Stop for a second and consider just how much technology, including the far reaching tentacles of social media, helps us on a day to day basis. We can stay in touch, navigate to our destinations and schedule our TV programmes to record, all at the press of a button. There is no doubt that the benefits can be huge.
Now stop and ask yourself this: how would it feel ‘switching off’ and taking a break from it all? Your answer may vary somewhere from hugely scary to one of complete relief.
I recently delivered a training session focusing on moving outside of our comfort zones and which I knew was going to require quite a bit of focus from the participants. We’re all used to the usual mobile telephone shout-out at the beginning of such sessions – normally followed with varying degrees of compliance with more and more people wishing to use their devices as an alternative to pen and paper. For this session, I decided to ask participants not only to turn their phones off, but to put them out of arms reach, and the results were interesting. When we dissected the different feelings in the room, some were mildly to extremely relaxed from the break I had offered them however the majority of people in the room felt anxious. One person went as far as to say it felt like their “third hand had been cut off!” Just this one simple exercise of removing ourselves from the ever-present mini tablet in our pockets or handbags got us thinking, and we began to consider the impact technology was having in our day to day lives.
I wonder if your responses would be similar to my own personal light bulb moments:
- Using your phone for the majority of interactions other than simply talking to people face to face…phonecalls (of course they’re still good for those from time to time!), texts and emails, messaging Apps, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, YouTube…the list goes on).
- Sacrificing precious holiday time simply keeping up-to-date with what you’re missing from the beach or putting in hours of catch-up time to bring yourself back up to speed when you get back home.
- Your phone being the last and first thing you look at before going to sleep – just by using mine as my alarm clock qualifies this however once I picked it up to set the alarm or switch it off meant that first or last check of what was going on in the big wide world!
- When you have finally put the phone down to rest for the night, it’s on the bedside table where it can buzz and light up at will, demanding our attention even as we drift off to the land of nod.
- Checking in with social media and news sites multiple times an hour, let alone a day…and having a direct impact on your mood and outlook thereafter; not always for the worst but not always for the better.
…and that’s just scratching the surface. Games on your phone anyone? My favourite is Yahtzee With Buddies.
So I decided to impose a one week embargo…not on all things technology – baby steps! I decided to start out with social media (that is where I felt I wasted much of my time unnecessarily and which impacted my state of mind the most).
And do you know what – it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be! In fact, the break was great and freed me up to focus my energy and attention elsewhere. I was surprised by how many phone calls and texts I received that week, asking if I was alright or if I had been kicked out of the Facebook club for misbehaving! I realised that the world would continue turning if I didn’t check in to see the latest news disaster, the cutest dog photos or what my friends were going to see at the cinema.
Yes, I have returned to the fold, but with one significant change: I limit the amount of time I spend being ‘social’ with my gadgets and I’m certainly no longer concerned about what I miss or don’t see. I think if it’s important enough for me to know someone will tell me anyway.
So I challenge you to at least consider: is it about time you took a break too?