If you’re unconcerned with just how much time you’re spending connected online or reaching for your cell phone, let me share some recent statistics that might inspire you to rethink the situation. On a typical day, most adults are online at least four hours. If that’s not frightening enough, 96% of us report not disconnecting from our mobile devices after 5pm and on weekends. Worst of all, some 70% report they don’t even put down their phones when on a vacation. What’s the point of a vacation if you’re not disconnecting?
While I’ve recognized for some time we’ve become too reliant on our tech-driven devices, recently I’ve started noticing how often my close friends and family members spend with their faces glued to a screen, rather than enjoying one-on-one, in person, social interaction with others.
I’ve also watched with sincere concern how employees at my company seem more engaged with their social media feeds and incoming text messages than they are with the work before them. And it seems like nobody calls or drops by to simply chat anymore. They all ping me instead!
After reading up a bit on the subject, I decided it was time to take a stand against the unhealthy imbalance technology has established in our lives.
During my research, I came across an organization called A-GAP, a non-profit foundation that provides a reprieve for those seeking a technology free environment for contemplation and spiritual rejuvenation. It leads participants on a journey to clarity, unity and simplicity, free of technical distractions.
Ultimately, they want to raise awareness on just how addicted they have become to their digital devices and then provide them the skills to re-establish a healthy balance into their lives. It seems we’ve lost the ability to see technology as a part time tool, rather than a full-time companion, and the charge at A-GAP is to help people reclaim the strength that comes from being free and disconnected.
It’s not difficult to strike this life balance, but it does require some initial focus as the mind relearns some basic and essential natural habits. Below is a list of activities from Marygrace Sexton, Founder and CEO of A-GAP that she has found useful in helping people wean themselves off a mobile-device addiction.
Take Some Initial Baby Steps
Start small. Challenge yourself not to check your cell phone for a pre-described amount of time. Can you go one hour? Two hours? The entire morning? While out on a date? Resist the urge to check-in and increase the duration of time with a goal of only checking your device a few times a day, not a few times a minute!
Be Attentive of the People and Places Around You
Focus on making connections with yourself or others around you, giving them your complete attention and paying attention to how it feels to interact with them. Also, be sure to build some alone time into your day and use that time to study your surroundings and your place in the larger world.
Purposely Place Your Mobile Device Out of Reach
This one is surprisingly effective. When you put down the phone, be sure you place it well out of reach. You’ll soon notice how often you feel compelled to check your phone, but because it’s inconvenient to get to, you’ll also find yourself if it’s really that urgent to check it at all.
Unplug with a Friend
Enlist support from family or friends. Take an hour-long evening or weekend-morning walk together, making sure to keep the phones at home or tucked securely away. Rediscover what it’s like to actually engage in conversation with someone rather than just texting them.
Make it a Fun Challenge
As you begin to enjoy your time locked to a device, look to extending the time you spend disconnected from it. Can you go a whole day, a weekend? Even longer? If you need to, keep a journal and chart your time. Make it a goal to spend less time with the phone and more time with people.
Rethink Your Relationship
Start looking at your cell phone as a useful, occasional tool, not a full-time companion. Enjoy the tasks you can complete using technology, but then put it aside and re-focus on things you can accomplish in the real world.