A practical guide to disconnecting
Focus has become the holy grail of the modern day. We know the journey is tough and often unsuccessful, yet it is highly sought after, because a sip from the cup promises the days of tree climbing, VHS tapes, skinned knees, words written inside bottle caps, a forgotten photo in a roll of film and everything else that can be categorized as pre-internet nostalgia. But how can we learn to be present in 2022?
In the digital era, it can feel as though there is not a single moment where you can excuse logging off. I don’t want to keep my friends waiting for a response! I should just get those emails out of the way! I don’t want to miss out! Sound familiar? While you are certainly not alone in feeling this way, the truth is that there is no need to be wired 24/7. Your friend can wait a few hours for a reply while you get lost in a good book. That DM and that email are still resting in your inbox once you have finished your chapter and had a good night’s sleep. In fact, some countries are challenging the guilt and anxiety associated with logging off, making it illegal for employers to contact employees after working hours.
As basic as it may sound, I invite you to turn on your night mode settings (e.g. from 8pm to 8am) to ensure you are not disturbed in your sleep, chasing updates from work outside hours or impatiently awaiting the next notification while you try to unwind. If you want to take it a step further, you can also accomplish a lot by doing a critical review of your notification settings. Ask yourself which platforms cause the most disruption to your daily routine whenever they send you an alert. Maybe there are certain apps you would not check as often if it wasn’t for them prompting you. If you don’t necessarily want to turn off notifications for a messaging app, do not forget that it is possible to mute individual chats for various time periods.
Like discussed in one of our recent articles, technology and social media is designed to capture your attention and keep you scrolling. With every pop-up ad and promotion, profits are made while you lose your focus. Instagram, in particular, has taken a new direction, bombarding your feed with suggested posts and ads, all in a bid to match the success of TikTok. But it’s not working and users are disappointed to see their family holiday snapshots and their friends’ amateur photography being replaced with posts they never asked to see. Even celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have spoken out against the unpopular service update.
If you can relate, the first thing I recommend doing is snoozing Instagram’s suggested posts. Unfortunately, they are only possible to mute for 30 days at a time but it is a simple task to check off your list. You can also use this as an opportunity to clean up your feed, assessing who is adding value to your life. Which friends do you really want to keep up with compared with the acquaintances you feel obliged to follow? Perhaps following too many news outlets has become nothing but an energy-suck? Are there any influencers that give you a real boost and applicable tips and tricks or should some of them go?
Don’t turn a blind eye
I can’t count the number of times I have wanted to turn off the weekly time reports that put my phone habits into hours and minutes. While it can be painful to look reality in the eye, it is also necessary. For example, getting an overview of which apps you are most reliant on can be helpful as you tend to be blinded by your own addiction. If you are not happy with your weekly breakdown, it is indeed an important reminder to do something about it. After all, in a world where everyone around you is suffering from the same addiction, you may need a wake up call. I promise you, oblivion is not bliss.
Do you remember the last time you spaced out? Unsurprisingly, we are growing increasingly detached and unfocused, lacking the white space for creativity to flourish and lacking the concentration needed to enjoy fleeting moments. It seems every time the brain could potentially wander, whether that means you are going for a walk, sitting on the bus or finding yourself in a doctor’s waiting room, you reach for something to fill the space. You grab your phone instinctively only to scroll mindlessly, while half-listening to a podcast or playlist. But those pockets of time, where the brain is free to wander, is crucial. Not only do you need such space to unwind, your creativity is also dependent on it. Believe it or not, there is power in boredom.
In today’s technological world, the word “faster” is often used as a synonym for “better” and the result is multitasking being celebrated as a form of productivity. However, it usually has the opposite effect. Carrying out several tasks at the same time weakens our focus and increases stress levels, which is the creative brain’s worst enemy. In contrast, peace of mind exists in the moments that are untouched by what comes before and after, the moments where your focus is deep and centered. Therefore, I challenge you to perform single actions, focusing on one uninterrupted task at a time. Clear a time slot in your calendar, turn off your phone and try to find focus.
I wish I could tell you that tech addiction could magically disappear in the twinkling of an eye, but there is no way around the fact that certain sacrifices have to be made. What I can promise you is that, with time, they will no longer feel like a burden. I’m not asking you to commit to a rigorous social media detox that will shock you into a relapse in the same way a fad diet would. After all, the problem lies with the tech companies profiting off your deteriorating attention span, so there is only so much you can do until these companies are held accountable and responsibly regulated. However, I hope these steps help you along the way, while we continue to work towards a more ethical technological future.