Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Dusti Arab. Dusti is a writer and the author of The Minimalist Mom.
In late January, I had a meltdown. Pretty much an epic episode which involved my entire life going down the proverbial tube in a matter of days. My relationship was broken and lying on the ground in a million pieces. I couldn't write. I couldn't function.
How had I gotten here?
Well, it was longer series of events. Having become fully indoctrinated as a blogger and writer, I found myself plugged in much more often. In September, I finally got a smart phone. The perceived pressure was to respond to requests and comments immediately.
Couldn't miss an opportunity. Had to post frequently. Oh, can't forget the networking. I had to be skyping at least twice a week in order to maintain and develop an ever growing group of acquaintances and friends. Twitter needed me. Facebook, too. Even after I turned off comments, the frequency I was online micromanaging my fledgling business was appalling.
Never questioning my own ability to handle the tides of the internet, I simply rode whatever wave came my way next. It was the like the day of surfing that never ended. That is, it didn't end until I was so utterly exhausted, I fell off my board and started to drown.
Six months of incessant connection. Six weeks of attempting to recover.
That was so much time wasted I could have been working towards my goals, creating great work, or spending time with friends. Instead, I spent it mostly at home in recovery mode, unable to write or think with clarity. It was total digital burnout.
That was when I decided I wouldn't let that happen again. I am not a gadget, and neither are you. We can't handle unending information streams.
No matter how useful technology is, it is not the answer to all of our problems. It creates a new set of dysfunctions we have to learn how to handle. The opportunities created by the ability to work entirely in the digital world are exciting and wonderful, but ignoring the consequences that can result from digital dependency is dangerous.
Unquestioned technophilia is nothing more than turning computer chips into a tangible deity.
Don't get me wrong. I love technology. It means I can stay at home with my daughter and work from anywhere in the world. It means I have friends across the globe. But if I'm always online, I'm not spending quality time with my daughter or the friends I have now.
Finding balance is key. To stay in control of who we are online, we have to know when we have reached max capacity. Are you due for a break from cyberspace? Here are some of the telltale signs of connection addiction.
Signs you are due for a sabbatical:
- You can't go an entire 5 minutes without checking Twitter. (Or without thinking about it.)
- Your conversations in real life reference Twitter more often than they do events or conversations happening in your life.
- You are constantly scared of not being at inbox: 0, because you know you'll never recover from the buildup.
- Your friends haven't seen you in weeks - and they live down the street.
- You can't eat an entire meal without checking your iPhone.
- The thought of unplugging for a whole day makes you squeamish.
Are you guilty of any of those? Don't feel bad. At least once a week, I find myself having to refocus on what really matters. Thankfully, this is something we are capable of being in complete control of.
It's time to put the iPhone down and get back to living life in real time! Here are some steps you can take to start overcoming digital dependency.
Steps towards recovery:
1. Turn email/internet off your phone.
Gasp! A step backwards?! That's techno-sacrilege!
Guess what? We all survived before without internet on our phones, and we'll keep surviving without it. Downgrade, save money, and watch how much more often you connect with a real human voice and the people you care enough to have a phone number for.
2. Work offline.
As a writer, I find myself on my laptop for most of my work. It's far too easy to start "researching" or checking social media. One of the best ways to fix this problem is by working at locations where there isn't an internet connection. One of my favorite "offices" is a cafe with great ambiance, free refills on my coffee, and the most incredible chocolate I've ever tasted. No internet connection. Perfect work conditions.
If you don't work from a laptop, consider using blocking software to limit your time online, like Freedom. It disables your internet connection for a period of time you set. Extreme, but effective.
3. Go outside.
Spend a little time in awe of nature. Realize how small we are in comparison to the grand scheme of things. Realize how much smaller and insignificant your email is.
4. Take a weekend digital sabbatical.
The whole weekend. No cheating.
Honestly, when was the last time you fully disconnected for more than a few hours? Set up your autoresponder, and take care of it Monday. This weekend, you have serious playing and creating to do!
When confronted with disconnecting, there is always someone who says, "I can't afford to disconnect!" But really, can you afford not to? Connect to your real life. The person standing next to you. That is the greatest connection of all.