A month or so, I was on board a bus headed for downtown Vancouver when I witnessed a stranger-on-stranger crime that led to me re-evaluating the importance of being present in the moment and less concerned with the bells and whistles of my smart handheld devices.
I was sitting behind a teenage-ish girl who was listening to the music on her smart phone and tweeting or texting on the small window. The bus made one of its many stops. The guy standing next to me and by the back door, reached down and grabbed the cell phone of the girl sitting in front of me. He dodged out the door and disappeared in a hurry before most of us could comprehend what had just occurred.
While I am in no way justifying the theft and I feel that she was clearly the victim, but I also felt the crime was one of opportunity. It was someone who clearly took advantage of a lack of awareness or even a cultural norm to better himself. While I certainly felt for the woman who was left phone-less and a bit brokenhearted, I also felt like there was a lesson to be learned here.
I guess that is why I was a bit flabbergasted when I read a series of online articles recently published on Fast Company as part of their “unplugged” campaign. As we roll into summer and people start cashing in on their vacation time, the online business and innovation news distributor published several articles to help people step away from their computer, cut the lifeline to their iPhone and live outside of the WiFi. The articles articulated plans for being able to resist the urge to connect via technology and how to go about informing your fanatics that you will not be updating for the next day or week. It was almost like an intervention on how to step away from the phone or tablet.
As I read the daily newsletter content that flowed into my mailbox, touting the benefits of unplugging, I was a bit surprised that this was even an issue. That devices and applications that were designed to streamline our lives had in fact taken them over and were making high-demands on time, attention and energy. Remember the saying about the squeaky wheel? Well, it seems like the only connections “getting oiled” are the ones that have alerts and dings associated with them.
The incident and the Fast Company articles led to my own version of unplugging. It wasn’t a detox of Internet or a complete avoidance of social apps, but rather a re-evaluation of my connection habits — via the Internet or in person. Basically, I figured that I needed to stop focusing on the “squeaky wheels” but rather give some one-on-one attention to my stronger, longer-lasting friendships.
1) I email or snail mail two contacts a week to check in on them. Even a personal email is a bit more personal than a five-word sentence typed on their wall.
2) I don’t answer the phone, search the net or connect to a social app when I am in another’s company. More often than not, I turn off my phone or don’t take it in the first place.
3) While I may take pictures of an event, I don’t tweet, post or share during the event. Capture a few snapshots of the event for personal use — not to share. I’m there to experience it. I’ll blog about it later.
4) I don’t check my messages, emails or type while on the bus, walking or standing in line. I need to be alert and aware of the current situation. Plus, this is my chance to people watch and research interesting habits for my characters.
5) When something exciting or “newsworthy” occurs, before posting, tweeting or sharing it with the masses — I share it with two close friends via the phone, Skype or Email. Sharing news in a personal way with someone reenforces your connection with them and generates a more genuine response. One-on-one connections is always preferred over the Twitter or Facebook “partylines.”
What does all of the above mean? It means that I am carving a bit more time out of my day to connect with people. It’s a commitment beyond hitting “like” or “share” with a direct line from me to them. By relinquishing some of the instant “need to know, to share” feelings, there’s room for a little bit more in-depth one-on-one.
Do you unplug? How do you detox from technology?
- Why 80% of Americans Struggle to Unplug on Fourth of July? (unplugseries.com)
- Charles Darwin Doesn’t Want You to #UNPLUG from the Internet (bigthink.com)
- Don’t #Unplug From Technology (twistimage.com)
- Why I Unplug on Friday Night for 25 hours (digitalhighrise.com)
- #Unplug: The Complete, Printable Guide (fastcompany.com)
- Vacationers are Unplugging; As Summer Vacation Season Kicks Off, ARDA Finds People are Not Taking Work with Them (prweb.com)