The Internet and social media are obviously great. They help us find stuff in just a few clicks, or reconnect with old friends. But there is a very real risk of these two wonderful inventions taking over our lives – together with our relationships with others and personal productivity. How do we keep “connection addiction” under control?
While it’s tough to do, we do need to do it. The constant connectivity can’t be healthy; we’re drowning in information and much of these are neither useful nor beneficial.
- How many times have we gone online “for just a minute”, and find ourselves opening tab after tab of mindless articles or videos?
- How many times have we raged about how ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ or ‘ignorant’ other people are on the Internet? How many times have we logged out of Facebook, angry with peoples’ opinions?
- How many times have we played that “one last game”, before starting a new one with a fresh batch of players?
These things take up valuable time – minutes and hours we will never get back. So over the past month, I am slowly learning the art of deliberate disconnection.
What is most important with this idea is that it’s truly deliberate. It’s purposive. It’s planned. And when I set out to do it, I am accountable each and every time for how I use my time. I believe there are three huge benefits to setting out to have deliberate disconnection at least once a week.
- It’s a chance to deliberately improve on a skill. All that offline time! I’d be bored, you might say. Well, yes – unless you take that valuable chunk of time to actually learn or sharpen something you’ve been meaning to. You want to learn how to pop a handstand? No better time than your offline time.
- It’s a chance to deliberately give our eyes and our brains a rest. Staring into a screen for hours on end is never going to be good for our eyes. Our brains are also constantly being stimulated (and not in a make-you-smarter sort of way). Spending this offline time with a good book, or even just lounging around helps us purposely slow down and really relax.
- It’s a chance to deliberately get lost in an experience. Without the constant barrage of information and stimuli from being connected, it’s an opportunity for us to truly dive into an activity and let time pass us by. Whether it’s a novel, a woodwork project, or a painting project, we’re truly ‘in the zone’ during these offline time.
How do I do it?
First, I decide on and take a hardline approach. I institute a complete and total ban of connectivity in the room that I’ll be disconnecting in. This is usually my home office aka my living room. I keep my mobile in the bedroom (on silent), and my laptop is on airplane mode. When I find it difficult to disconnect, I even unplug my wifi router.
Second, I decide on the Task To Be Done. I love building plastic model toys, so this is usually what’s in store for me over the next few hours. Sometimes, I decide to finish at least three to four chapters of a book. If I’m feeling energetic, I decide to sharpen a physical skill, like a handstand or shooting with my left foot.
This approach focuses on task completion, rather than ‘the amount of time I have to be disconnected’, which can quickly lead to FOMO and not a little bit of anxiety.
Third and finally, I decide on what the reward will be. For those starting out with deliberate disconnection, a nice reward really helps with the motivation. It could be a pretty Instagram photo of the end-product when done, or a cheat meal that just needed a reason to be consumed.
- Start out small. It’s not easy to suddenly devote 5-6 hours of offline time, especially in this day and age. Your deliberate disconnection should work for you and your lifestyle, not mine or anyone else’s. If 20 minutes off of Facebook is all you can spare (or bear), then start with that. What’s crucial is you use that 20 minutes for something else, and something offline.
- Consistency is more important than duration. There will be days when you’re offline for a full day and, some, for five minutes. That’s fine. It’s far more important that those disconnected times are truly deliberate – purposive and planned.