I first noticed I was compulsively checking my online updates about a year ago. At a party, I’d be looking at my iPhone rather than talking to people. When I went on a long weekend up to Kahana Bay for some relaxation, I’d be thinking about who retweeted me as much as what was on the BBQ. Lame.
I realized this was addictive and unhealthy behavior, and decided to make some subtle changes. Here’s what I did about it.
Adam’s Rules for Unplugging
Trash the apps: Delete the social media apps from your phone. These are always tempting ways to pass time. They’re a big drain on focus and you miss random opportunities to meet people.
Password required: Set up Facebook and Twitter so you have to enter a password each time you log in. This makes it less likely that you’ll be clicking over every few minutes and interrupting your train of thought.
Ditch the phone: Leave your phone at home a few times a week when you’re going to do something fun. When I go out to play beach volleyball, I leave my phone at home. You do need to plan a little more carefully, but the distraction-free fun is worth it. I went so far as to leave my iPhone home for a weekend trip to Kauai earlier this year. It wasn’t easy; I had to plan my pickup from the airport and write down everyone’s phone numbers as well as flight times and numbers. It was worth it, though. I really got a kick out of a fun phone-free weekend.
Total unplug: Last year, I digitally disconnected for two months (as much as possible while working in an information job). I de-activated my Facebook (they always let you come back). I deleted all the social apps from my iPhone. Finally, I changed my Twitter password to something impossible to remember, wrote down the password and stored it at my desk at work. (If you delete your Twitter account they don’t let you reactivate it.)
The first week was stressful and unpleasant. I felt this weird sense of being disconnected from people and news. I reflexively tried to check accounts that were no longer active.
After that first week, it was really nice not having the distractions caused by our digital lifestyle. I found it easier to read (more than 140 characters.) I found myself able to focus for longer periods of time. I definitely didn’t find myself missing the day-to-day updates from my friends on Facebook. Although I did miss all the cute baby pics!
While I was starting the being808 blog, I had to reconnect to all these services. I think I have a better balance now that I’ve taken that break. But I plan to take a month-long digital purge every year.
I’d love to hear how you balance staying connected with avoiding the stresses of internet overload.