I Turned Off Technology for Three Days. Here’s What Happened.
How often do just sit and scroll down your Facebook newsfeed? How many times a day do you pull out your phone and press the button just to check if you’ve gotten a message? How much do you crave disengaging from your need from technology? But how much does the thought of being disconnected freak you out?
I didn’t used to be that way. The best vacation I ever took was a road trip around Spain when I was 20. It was just me, my sister and a map. (Looking back, I have no idea how we ended up where we wanted to go. But we made it. I don’t think we ever even got lost. Although we did go two days without realizing that the time had sprung ahead. That was an amazing moment—to realize we were just living and not tied to a clock. But that’s a different story.)
When my husband got an iPhone and I didn’t have one yet, it used to bug the shit out of me to watch him stare aimlessly at the screen, just zoning out while scrolling through useless information. Now I do the same thing. And it drives me crazy.
The No Technology Challenge
In the MYP Powerhouse Collective, the free Facebook Group where moms get together for a little more inspiration, support and peace than you see in your typical mom’s group, we often talk about how we are getting sucked in by technology. And many moms have talked to me about putting together a no technology challenge to get us away from it.
So last weekend, my family and I went camping. Before we left, you know what my 6-year-old said to me? He said, “Ha ha mom! You can’t work on our trip!!” That was a dose of reality. I realized that I’m pretty much ALWAYS at the computer when we’re sitting at home. So I decided to try something new on this camping trip. I decided to try staying off technology pretty much completely. These were the rules:
- I couldn’t go to Facebook.
- I would check for texts twice a day instead of every time I remembered.
- I couldn’t check my emails, except for sending a few emails out at the beginning of the challenge (to school letting them know my kids wouldn’t be there on Monday, to my accountant… stuff that was really necessary).
Now, I don’t get any notifications on my phone already. If I did, I think I would go certifiably nuts. The only thing my phone does is buzz when I get a text or a phone call. So there’s nothing that really makes me continually check my phone other than my own impulses. But this challenge that I had created for myself meant that I really had to establish self-control so that I wouldn’t keep turning on my phone and checking for—for what, exactly?
I wasn’t working over the weekend. I could go a few days without talking to my friends. There wasn’t anything pressing going on in the Facebook world that couldn’t wait.
And that was the first lesson.
Lesson #1: Technology doesn’t give me useful info.
Social media wasn’t providing me with any information that was necessary to my life. In fact, I saw a lot of shit that I didn’t want to see. Probably more so than anything vital to my worldview. So why was I addicted to it? Why did I feel uncomfortable going without it? I was about to find out.
Lesson #2: I lost my kids less.
Before we went camping, we stopped at a LEGO convention for a few hours. My kids were happily making their creations at one of the tables that buzzed with kids like a beehive. I was right next to the building area, watching them from the outside. It was sweet to watch them work together and show me how proud they were of what they made. That was when I realized that I had forgotten to send off a tax form to the accountant, and I quickly went to my email and composed a message. Sent it. Boom, done. I looked up. My kids were nowhere to be found. I panicked. Two minutes on technology and my kids had disappeared.
I realized that wasn’t the only time that had happened. I’ve definitely lost my kids before when I’ve been on my phone. I can see it now: my husband coming up to me at the park, asking, “Where are the kids?” And me looking at him like he was crazy for thinking I’d be watching them when I was clearly on my phone.
Once I was off my phone, I didn’t have to stress about keeping track of all the moving parts. I simply followed my kids around. I looked at the LEGOs. I enjoyed myself and was able to be fully present in the moment, instead of trying to disconnect from it AND feeling stressed that I would lose my kids.
Lesson #3: I was more aware of the world.
On a different camping trip at a music festival a few years ago, I was having an incredible time. I had had an amazing day disconnecting from reality, dancing to music and watching my kids frolic around without a care in the world. That night, I was feeling so fulfilled and peaceful and balanced. I remember leaning back in my chair in front of the campfire and looking up at the stars, feeling one with the universe. Then I pulled out my phone, ready to share the moment on Facebook. The universe slapped my hand away with an energetic sign: I didn’t have any Internet connection out where I was.
