts drinking something through a straw. The email is not in my inbox. It is not in my junk mail. I want to cry. I am ashamed to say that I tell “Andrew” this.

2:47 pm: “Andrew” send emails again. I can hear him chewing a sandwich. He tells me there is a “Queue” for the emails to go out and I have to be patient. (I have to be patient???? Is he kidding me???? I think I’ve been MORE than patient!)

2:51 pm: I receive email confirmation AND tickets. I cheer. “Andrew” swallows whatever he’s eating and asks if he can help me with anything else today. I thank him profusely and ask him if he can open up a bottle of wine for me. “Andrew” clears his throat and disconnects the call on his own.

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