how to change your relationship with technology and social media
How Much Do You Focus On Technology?
Is technology taking over your life? Elon Musk says humans are now part cyborg. He reasons that this is because the average person has around 3 electronic devices on their body, and people feel like their limbs are cut off when they don’t have their devices on their person.
The average American is expected to have owned 44 phones, 36 tablets, between 21 laptops, and 17 desktop computers in their lifetime. This doesn’t include smart watches or VR devices that are the new wave of electronics. All of this reflects our investment in our technology, and what we actively value.
Oh, and the average American spends 3 hours a day on social media while using their device of choice, and 4 hours a day watching TV. All of this time adds up! We are talking about the average person spending 138,000 hours in front of a screen (not counting work screen time).
This is 16 years of our total lives watching TV and scrolling social media. 🤯
The reason I am sharing all of this is not because I am wanting to say this is our fate. This is the average. These are just statistics, which apply to groups and not individuals. And we can decide what we would love our life to look like. Maybe this is totally what you love! And you embrace a technology focused life! Or maybe you are like me, and you are all for creating more balance in your daily life. I am going to share how I accidentally took a stand to change my “relationship” with electronics.
October 2019: The Breaking Point
The crisp Fall air feels refreshing on my skin. The Moab area is beautiful. I am taking in the views of the towering redrocks and absorbing the humming of the RZR’s zipping around the dust covered trails. Being in Canyonlands National Park is always an adventure. Colton and me finally make it in our Jeep to the end of Chicken Corners. Which, I had realized the inspiration for the name during our off-roading route while peering over my Jeep door at the 1,000 ft cliffs, inches away from our tires.
Pulling the Jeep into the open space at the end of the loop, we turn the Jeep off and jump out to soak in the view. We are right across from the filming location of Thelma and Louise where they joyfully flew their car off of the canyon. Again, we are pretty high up above the Colorado River stretching down below. This captivating view triggered my next immediate reaction. I pulled out my phone and started taking photos. Lots of them. Posing here. Panorama there. Social media posting. Maybe I can do a FB Live? Totally absorbed into the phone and how I can crystallize this image in my mind forever through my lens, and share it with everyone I know. It’s beautiful! Why not?
While fiddling around with my phone, a hippie type fellow casually slowed down next to us in his red Jeep and offered, “Nature is awesome isn’t it? Put the phone away and soak in the moment.” He said this in a nice way. Like he cared. And I see the idea behind what he said. I just don’t know if I want to listen to his advice. He rolls on past and I continue on. Putting the phone down here and there. For some reason, what he said isn’t leaving my mind. Another passerby said the exact same thing to me just the other day. I wondered what to do about it, maybe they were right?
A few hours a later we are pulling back into Moab. We had a great time and our adventure is over for the day. I jump out of the Jeep (mind you, it has 40-inch tires), and out of my shallow pocket slides my brand-new phone I bought two days ago. In shock, I pick it up and the screen is a spiderweb of death. My first thought is how I had decided to not get it insured. And here I am with a new broken phone. And the funny thing is, I feel relieved.
Why This Was My Best Break
That was the day my life set in motion my new trajectory. In SO many ways. Instead of paying to fix my phone, I decided to buy a cheap flip phone and I finally let go. Have you ever experienced that thought in the back of your head that is telling you something would be a good idea, but it’s uncomfortable? That was me. The messages had kept coming and the thoughts to simplify were abundant. And I had kept pushing them away. Until I couldn’t ignore my inspired thought anymore.
The flip phone life deserves a book of its own. If you thought 6 Flags had rollercoasters, get a flip phone. You will have the thrill of a lifetime. I mean, I did it because I knew I wanted to grow. And I followed my heart. I was sick and tired of constant social media and I seemed to not be able to put it down on my own. A flip phone was just the trick. And it provided me a lot of opportunities to grow as a person.
We are talking about sitting in public without a phone to distract myself. It was awkward at first. With everyone else absorbed with a screen. I realized people weren’t used to interacting because they didn’t need to. There was an excuse in their pocket, or a distraction. Or maybe a productive tool that is being overly used? For those of us who are constantly getting things done on our phones and use that to justify our using it so often. At least I know I did it, and I will take the first-degree count of being guilty at times.
