A couple weekends ago, I partook in an “Unplugged Day” which was ironically marketed and talked about online. I thought it was a great idea and while the focus was to unplug for a couple of hours, I wanted to see what a full 36 hour period would look like- from Saturday night to Monday morning. Although I wouldn’t call myself attached to my devices, I do use them daily and was curious to see what it felt like to go back to another era in time- say, way back to that ancient era known as 2005- before Smartphones, apps, and really, Facebook or social media were all the rage. So, on Saturday night, I turned all notifications off on my phone, meaning it only acted as a regular telephone.
And this is what happened:
• I got yelled at: “You didn’t get back to me!” Ok, so not yelled at per se, but someone didn’t hear back from me within an approximately 15- hour period (8 of which were hours I was sleeping), and suddenly I was dropping the ball on my ‘responsibility to respond’ or something. Wow, have we gotten used to immediate response/gratification/answers or what?!
• I got weird looks: that essentially said, “Why?”….as they went back to texting/vine-ing/snapchatting.
• But I was supported: The people who knew I was doing this were supportive and said, “I really should do something like that.” And in the online community where this all started, it was clear there are many people looking for a release/relief and there’s sort of a backlash against being constantly connected all the time.
• I couldn’t find the brunch spot: I couldn’t use Yelp or Google Maps and forgot to look up the address for the restaurant prior to Saturday night! So I had to call my friend and ask her. Reminds me of a far off time (the 90s) when we actually just knew where we were going all the time and couldn’t easily look anything up, whether on a Smartphone or desktop computer.
• I look up a LOT of stuff: Wow, how many times did I reach for my phone that day and say “hold on, I’ll look it up” only to remember I couldn’t? At least 15, I’d say, and that’s probably conservative. The saddest was when I couldn’t relive the dancing sharks from Katy Perry’s Superbowl Halftime show.
• I heard my sister’s voice: When she answered, I realized that although I talk to this person 4-5 times a day, it’s never audibly. I don’t think I’d heard her voice since Christmas! It’s a good habit to get into.
• I read the actual newspaper: I used to do this every Saturday and Sunday when I got the actual paper, but recently got a digital subscription. This simple act of reading the actual paper made me realize how less in touch I am with the news now that I only consume it regularly.
• I had a mountain of email: If I had done this on a weekday, fugetaboutit, as we say in Queens. As it was, I was still finding emails on Wednesday morning that I wasn’t up to speed on and I did this on a Sunday!
Why am I telling you this on my career blog? Because whether you’re in a stressful career or you’re spending a lot of time looking to change jobs or careers, a pause every once in awhile is normal and needed. I’m not saying to shut your phone off for 36 hours (although you could), but even for a few hours has its benefits. Despite the mountain of email, I had an insanely positive experience. I felt present the entire day and completely undistracted. I felt less reactive and frenzied, and I knew that if there was some ‘true emergency’ I could be reached on the phone part of my Smartphone. Many of us say we’d like to be more relaxed or more present or more engaged- or all 3! And to think that we can feel some of that just by switching off our devices makes it sooo accessible!
What would be the benefit to you of unplugging for a little bit?