Less Time On Tech Time

At 9 AM on Christmas Day, I texted my mom, my sister, and my niece to wish them a good day, set my phone aside, and started prepping our holiday meal. At noon, I drove across town to pick up my mom. All day, the phone sat on my desk, and the TV remained black, so it wasn’t until that evening, when Angie talked to her mom, that we learned about the bombing in Nashville. As someone who grew up here and has visited the downtown shops and restaurants many times, I can’t even begin to tell you how it felt to hear this news. It was awful, to say the least.

As a result of the bombing, many residents in Tennessee and Kentucky were left without internet or cell phone access. Our internet was out and my cell phone did not work (though Angie’s did, and at the time, we had the same carrier). For many, this too would have been a tragedy. Technology and the easy access to every bit of information, entertainment, and money-making opportunity you can possible imagine 24/7 has become such a part of our culture that I can guarantee you there were a lot of folks thinking that their world had ended because the internet was out.

Not us. At least not this time. I mean, it was the holidays after all. What could we possible need to do online?? And besides, we had already been wishing, thinking, and planning on how we might take such a much-needed time-out from phones, apps, news feeds, and my cousin’s daily updates on her home remodel anyway. So instead of stressing, we worked on a puzzle.

AT&T repaired our connection to the internet mid-day on Sunday. We were at Panera having tea when we heard the news from a worker there that their Wi-Fi was back online. We didn’t rush back home to plug in. We went for a walk, secure in the knowledge that we could resume our online lives just as soon as we were ready.

Except…

Several days later, it became clear that although my phone was now “working” again, it was not actually working. I could send and receive calls and texts at home but the moment I left the apartment, I left service behind. I talked with my provider twice before ultimately cancelling service. Generally speaking, acting rashly without any forethought brings such good results, I’m not sure why I was surprised to find that 1.) I could not instantly move my nearly brand new phone to another carrier and 2.) Priority Mail is only a priority when your postal code is not ravaged by Corona. So, long story short, I ended up being without a phone for a week.

It was the best week ever!

I read two good books: Own Your Health and The Year of Living Danishly

I started knitting a new hat to go with the super-warm North Face jacket I scored for $3 at a thrift store.

We completed another puzzle.

We began experimenting with Asian cooking and became best friends with our Instant Pot. We even expanding our dessert selection from plain banana nice cream to fancy fruit flavored banana nice cream parfaits!

And I watched an entire football game without simultaneously scrolling through Facebook!

Yes, I still had access to the internet through my computer and technically, I could have used my phone’s apps over Wi-Fi, but I really wanted to capitalize on the opportunity and remember what life used to be like before we were inundated with technology. And well…I was a bit disappointed when my new phone finally arrived.

Technology has it’s good points, I admit. I love that I can work from home, on projects that are taking place in other states or countries even. I love that there are so many platforms for creative expression. I love that you can learn something new every day if you want to, just by signing up for a class, downloading a book, or watching a video. But I’d be remiss if I thought it was all good.

Technology has made it way too easy to stay “on” all day and all night and to allow ourselves to be mindless about it. I might not be able to avoid technology but I can certainly be more mindful about it. Here’s my plan (feel free to adopt it for yourself if you’d like):

Delete all unnecessary cell phone apps (including games, social media, and side hustle apps). When I got my new phone, I chose not to copy everything from my old one. Instead, I handpicked only the apps that I use regularly. No more 2048 (the only game I had installed). No more EasyShift or other tempting side-hustles. And only 2 social media apps (more on that next). Limiting the apps should limit my temptation to pick up the phone and “play with it”.

Remove any social media profiles that are not currently being put to purposeful use. This is something I’ve been contemplating for a while (and still am when it comes to my personal Facebook page). Like a lot of folks, I can easily fall down the rabbit hole known as social media. Someone is always doing something or posting their opinion about something and for some reason, I think it matters to my daily life. It really doesn’t. As I continue to debate Facebook, which has been my default photo album for years, I have already pulled the plug on my personal Instagram page and LinkedIn.

Create a tech time-out schedule (and stick to it!) In years past, we always had a rule that there was no computer use after 5 PM and only when necessary on weekends. The rule was designed to give us ample time to do other things. When I became self-employed, that rule flew out the window. Work time was literally any time that work was available. And quickly, I became overwhelmed. We are trying once again to limit the time spent on the computer to 3-5 hours per day, with Thursdays set aside as a no-tech adventure day. It’s still a work in progress.

Leave the phone in the car (or apartment) when out for a walk. This sounds easy but it is super hard. The first time I tried, I felt rushed, like I needed to get back to make sure my mom or a client hadn’t tried to reach me while I was out. (I know, FOMO, it’s a terrible thing!) I’m slowly getting better at this because I know it’s vitally important to spend time taking care of one’s self (without interruption!).

Schedule “scrolling time” and limit what I view. As someone who gave up watching the news years ago, I am so super disappointed in myself here lately. Yes, we are in a historic time as a county. Yes, bad things are happening everywhere. Yes, something needs to be done. But folks (and self), watching the news or scrolling through endless news feeds is not going to make any of it any better. Same for mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. I can ooh and ahh all day long over all the cool things my friends (and complete strangers) are doing but how is that helpful? What I really need to do is stop living vicariously through others. I have a life too, you know. If only I would stop scrolling long enough to put it to use…

In all seriousness though, over time, I have become a technology addict, a weekend binger, and a daily scroller. I have a problem and I know it. I know it because, when I allow myself (or am forced) to be without technology, I feel better, lighter, happier, and more inspired. And who wouldn’t want more of that in their life? So, if limiting tech is the way to get there, I’m going to give it a shot. What about you?