When you’re constantly uploading your photos to social media as soon as you take them or sharing your thoughts and insights on your Facebook or Twitter status, you’re paying less attention to the world around you. When I didn’t have technology to turn to, I spent more time enjoying and observing nature and the hilarious things that my kids were doing instead of being concerned with sharing it with everyone else.
Lesson #4: Time moved more slowly.
Do you remember how it seemed as though you had boundless amounts of time as a kid? Or in high school? Even when I look back at my college years, I marvel at how I was able to go to three classes a day, work, study, spend time in the art studio, and still have time to hang out with friends at night. Someone recently pointed out to me that it might be because there was no social media back then. Hell, I didn’t even have a cell phone until I was about 25.
It’s true. When you don’t have an automatic escape pod in your pocket in the form of a smartphone, you’re forced to sit through every moment. That means that 5 minutes of silence can drag out forever instead of an hour of scrolling going by in what feels like less than a second.
Lesson #5: I liked my kids more.
When I got home from our trip, I kept finding myself smiling about something cute or hilarious that one of my kids had done over the weekend. I hate to say it, but that’s not the norm. I usually think back on my days and sigh over how frustrating my kids can be or how they continued to interrupt the things I wanted to do.
I realized how often I grab my phone to check something quickly while I’m also spending time with my kids. So then when my kids try to grab my attention, I’m exasperated with them because they broke my concentration. Without technology in hand, I actually spent some time enjoying my children on my vacation. And that feeling continued even after we got home.
Lesson #6: I thought of things to talk about with my husband.
On a typical day, as soon as the kids aren’t in the picture (or even when they are), my husband and I both pull out our phones. It’s easy. We don’t have to talk. We don’t have to think. We can both just zone out individually, sharing something funny about someone else when we come across it on our devices.
Without that ability, we had to do something we don’t always do: talk. Sure, sometimes we sat in silence and stared at the sky. But I was more motivated than usual to ask him questions and have conversations with him in a way that we don’t always do. We shared laughs. We rekindled something that isn’t always there for us lately.
Lesson #7: I had more room in my brain.
Think about how busy you feel throughout the day. I am the first person to tell everyone else how I just didn’t have time for everything, even though I have my tricks for finding more time throughout the day. On a typical day, I pull out my phone every time I go to the bathroom and scroll through Facebook for 10 minutes while I’m in there. I scroll at stop lights. I scroll while I’m waiting in the pickup line at school.
So even though I could have a spare second to let my brain rest, I don’t. Instead, I fill it with other people’s thoughts, which, honestly, can get totally overwhelming and confusing. Without constantly going online, I felt free to think my own thoughts. And my thoughts slowed down, became more focused and created space. Much-needed space.
The No Technology Challenge Grand Conclusion
There were times during my trip when I really wanted to just check something. Check for the sake of checking. I’m not even sure. I had to reason with myself that there wasn’t really anything there that I needed. It felt uncomfortable. If I hadn’t downright set up this challenge for myself and committed to it 100%, I probably would have gotten sucked right back in. But I chose to ride with that discomfort. I let myself feel it, and I knew that it was actually helping me.
And then I came back to the real world. I didn’t actually hop on my computer right away when I got home. I set up some guidelines surrounding what would constitute satisfactory technology use when I got home. I didn’t want to sit and waste time scrolling anymore. I didn’t want to ignore my kids for the sake of nothing. If I’m going to ignore my kids, I better be doing something damn awesome for myself.
I actually jumped over to Facebook a couple of times while writing this blog post. And you know what? I kinda felt like shit afterwards.
Is technology making you feel like crap? Do you find yourself uselessly sucked into social media for more hours per day than you’d care to admit? Try putting away the phone, computer, tablet and technology for a few days. See what happens. I can promise you that nothing bad will happen. Just step away from the smartphone.
Do you want to get in on the technology challenge once it launches? Drop your name and email below (kind of an oxymoron to do this for a challenge that’s going to get you off of technology, I know…) and we’ll let you know when it’s ready to get going.