Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/email encourage an unhealthy relationship with technology. Amy Angelilli diagnoses her dependency and shows us how to disconnect.
I can actually remember – quite distinctly – when it all began. It was 2005 and I was in Italy for the first time. This was a trip I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl. In fact, I thought about it so much over the years that I kept putting it off waiting for the perfect time to make it happen. Finally, I stopped waiting and spent my birthday that year exploring the countryside by smart car. I was in Tuscany wine tasting and strolling hill towns — and sending emails home from church entrances. It became a running joke during the trip—so much so in fact that my friend, Jim, would snap a shot of me—and my Blackberry—in front of every church we visited.
October marks the nine-year anniversary of that trip and my bad habit. As a personal challenge, I’m spending this birthday on a meditation circle on the grounds of an adobe house that sits on a country road outside of Dolores, Colorado. My goal is to have a self-imposed digital detox for part of the week. However, since my husband has to work, we rented a house that has wireless internet, making the goal much more difficult because it will depend on my own willpower to execute.
This past summer, I was a counselor at Camp Grounded—summer camp for adults. I was a camper at Life of Yes! Sleep-away Camp. Additionally, I was a guest at Far Horizons Retreat Center. All of these had a digital detox element—you either had to “check your technology at the door” as part of the program requirements, or, the woodsy locations just didn’t enable service. I was on these digital detoxes for reasons outside of my control. They were easier situations to accept and even embrace. Now, however, I’ll need to be accountable for my own digital detox and I’m not confident I can do it.
While at Far Horizons earlier this month, I had a conversation about my upcoming challenge with some of the “Camp Grounded” team members that were also visiting. My fellow counselor, Barnaby, told me I’m 90 percent there just by putting myself in the well-off-the-beaten-path location. But, I might need to finish up some work while I’m there. Plus, I could use the quiet time to catch up on tasks that I’ve fallen behind on while traveling. Or, maybe I just don’t want to miss the Facebook posts on my birthday.
Unless a digital detox is forced upon me, I can’t seem to do it for more than an evening. How do I know this? The signs have been popping up for nine years—just like push notifications. These are the twelve major symptoms I was experiencing and the self-imposed treatments I have implemented to treat my unhealthy relationship with technology.
I had a huge chiropractic bill last year due to more than 80 percent of the curvature in my neck disappearing from bad posture while using the computer and the iPhone.
Raise my laptop, so it’s eye level and use a mouse. Limit computer time.
The iPhone replaced my alarm clock, so it became the last thing I looked at before bed and the first thing I looked at the morning.
Use an old-fashioned alarm clock and keep the phone out of the bedroom.
The cell phone bills have increased dramatically due to adding international service every time I leave the country.
Disconnect while traveling. (Still working on this one but in fairness, travel is part of my work.)
A day on the road (of life—not necessarily even while traveling) can consist of multiple posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Assign a part of the day to social media, so it doesn’t become a complete time eater.
Entire relationships—romantic and otherwise—have escalated and then fizzled via text messages.
Make an effort to see people in person. Or, if they’re not local, send old-fashioned mail with a stamp!
Checking messages now means checking voice mail, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Pages, Messenger and texts.
Assign a time period to checking (all of these) messages, so electronic communication doesn’t become the day’s main focus.
Sometimes, I know more about people I went to high school with (who I haven’t seen for 25 years) than my best (local) friend because she isn’t on Facebook.
See local best friends in person and spend less time scrolling on Facebook.
I rekindled one too many romances (that should have stayed where the were—in the bin) after reconnecting on Facebook.
Instead of enjoying the concert, experience, adventure, I’m too busy trying to take the perfect photo, so I can post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Spend part of the concert, experience or adventure with the device in “put away” mode.
I’m often blue because I see that so-and-so is more successful at life than I am because of whatever he/she is posting on Facebook.
Remember that Facebook life isn’t real life and that everyone has good days and bad days, amazing experiences and pedestrian experiences.
I use my iPhone to check the time and then get pulled into other things.
Wear one of my fantastic Swatch watches.
I get pulled into email first thing in the morning because I check the phone on my first bathroom break.
Use the bathroom, enjoy a coffee, sit on the meditation pillow before touching a device to set the tone for the day.
Although I’m hyper aware of my addiction, my mindfulness-based solutions don’t always hit the mark. Just like yoga, it’s a practice. I do always leave the laptop and phone off the table when my husband and I are sharing a meal. The bedroom is a phone free zone. And, texting and driving a car—or bike—never happens. The truth is that strong self-care now requires an element of digital detox. Tonight, I’ll brush and floss my teeth, leave my phone charging in my home office and then dream of a birthday filled with old-fashioned cards that require stamps—and no internet connection!
[image: via Mervi Eskelinen on flickr]