#13. Unplug from something and do nothing

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Dylan Thomas once wrote, ‘The summer talked itself away,’ and I am a little bit afraid of having to say some months from now, ‘The fall emailed itself away.’” (Katie Roiphe)

Figuring out how to use technology in an empowering and connected way rather than working for technology and feeling fomo whenever our phones aren’t in our pockets is a uniquely contemporary conundrum. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation with my family and didn’t check any social media or email for four days. It was the most amount of unplugging and doing nothing that I’ve done since getting my first smartphone in 2011.

There is so much research out there proving the benefits of unplugging and doing nothing. A year ago, I read an article titled I Quit Liking Things on Facebook and began to think more about how and why I engaged on social media. Did I want it to be a mindless activity used when bored or tired? Was is something I used for a narcissistic need for constant affirmation? The power and potential in social media is astounding. It connects friends and family spread across the country and world. It brings messages and stories to public spaces that may never see the light of day.

The thing is, we were never taught how to use social media. I have spent most of my adult life embracing and taking on new technology without ever asking myself, “What’s the best way to use this?” I’m neither a luddite nor a cynic. I love technology for all its potential and productivity and ability to connect people, but over the past year I’ve begun to think about it more and engage in new ways.

Rather than emailing the fall away, I want to take notice of the small changes and create margin and space to embrace the season. Instead of scrolling through a feed, I want to look outside the first fall mornings to see tiny spiderwebs that dot the entire yard making a sparkly patchwork of white on the green of the grass. Rather than catching up on the latest trends, I want to take fashion notes from my two year old who decided September is a month for tutus and rain boots. It’s about pausing to see that everything green is turning gold and brown, once lush corn fields transform overnight with the leaves.

E. O. Wilson writes about biophilia, an inborn craving for wilderness and green. He talks about how we are built for nature and how spending time in green spaces improves our immune system and emotional health. It is vital and essential to our well being.

The smartest, most creative people know when to let the mind wander and when to knuckle down to work hard. In other words, when to be slow and when to be fast.” (Carl Honoré)

I find it personally challenging to make room for letting the mind wander. Some people naturally lean towards slowness while others speed. I have always loved work and found movement and speed satisfying. Here are a few things that have helped me become more intentional with technology as well as making space to slow down:

  • When at home, keep the phone plugged in at one location
  • When out with friends, put the phone away and out of sight
  • Go on social media when there is time to comment and give thoughtful reactions to posts
  • Check email at predetermined times during the day
  • Turn off every notification besides text messages (something about not seeing red dots is incredibly freeing)
  • Take one day a week to rest from social media (a sabbath of sorts where no apps are opened and the laptop stays shut)

Sometimes we need still small moments to pause from the buzz and activity of technology. Sometimes we need to be fully present with technology to engage in meaningful ways through this medium that we’re still learning and navigating as it grows right alongside us.

Here’s a little peak into some of the four unplugged days away soaking in the moments big and small.

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