Have you ever binged streaming episodes on your favorite service (Netflix, etc.) only to come around to yourself and realize the whole weekend is gone? Or have you ever felt like the last time you had a real conversation was sometime in the past century? All too often, we get wrapped up in our online accounts and other forms of media, at the expense of ignoring those we love and other priorities. Even cartoonists have turned their focus on this issue; take, for example, this cartoon by Trevor Spaulding, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine on April 27, 2015.
I recently heard an interview on the podcast Design Matters with Debbie Milman. Debbie interviewed Tiffany Schlain, (who created the Webby Awards) and who, among other accomplishments, has written, “24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day A Week.” Tiffany has practiced and is a proponent of taking a tech sabbath (time off from technology use) one day a week. Whatever you think as to the merits or deterrents of technology, there has been more and more attention paid to the effects of it on our lives. It is worth considering how to manage this powerful tool to make sure technology is helpful to us (in work, and even in love — such as staying connected) while also minimize some of the downsides it can have (the loss of eye contact and the constant distractions it can supply, both of which can erode intimacy).
Here are some of the suggestions Tiffany has for managing tech in general:
- Practice not looking at your phone the first thing in the morning.
- Instead, replace this habit with something that gives you joy (like kissing your partner, journaling, and/or drawing).
- Wear a watch so that checking the time doesn’t encourage the rabbit hole of a smartphone.
- Carry a notepad in your bag as an alternative to your phone, again to manage possible rabbit hole moments more mindfully.
And here are suggestions for preparing for a tech sabbath:
- Make a wish list of things you wish you had more time to do. Pull out this list on your tech sabbath, and/or plan these activities for your tech sabbath. I would suggest making connection time with your spouse and other meaningful relationships a priority.
- Make sure you have a clock in your home.
- And a landline!
- Have a black marker and a big pad of paper to write things down you want to remember.
- Consider what rules you would like to have (when will it begin and end, what is allowable, etc.).
- Make sure you have modified rules for travel and other occasions that may arise.
Live one day a week analog-style, and you might be surprised what you will be gaining! Although it may feel daunting at first, you will likely learn some wondrous things about yourself and your community (remember the library? The park?). You may find that you are more excited about and proficient in your technology use when you are using it. You may find that you begin to look forward to this time off of tech to concentrate on other priorities, such as connecting with your partner and others!
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