Around April, it seems like our New Years Resolutions are somewhat of a blur. What diet? Me, exercise? You get my point. I'm sure most of us have become a little more lenient. And that's okay. I wanted to check back in regarding the one promise I made to myself that I've done my best to stick to: to be more present and rely less on my iPhone. And I'm not the only one! It's becoming more and more of a "thing" as many of the podcasts I listen to and articles I read are highlighting the same topic: unplugging.
It seems as though some of us aboard the social media train have become rather attached, myself included. I'm not big on Facebook or Snapchat and Pinterest is something I use weekly (and still love!) But Instagram is my thing- it's like one big, real time mood board for me, filled with inspiration, ideas and aesthetically pleasing images. (My saved tab is overflowing!) I don't have a ton of followers and feel no obligation to "post" regularly (but I know many influencers feel such pressure.) I'm share less than but take in a LOT. For me, Instagram is a place of beauty and where curated tidbits of other peoples' lives come to life. I love that that platform can connect people to other people, ideas, products and more. Scrolling gives me a breath of fresh air, gets my mind moving and my dreams churning in my head. With that said, I tend to get lost in a place very far from the present... Maybe you can relate?
I mentioned in this post that I was hopeful unplugging would lead to more enjoyment in my life. And I'm very happy to report, it has! Here are some techniques that have helped me unplug- they're so simple (yet significant) and you can apply one or all of them to get started.
1.) Not looking at my phone an hour before bed AND an hour after waking up
This tip has been the master tip because once you master it (no pun intended) it makes all of the other tips so much easier to apply. But I'm not going to lie, this was really hard in the beginning! Our brains have been wired to check in on our phones a final time before we go to sleep and first thing upon rising. To combat it, I've employed the Do Not Disturb function on my iPhone from 8pm to 8am daily and put my phone in another room (never our bedroom!) This eliminates the distraction/temptation to pick it up (you will likely go to reach for it out of habit) and check in on things. I've been reading more, another one of my new year's resolutions, and have just been genuinely soaking up what I'm doing in the moment- enjoying my coffee, reading the newspaper, cuddling with my cat. Try it- it'll take practice but it's so refreshing.
2.) Agreeing on scroll times
Have you ever seen a family at a restaurant where each person is tethered to a device? It makes me so sad. Dinnertime is family time. I remember as a kid, we'd let the phone go to the answering machine if someone called while we were eating. We'd also think, who the heck calls during dinner time? (gosh I miss the 90s!) Nowadays, I cringe when I see people, fork in one hand, phone in the other completely distracted from what's right in front of them- their company. Kevin and I have established that mealtime is sacred so our phones are completely out of sight.
We also limit phone use when we travel. I typically leave my phone at the hotel and Kevin carries his for emergencies and for photo opportunities, that's it.
But what's been most helpful for our relationship, in this day and age, is to say "I'm going to look at Instagram for a little while" so we're both on the same page. This eliminates any issues like "you're not even watching the movie...!" (you know, when you start to watch a movie on the couch and one person is a little bored so they pick up their phone and mindlessly scroll?) or "you're not helping me with x or y!" Communicating our expectations has been paramount.
3.) Turning off notifications
If you want to take action right now, this is the easiest thing you can do! Blame it on Apple for notification overload, I guess. But you can change your settings to completely turn off notifications for basically any app on your phone. If that scares you, try turning off sound notifications first. Life has been so much more balanced since I no longer hear the email "whoosh" when a new one arrives to my inbox. We've been so conditioned to pick up our phones when we hear it ring and ding. It's been a domino effect- email was my first notification to turn off (seriously so liberating) and since then my Instagram and Snapchat have followed suit.
Wanna go cold turkey? Delete an app entirely from your phone. I did this with Facebook 6 months ago and never looked back. I rarely log on and honestly, I don't miss it one bit.
So, real talk... I was able to put my plan into action and let me tell you, it was an eye opener. Last month, my parents visited Kevin and I for a week. While some people may cringe at the thought of spending 7 days with their parents/in-laws, my parents are truly our best friends and I treasure our time together especially since we live so far away from each other now.
If we were headed out, I left my phone in the car or at home. When we were home, I placed it out of sight, sound off. I even had some work related things pending, so this was an excellent test for me, because in the past, I'd drop EVERYTHING to make sure work was being taken care of immediately (sound familiar?) Kevin took his phone and we snapped some photos and selfies but beyond that, I completely checked out. If I posted anything on social media, it was after the fact. And you know what? I didn't miss anything. Life went on and everything was still there when I logged back on. As for email, I replied to them on my own time, not within two minutes of opening them.
The week away from my phone highlighted that I was very much addicted to scrolling, addicted to replying and addicted to soaking up what everyone puts out there online (even if motivational, positive or inspirational.) What's more, unplugging enabled me to have more time with my family to make uninterrupted memories and to focus on our time together- because it's truly precious.