The National Day of Unplugging is this weekend, and if you’re a living human being, you’ve at least heard someone talking about how important it is to unplug every once in a while. But what does that really mean, and how do we go about doing it? Does it mean we shut off our phone? Our TV? Our computer? Do we have to refrain from doing laundry? What about using credit cards? The idea of unplugging is so general, and can encompass so much, that it’s hard to even know where to start.
First, let’s tackle the elephant in the room: What does it mean to “unplug”?
Unplugging doesn’t have to mean refraining from all electronic devices which is nearly impossible in 2016 (it’s the weekend, go do your laundry), but it does mean removing as much of the digital world from your life as possible. The real key driver behind this day (day? Movement? I’m don’t really know) is to make a concerted effort to live in the moment and remove yourself from the augmented reality of technology. We let so much beauty pass us by while our noses are in our phones and computers that we fail to stop and recognize the glorious beauty all around us.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, or your computer screen, “I’m not like that though. I can enjoy the world around me without giving up my phone! I’m the exception.” Well answer me this: When was the last time you checked any one of your social media accounts? Five minutes? 30? An hour? Now, when was the last time you watched the sunset, or stopped to take a picture of a tree, or even just went for a walk, sans technology? If the answer lies somewhere in the vicinity of multiple weeks, you’re exactly the person I’m talking to.
OK FINE, BUT HOW DO I UNPLUG?
It’s fairly simple. Start out by putting your phone, computer, and other devices away (yes, that includes your smart watch). Put them away and don’t touch them for an entire day, from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep (caveat: I understand that communication may be required at some point during the day and we use our phones to communicate, but at the very least, restrict phone use to calls and texts ONLY). Don’t check Facebook, or Twitter, or post to your Snap Story. Stay off the grid. Good.
Now that your devices are away, don’t turn on the TV. I mean it! I mean, what is the TV but a computer with fewer personalization options? Stay away from it. Feel that discomfort or silence? Good. Acknowledge it and allow yourself to learn to enjoy it. This may take some time, stay strong!
EVERYTHING IS AWAY. NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF?
This is where unplugging becomes very difficult. It’s super duper easy to put your devices away and not look at them in theory, but it’s excruciatingly difficult in practice because we’re uncomfortable in silence. We don’t know what to do when there is nothing for us to do. If we had our devices we could at least lose ourselves scrolling through Instagram or Twitter or whatever it is the cool kids are raving about these days, but with no safety blanket, we’re at a loss. We just don’t know what to do with our hands.
How about this: put on some music (I don’t know if that’s allowed under the official rules, but I’m giving you a pass), NOT with headphones, and make a meal. Pick up a book. Take a walk. Enjoy the view from your window. Maybe just have a conversation with a fellow human, remember them? Our lives are so saturated with technology (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way) that we forget how wonderful real, genuine human interaction can be. We miss out on the beauty of nature and the thrill of getting lost in a book. Do you love to write? Sit down and write a short story, or a blog post, or poetry, or a journal entry (I know that I said computers are forbidden but if you are going to use it to write, you have my blessing as long as you use a website blocker like this).
Don’t just unplug yourself from technology, plug yourself into experience (cliché alert: I’m sorry, it was just too perfect to pass up). Do something that you haven’t done in ages because you’ve spent that time on your phone instead. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you take advantage of being unplugged and just DO.
Until next time -