Recently during a gorgeous sun-soaked afternoon, surrounded by chirping birds and stunning wildlife, I found myself distracted by one particular tweeting creature: my iPhone.
I was smack dab in the middle of a picturesque moment, and there I was more consumed by the selfies on my Instagram. It was then that I knew I was in desperate need of unplugging and taking a digital vacation.
I’m sure most of you can relate. Our online lives are basically knee-jerk reactions—we communicate because we can, not because we need to (which explains why you know that Mark from your grade one class is “going hard” and eating a five-egg omelette for breakfast today). We are living with our heads down rather than looking up and enjoying the moment.
The first step is admitting you have problem, and then, sloooowly, stepping away from your phone. Even if you aren’t exhibiting signs of a technology addiction, a digital cleanse is probably in your best interest. In the same way that cutting out sugar for several days can eliminate poor eating habits, taking time away from technology can be helpful in fostering a healthy relationship with your tech stuff as well as with your loved ones and yourself.
As the summer comes to an end, now is the perfect time to unwind and get some much-needed perspective. Here are five tips on how to shut off.
What’s your motivation behind going au naturel? Is it because you’d rather be surfing YouTube than surfing at your brother’s cottage? Perhaps you can’t get out of bed without first checking out Facebook (guilty). Perhaps you can’t seem to finish a movie without checking out the cast info on IMdb. Whatever the reason is, think about why you are unplugging and what you want to do in your free time instead—taking a yoga class with your wife, joining a gym—and get specific.
I’m not asking you to go full-on Luddite, so it’s best to set some goals. How long do you want this digital cleanse to last for? Do you want to go cold turkey from all technology for a whole week (yes, that includes TV)? Or do you want to simply go off-line? Whatever you decide, make sure it aligns with the reason(s) why you are taking a digital vacay in the first place.
Make A List
Taking time away from your Netflix queue and Twitter feed can be daunting, so you will want to make a list of all the cool things that you can do that doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection. Read that book you’ve been meaning to finish. Bust out the board games for a fun night with friends. Make a point to check out that awesome new restaurant down the street. Take a walk by the lake, or simply catch up on your sleep.
Unplug completely from the Internet, turning off all devices completely: Shut down all tablets, smartphones, laptops, and all other digital technology. If you still have one of those things called a “landline,” it would be best to use only that and store away your smartphone. But if you must still have your smartphone in commission (for emergencies only!), then that’s fine. Just make sure it’s definitely turned off at meal times and at bedtime (use a real alarm clock for getting up in the morning). During the day, log off from your Facebook and Twitter accounts and resist the urge of checking your phone. Heck, you might want to even delete the apps to avoid the temptation of those pesky push notifications, and then simply re-add them at the end of your cleanse. Check the daily headlines by purchasing a real newspaper (the publishing world will thank you).
When the time comes for you to plug in and log on (because I know you will—I don’t expect for you to start suddenly using carrier pigeons), remember how easy and breezy and present you felt during your cleanse. Be mindful of your time online. Unsubscribe from email newsletters you never read and unfollow people and companies who add nothing to your life. Resist the urge to start your mornings off by checking your phone. Set a time limit for online usage. You might even want to choose one day a week to refrain from technology. Remember: you do have a social life outside of social apps.
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine. You can follow her on Twitter @briannehogan.