Technology is an incredible phenomenon in that it has changed our lives so comprehensively. When you think about it, you may realize that "kids" who are currently coming of age (i.e., Gen Z and some Millennials) have never experienced a world without technology. Most have used or even owned mobile phones or other electronic devices before they learned to talk. And forget about ever talking them into unplugging from that technology.
This makes me somewhat sad. Why? Well, as a Gen Xer, I grew up in the “take your nose out of that book and go play outside” generation. I must confess that I have become a devoted fan of technology, much the same as all those kids, though—which makes me essentially like everyone else. The sheer amount of time we spend using technology every day completely blows me away. Let's face it; screen time is addictive.
According to Nicole Fisher in her Forbes article, "How Much Time Americans Spend In Front Of Screens Will Terrify You," the average adult consumes five times more information every day than their counterpart 50 years ago. Many Americans spend as much as 12 hours a day in front of TVs and computers—and that's while at home! Even more worrisome? We do so willingly.
Could we be addicted to our technology?
It may seem like a strong word choice, but the term, "addiction" is an accurate way to describe our unnatural screen time dependence. Try unplugging from technology for a day—without any weaning period—and you may find it feels almost excruciating, or at the very least, uncomfortable. Just ask my Gen Z kids! If I so much as threaten to take away their iPads or smartphones when they misbehave, they shape up faster than if I were to take any other kind of punitive action.
Think about it. From the moment we wake up each morning until the time we fall asleep (and all those hours in between), we are most likely using technology. It's an overarching part of our lives at work or school, at home, in our cars, and essentially everywhere else. We depend on technology almost as much as food, sleep, and the air we breathe.
However, we truly can—and should—try unplugging from technology occasionally. Our families and friends will thank us for doing so. Plus, it's good for our own emotional welfare.
What benefits can we expect when we unplug from technology?
Somehow, my parents, their parents, and even I managed to survive for decades before VCRs, DVDs, personal computers, and mobile devices arrived on the scene. But now, it's impossible for most of us to imagine living without any of these items.
It’s true that we have beneficial technology available to us, which enhances nearly every aspect of our lives. However, we should still make time to unplug, especially since it has become more difficult to do so.
By unplugging, we may experience something even more valuable than anything technology can offer us: we might re-discover the real world around us. We should simply take some time and enjoy it.
Joshua Becker shares several excellent reasons for unplugging in his article for Becoming Minimalist:
- Powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness.
- Powering-down combats the fear of missing out. (FOMO!)
- Solitude is harder to find in an always-connected world.
- Life, at its best, is happening directly in front of you.
- Powering-down promotes creation overconsumption.
- Addiction must be understood when the object is taken away.
- Life is still about flesh, blood, and eye contact.
How often should we unplug?
The amount of time you spend unplugging is entirely up to you. Sometimes, all you need is just a few hours of quiet time away from your electronic devices. Even better is being able to take a weekend, or even longer. If it benefits you in the long run and does not impact your work, then you should take all the time you need.
The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, consider going for a walk outside, getting away for a day trip to enjoy nature, or taking your kids to play at a local playground—just make sure you leave technology at home. Detaching from technology, even for a little while, will do wonders for your brain. It helps clear your head and allows you to unwind. Plus, you might find opportunities for real-life conversations with other people who are unplugging from technology at the same time you are.
Over to you!
Now that you know more about the value of unplugging from technology, are you planning a break soon? What are your favorite ways to unplug from technology? I'd love to hear your suggestions. Please feel free to leave a comment below!