I come from the generation where going on the internet as a teenager was considered a privilege, there was limited information and all my research was from books and journals. MSN messenger was as close to what we had to talking to people ‘online’ (for hours!) and chat rooms were my first experience of people becoming avatars. At the same time, if you had a mobile phone or ‘Pager’ it was slightly comical because it wasn’t considered a thing teenagers needed and texts were only a few lines long…..wind forward fifteen something years and I look at my phone at least every hour to check for messages. If I have no answers I go instantly to the internet. If i haven’t checked Facebook for a while I have a FOMO panic (….that’s fear of missing out !). When I plan a holiday abroad I consider what ill do with my limited phone battery, checking emails and social media. Its even harder to discipline myself to switch everything off whilst i’m in the UK. My relationship with the internet , social media, email and my phone has become way too intimate! Its like I don’t know what I would do without it and I cant take breaks from it.
We will all have our ‘back in the day’ stories of our personal evolution with social media, phones and the internet, some people now have no experience of there never being the internet, mobiles or social media.
I watched the film ‘Her’ recently about a man who develops a relationship with a computer operating system. He engaged with it everywhere he went and the world around him got smaller. The scariest part for me was realising the similar parallels that occur when I observe people glued to their phones walking down the street or cafes filled with people on their phones (me included sometimes). No longer are we alone, we have our phones. No longer are we bored, there’s always something to watch, check, look up and connect with. There are obviously many benefits to all of this technology but at what price to our mental well-being? Are we engaging less in real time, with real people and experiences? do we need breaks and holidays from all of this to reconnect to the world and people around us?
So is it necessary to take breaks from social media and the internet to truly have a rest?
Its increasingly possible for us to be ‘online’ on holiday and its still also an option to ‘switch off’. Maybe the questions that should be posed are- How do you personally feel with time spent away from technology? what do you do instead? what could you be doing? would you benefit from a break? Why do we need holidays any way? Do we need to connect to everyone, everywhere and all the time? …………Whats it like to be anonymous and free?
Is all the phone intimacy getting too much on a daily basis for you and could you benefit from cutting down? In a way, I cant believe I am writing this post.
Here are some tips to ‘switching off’ on holiday and cutting down on your daily dosage of technology.
Emails– Write automated emails before you go stating when you will be back and when people might expect to get a reply. Schedule some time in your diary before you arrive back to go through your emails. If you fear them stacking up and really cant leave them- consider only checking them once a day at a regular time-eg before breakfast and state your boundary on your automated email response.
Social media– If lots of your friends contact you via social media and you are worried you will miss messages from them then think about who those culprits may be and write them a group message. FOMO- get involved in your holiday and the people around you! Post pictures when you get home or print them out and put them round your home.
Phone– Change your answerphone message, especially if you have a business, let people know when you are back. Let family know when you will check your phone or give them the number for the place you are staying (like the old days!) Turn off your wifi and network signal, if you wish you can still use it to listen to stored music. If you must check your phone for messages set a boundary for it e.g once a day. If you use your camera on your phone consider taking an actual camera instead. If you use the clock, wear a watch instead.
Maps– Consider using a Sat-Nav or actual proper paper maps! Ask for directions
Cutting down on your dose
Email– turn your phone off sync emails mode and only check your emails when you have the time to answer them. schedule time in your day to check and reply to emails.
Social media– consider taking some apps off your phone, limit your use and take some breaks now and again and see how it feels.
Turn off Push notifications– only check notifications when you want to rather than have them in your face or sounded out at you.
Have some ‘Flight mode‘ time- Putting your phone on ‘flight mode’ in the evening at a certain time when you don’t want to be disturbed by notifications. If you are worried about wanting certain people to be able to get hold of you like your elderly neighbour there are some phones which have a list for ‘Break through’ people who you specify that can get though.
Switch off your business phone out of hours. If you can, do it when you leave the office!
Consider dividing your week up into tech days and no tech days if possible e.g weekdays and weekends or cut down the technology on certain days e.g weekends no email, switching the phone off on Sunday mornings?
Become more self aware of when you use your phone more and why. Are you bored, lonely or nervous? What does your phone help you avoid? what could you be doing instead? Whats going on around you in the here and now? who could you be engaging with? What does your mind become full of without technology?