By Michael J. Chase
I want to challenge you to a digital detox! Think you can do it? I’ve done three already this year and disconnected from my social media accounts for 7-10 days. I have found that this practice is vital to my mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
Does this idea terrify you? Here’s something you may want to know: Studies show that all this we spend on our devices can actually produce anxiety, and withdrawal-like symptoms that have been seen in drug addicts. I feel that less time online is an important way to be kinder to myself and others.
Don’t misunderstand. I love my iPhone and digital life. Social media and smartphones are wonderful in the way they connect us. Whether it’s for individuals who may be homebound or grandparents living hundreds of miles away—today’s technology is amazing for bringing us together.
But I think many would also agree that we are entering dangerous territory as natural human traits such as empathy, compassion, patience and gratitude have been replaced with the illusion that relationships can be developed through a small digital box gripped tightly in our hands.
In just a few short years, we’ve become a culture which spends most of our time staring at glossy, app-filled screens. The result is millions of eyeballs looking down, ignoring the cries of others and not seeing a world that is in desperate need of our love and attention.
Because of the endless distractions we experience on any given day, many of us have forgotten that we are in a constant state of relationship. Whether it’s a romantic connection, our families, coworkers, people in traffic, cashiers, flight attendants or even the air we breathe—we are incessantly engaged in an emotional, spiritual and environmental bond with everyone and everything around us. And if we are to cultivate meaningful relationships, we must make more of an effort to bring our heads back up, power down our devices, (or at least silence them) and become fully present.
Because sometimes we simply need…
…a hug instead of a text.
…a real smile and eye contact rather than an emoticon. :)
. ..a shoulder to lean on.
.a heart that is attentive and fully open to our needs.
I’m the first to admit that putting the phone down and unplugging is not always easy. The moment I added the auto responder to my email and unpublished my Facebook accounts, my mind went wild. “What if someone wants to hire me for a speaking job! What will the 31,082 people on my Facebook page think if I’m not there!” (I have to actually deactivate the page otherwise the temptation to look is still too strong.)
But the truth is, life went on, the planet kept spinning and by day two I felt an incredible sense of peace. No piles of messages, no retweets, no fifty invites to like other pages and no one tagging me in photos from 1985 revealing my gel-infused mullet. It was glorious silence for an entire week.
Social media and our digital world is here to stay. And I honor and appreciate all it can do for our lives. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have a writing and speaking career. Nor would I have met some of the most loving and kindhearted people I now consider to be my dearest friends. But there are times when leaving Twitter or Facebook for more face-to-face time can be good for the soul and especially, good for our relationships. Above all, a break from technology can help us to feel human again.
And I’m pretty sure there’s still no app for that.