Image source: Romance Academy
Task #67 of my list of 101 Things in 1001 Days: Have a technology-free weekend
Let me tell you about life without phones, screens and social media! I’ve just spent a weekend free of all my gadgets and it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time.
I left work last Friday afternoon with my phone locked in my office cupboard, and by the time I reached the car park I already felt different. It felt very liberating to be free of the buzz each time an email, text, tweet or Facebook notification came in and that was the moment that I realised just how wedded my subconscious had become to that sound.
Although I already had my suspicions, last weekend I realised the extent of my gadget dependency and how it has been affecting my life. I am still a big believer in taking my phone with me whenever I leave the house (because flat tyres, stranger danger etc) but what really struck me is the way I’ve been using my phone to pass the time instead of getting on with living.
On Friday when I came home from work I dropped my bag, played with the dog for a while and then went to sit down at my computer like I normally do. But then I remembered that it was turned off and my first thought was, “what am I going to do now?” and that really bothered me. Let’s face it, you’ve seen my To Do list and I’m not exactly running out of material.
Image source: Melarky
The pain of being device-free was short-lived, however, and once it was over the benefits kept on rolling in. By Friday evening I felt as though I could relax and stop consuming everybody else’s news for a little while. My mind began to quieten down and I discovered that more of my own thoughts were getting a little airtime for the first time in ages. My thoughts had stopped competing with the shouting phone in my hand, and it felt peaceful.
I had expected that my weekend would feel longer without screen time, but I was pleasantly mistaken. Instead I found myself engrossed in my deliberately-chosen projects, experiencing them fully and without distraction. The time trickled away, but without the usual sense of loss and regret that I normally feel after an unproductive day off. My mind was peaceful and I felt completely present in what I was doing.
The laundry still got done and the house was quickly tidied, but surprisingly it felt like a luxury to be using the rest of my time for my friends, books and painting. Why did I feel so indulgent, when that time was all mine to start off with? I hadn’t expected to feel actual guilt about pouring myself into my favourite things, and that’s given me plenty to think about. Is this part of the reason I’ve been reaching for my phone every ten minutes? Have I not been giving myself permission to do one thing at a time?
Image source: Hunter Langston
What I noticed
- When I switched off my phone at 4.30pm on Friday I needed to be certain that Tim and I had decided on a meeting time and place for our Friday night date. And then I needed to be on time, not my forté by the way, because I knew that I couldn’t text Tim if I was running late. (I was late, of course. I can’t help but wonder if living with a contingency plan in my pocket has something to do with that bad habit.
- With no access to Siri or Google Maps I needed to plan ahead for where I was going, and what information I would need before leaving. So much for my usual trick of googling a recipe from the supermarket floor! I realised that having the internet in my pocket can be a mixed blessing because it feeds right into my tendency for procrastination, improvisation and avoidance of fully committing.
- While normally I struggle to sit still for the length of a movie, last weekend I read a novel from cover to cover for the first time in ages. Since there was no point in indulging my usual thought patterns (I wonder if I have any emails to respond to? I just thought of something I should tell the internet about immediately!) I was able to give it my complete attention. Bliss!
- Tim came home with roses on Saturday, and since I couldn’t record them with a picture I noticed I spent more time just looking at them. Enjoying them. Committing them to memory and noticing their tiny changes. It was really nice.
- Meal times were spent talking instead of staring at the TV (although, to be fair, we’re not big TV-watchers anyway)
- When I was tired I went to bed and fell asleep straight away.
I switched my phone back on when I got to work yesterday morning with a small pang of sadness. I was eager to check my email and read some news headlines, but once that was done I felt a strong desire to reduce the rest of the ‘noise’ before I fell back into old habits.
So here’s what I did:
- I switched off all sound and pop-up notifications on my phone. I left the badge notifications in place so that I can see at a glance when I have a Twitter or Facebook notification, but not until I choose to look!
- I unsubscribed from about 90% of my promotional email lists. Have you noticed how some online stores have a couple of sales every week? Come on.
- I’ve created a “Close Friends” feed on Facebook so that I can keep up with the most important news more efficiently
- I’ll eventually create some similar filters for Twitter (#auspol, close friends, bloggers etc)
- Ditched a bunch of pointless apps
- Declared my side of the bed to be technology-free! I’m even considering looking for an old-school alarm clock so that I can charge my phone overnight in a different room.
I feel absolutely no sense of loss about reducing the stuff I consume, because I don’t feel like I was really doing any of it justice anyway. The more snippets of 140-character information I was reading, the more scattered my own thoughts became. And worst of all it was getting in the way of the stuff that really mattered!
This short experiment has taught me so much about the value of slowing down and looking up. Just imagine what impact an entire week might have had…