After getting over the awkward, what I ended up doing was talking to more people. More people talked to me, seeing I wasn’t busy. I would look around the dentist or doctor’s office and take in my surroundings. This was a faint remembrance from childhood I had forgotten—to be in the moment. To be present. To live.
Then there were the times when my loved one, Colton, would be at home on his phone often. I started to realize I felt left out. Why was he having all the fun? Ridiculous right? I had chosen this path to dumbphonehood. Luckily, he started to realize how much time he was scrolling and we both landed on the same page, as far as if there is a valuable human next to us, we are spending time enjoying that person. And there will be other moments to scroll around. Again, to live in the moment and appreciate what is in front of us.
People judged me at times. I had to get over being different and not buying the next this or that. And embrace that I am enough. My income bracket recognition shouldn’t scramble to get its position in the world through me flashing a fancy phone. Which I will admit, I probably use to do without thinking. They are a social status reflector in ways. And I decided it was time for me to stop trying to keep up with the cyborg Jonses.
Which was also really hard at first to let go of! Because since I was 12 years old, I would order Sharper Image tech and show it off to everyone because I had found the newest and most innovative thing ever and everyone should know about it! (SLIGHTLY nerdy) Maybe my identity placement could use a restructure? And it did. All it took was a flip phone and a gentle punch to the ego. And really, I am grateful for that.
After a year of being flip phone dependent, I took my smart phone to a phone fixing store and they repaired the screen. Voila! The Frankenstein phone was raised from the dead. With all of the new habits that I had learned along the flip phone way, it was now up to me to maintain my newly acquired balance and to continue the journey of living in the moment, and creating a life I love intentionally.
3 Tips to Minimizing Distractions
Although this is not a super-duper guru message from me, the life coach, I find this to align perfectly with what I teach my clients and talk about during my speaking events. We get to decide what life we want to live. And how we spend our time and energy. If you are finding a longing deep within yourself to make a few adjustments to your technology lifestyle, here are a few tips I would love to share with you that I discovered along the way.
1. Keep the phone out of the bedroom
Have you ever found yourself with the lights off, staring into the glowing aura of your screen for hours past when you had wanted to go to sleep? First of all, light is a stimulant. It is designed to keep your energy and attention up to keep staring. Social media has the same effects as addictive substances. It is also designed to keep you scrolling. The best thing I ever did was buy an alarm clock on Amazon and put my phone in the other room to charge at night. This eliminates distractions and it also creates a good habit of breaking the bond with your phone. What you will find is that if you do this, you will also find yourself less attached to it during the day as well.
2. Invest time into non-tech hobbies
Have you ever asked yourself what you even do for fun anymore? I truly believe it is because it is so much easier to find something on our phones than it is to go do something. But I believe in you. What I found during my flip phone year was that I picked up art for the first time in 10 years, read 5,000 pages of actual books (I had read almost nothing the year before), I started an LLC, and put more time into building friendships, which you can’t put a value on. I actually called people. Who knew that was still a thing? Think about what you used to love doing when you were younger, or even a couple years ago, that has slipped through the cracks. And make it a priority. Mark a date on your calendar and have it as a non-negotiable. Also, spend more time with your family without tech and build memories. This intentional time is a great way to build a strong connection.
3. Turn off notifications
After getting my smart phone fixed, I decided to be firm about turning off ALL notifications. Yes, I might miss things. But I would rather miss out on someone liking my post or messaging me, than miss out on life that is in the here and now. And you will need to assess for yourself what is best for you. And no, not best for everyone else. But what is going to serve you best for your boundaries and creating a life that feels expansive and joyful? And do that. Turning off notifications will help you focus more on what is in front of you, and it will also help alleviate the instant gratification tendency that comes with seeing everything instantly. This will help all areas of your life when it comes to being focused, and more patient when things take time.
What is your discontent when it comes to technology or social media? What is one action step you can take TODAY to move technology out of the driver seat, and to take technology down a notch?