Do you respond to the beep, ping, rattle and shake of your gadgets on command? You may be suffering from digital distress -- or maybe even a case of Social Media Anxiety Disorder -- and you might be in need of a digital purge.
Sound like something you could benefit from? This Friday, March 1, marks the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging. Participants around the country can pledge to unplug from their digital crutches for a full 24 hours -- from sunset to sunset -- while experiencing the forgotten art of being present.
Why unplug? “We’ve reached a point where all of our technological devices are using us, rather than the other way around,” Gemini Adams, author of “The Facebook Diet” (coming out April 2013) told The Huffington Post. “Technology has come into our life so quickly that we haven’t had the time to make conscious choices about how to use it.” Adams says that having a national call to unplug is “brilliant,” as the day gives people a taste of what life would be like if we actually had clear digital boundaries.
Who can benefit from this day? Anyone who Instagrams their hardboiled eggs, experiences those freaky phantom cell phone vibrations or just wants time to connect with friends the old-fashioned, in-person way.
On the flip side, the National Day of Unplugging will shed light on how challenging it is to unplug, Adams points out, because it will lead us to "realize how pervasive technology is in our lives.” We no longer rely on rolodexes (this, in case you're in the dark) or the Yellow Pages -- all of our information has been digitized.
Adams, who goes on digital detoxes regularly, says it's important to plan ahead to avoid feeling lost on your day of disconnect. How? Book anything you want to do (whether it’s getting a massage or going to the movies) before you unplug. Remember that if you’re meeting up with someone, you should know the exact location and time. And, maybe most importantly, plan to be reliable. There’s no texting “running l8 -- be there in 5” on a day you choose to unplug. Your presence is gold.
The practice of unplugging should not be reserved for a single day of the year. Adams says unplugging every now and again can help you be more productive at work, generally focused and more in touch with the people you love. While realistically, most of us can’t fully unplug for long stretches of time, there are ways to practice a more mindful approach to tech in your day-to-day life:
- Choose your favorite form of communication and stick to it.
“There are so many forms of communication available to us that there is a lot of miscommunication going on -- some people prefer to use email while others want to use Facebook,” Adams says. These numerous platforms can get confusing and can turn what is supposed to be faster forms of getting in touch into inefficient ones (how many times have you forgotten to respond to a Facebook message?). Consider drafting up a statement in your outbound email that clarifies how you like to be in touch -- you can even include the times you plan to be off the grid. “We’re not supposed to be available 24/7, so it’s OK to say that you’re not.” Being unavailable at times, Adams says, “is an extremely healthy and positive practice."
- Design a method to the madness.
Keep a log of all the voicemails, emails and messages you receive throughout the day, and plan to respond to them during a designated time you schedule on your calendar. Carving out a specific stretch to respond to these will ensure you’re not being dragged away from the tasks you’re trying to accomplish -- and, without the distraction, “you’ll get those tasks completed in half the time,” Adams says.
- Make being present collaborative (and fun).
Make a group mini-pledge to stay off your phones -- the time you spend with your friends will really count. Adams suggests phone stacking: Have your pals stack their phones in the middle of the table and enjoy the live conversation, food (of which there will be no Instagramming) and eye contact. First person to reach for the phone picks up the tab.
So, are you unplugging this Friday? Have you implemented any of these digitally conscious techniques in the past? Let us know how you’ll be spending your tech-free day and check in (after Saturday, of course!) to tell us about the experience.
Make sure to join our “Social Media Anxiety Disorder” Twitter chat before you unplug. It's happening this Friday, March 1 at 12 p.m. ET. We'll be tweeting from @HealthyLiving and @GPSforSoul with the hashtag #SMAD.