Isn’t it strange, how at this point in history, our relationship with our tablets is deeper than some of our human relationships?

The title may be misleading. Clearly, none of us can really get on in the world without our devices (sorry to those of you who stick to the past.) I’m an advocator for all things natural, but when it comes to advancements in our modern society, I am all for generating new apparatus’s that can assist in our species’ evolution. It’s exciting to see what we can do and how we can solve problems that one hundred years ago was head-scratching to everyone. From loneliness and depression, to suicide preventions, to obtaining free advice, down to connecting with anyone, anywhere, anytime is phenomenal. Most of all, I can’t wait to see what kind of brilliant minds (without the claws of corporate greed intact) produce exemplary models of environmentally sustainable technology.

For now, however, I’m going to draw upon the downsides of how our world gets on in daily life. 

What you already know about social media.

I’ll be stating the obvious now. The persistent bings and pings of our devices are all lovely methods to keep our focused minds OFF of what it needs to be focused on. Nobody can keep their normally attuned minds in check. As much as we live in the age of information, we’re also juggling with the age of distraction.

Here’s the thing, though. We all know this already. Countless studies have been released in recent years about the underlying stress social media lays on our delicate minds. When the internet was first formed and publicized back in the ‘90s, it was laughed at that such a tool could possibly lead to addiction. Now? Our society takes it practically just as seriously as smoking addictions. 

Newer and older generations alike, know what we’re up against. An assertive army of pop-up emojis and endless streaming of ads that flood our social media pages. The internet’s no longer become a handy resource – it’s become more, I would say, corporate. 

But here’s what you should know.

I have nothing against social media. Like everything else, it has it’s pros and cons. We’re expanding our global connections through the utilization of this tool. We’re promoting our brands swiftly and easily all by ourselves. We’re learning things within a split second. Messages are being transmitted in an instant to hundreds, thousands – and sometimes millions of people. Hooray for social media. 

It’s easy to get hooked to such a free resource. But this is when the line needs to be drawn. We have to know our limits. I guess I could talk about addiction here too, because this is easily applicable to that as well. 

So:

Be aware(!) of how far you can go. This is essential. 

I know for myself when it’s starting to feel like a kind of poison for my mental wellbeing. By scrolling through my feed endlessly – at a rate too fast for me to process what I’m actually looking at – I become an automatic robot. I can imagine I probably look dead-eyed while I do this – I see the same expression in everybody else’s faces. It’s the I-don’t-know-why-I’m-doing-this-I-just-am look. So why are you doing it?

This method requires a LOT of self-responsibility and self-awareness. For the most part, few of us believe we possess such abilities – at least for the time being. So how can you be responsible in all this?

You really have to feel the need to shut off your phone. Put it away. Forget about it. This takes commitment.

It’s not easy disconnecting from a connected world.

So no one is expected to discard their phones and limit their internet usage. What is expected from us is to ask ourselves:

Is this making me feel fulfilled at the moment?

Not gratified. Don’t tempt the pleasure-seeking aspect of you. 

When you realize the detriments of screen time overload, you begin to see this in your life. For example, there is a multitude of problems that stem from perpetual screen time: 

  • Inability to reach success
  • Inability to get things done on time
  • Inability to be organized
  • Inability to maintain healthy relationships
  • Inability to be present (which is tantamount for our goody-good feels) 

Recognize any of these in your life?

Say no to artificial relationships.

Numerous studies have shown the severity of technology impact on relationships ranging from romantic couples to close friends to business partners. Think about it: you’re at dinner with your date and every time they receive a notification they flip their phone over to see what it’s about. It’s not terribly appealing. 

But it’s more than that, too.

It’s the fact that technology is shutting down our ability to communicate as human beings with one another. Our ability to connect, to inspire, to understand, to see and feel into other people has been greatly disrupted due to this replacement. While we may be making connections around the world at a rate far faster than without it, these connections are not even real, tangible, physical. These are what I like to call “artificial relationships”, something that doesn’t exist in the moment but only through network connections.

This is technological constipation.

Too much information is being transmitted and absorbed all at once. There are too many distractions for our fragile attention spans. This should be a wake-up call: to cleanse yourself of the excess.

But how can we help it, when our phone notifies us of the latest news every ten minutes? When an old acquaintance (or stranger) posts something on their story and our phone lights up to alert us. How can we help this?

As a result, we’re seeing our attention span shrink like prunes.

What needs to happen?

An unexpected twist in this post. I’m going to emphasize our innate ability to focus – a key element in life (and human evolution). I’ll be writing an article all about focus after this. So don’t worry – I won’t leave you hanging.

If you want to be organized, sharpen your focus.

If you want to have healthy relationships, sharpen your focus. 

If you want to reach success, sharpen your focus.

If you want to get things done on time, sharpen your focus.

And lastly, if you want to be present and feel goody-good . . . 

. . . sharpen your focus.

And there’s no easy route either.

Even now, I’m typing away on this keyboard and my slightly weary mind is craving for the phone. And what do I do once I open it? I stare at the screen blankly. I swipe across the wide range of apps, not quite knowing which one to open. It’s not that I have something important to get done on the phone – I don’t. At this point, it’s just plain habit to want to be with my phone.

Isn’t it strange, how at this point in history, our relationship with our tablets are deeper than some of our human relationships?

You can say no, that ain’t true. But I really challenge you to think again.

Detox: let’s do this.

How about you untether yourself from the habit?

Alex and I are going to try this. One of these days, we’re going to spend an entire day detoxing from our phones. Yes – an entire freaking day! That’s our first step, at least. For now, we aren’t going to worry about detoxing away from our laptops because it’s part of our work. But the phones? They’re just tools for communication. Conservatively thinking, their original use was for incoming and outgoing calls. Now it’s all about social media. Who gave what speech at the Emmy’s. Who looks prettiest on today’s post. Who’s been to the most sought-after places. 

And it’s not that social media is bad. But it’d be interesting to see what happens when our body’s natural inclination is to pick up the phone. To examine how awareness can catch the habit off guard. If I’m studying, how long does it take for me to glance at my phone out of impatience of what I’m studying about?

The ability to experience, to really feel the powerful effects of not being on a device, is reviving. In a blog I posted this past summer (“The Kalalau Trail: What The Wild Taught Us”) I express the struggle between our natural selves and the harsh blow of civilization. And what struck me the most during this four-day hike, away from our phones and completely nuzzled in the mountains of Hawaii, I forgot what it was like to be on my phone. I forgot what it was like to want technology. So immersed was I that I didn’t crave it anymore.

So lastly, if you want to live simpler, try . . .

  • Releasing attachment from your device. If it’s not about work, you don’t need it 24/7.
  • Being in the present. I know, this sounds cliché. But do you want to value those people, animals, places and things a little more than you’re used to? If you want to cultivate a real and solid relationship with anybody or anything, you’re going to have to set aside excessive technology usage. 
  • Re-connecting with the world around you. Again, cliche. But not many of us are able to make a distinction between our connection with each other physically and our artificial interactions through the network of images, like buttons, followers and the egotistical me, me, me posts. Nobody gets each other anymore, yet we think we do. That’s the bottom line. Talk about an artificial world – we only like the images of what we imagine is real. But is it actually true?

Now, will this technology detox make you happier?

I haven’t done an intended detox yet, so I can’t give a full appraisal of the effects. But from my experience on the 4-day trail hike, I believe it’ll make you more content. By disregarding distractions from the media, reality becomes far sharper. Your brain’s not trying to juggle itself in two different worlds.

Think of this as a liver detox. When you quit consuming artificial foods that harm your digestive system, professionals often recommend we go on a fast to cleanse the liver (and overall system). So trust me when I say, a media/tech detox works much the same way.

In the end, you’ll probably feel not only clear in your mind, but in your overall life as well.

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