On Unplugging.

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Something that’s been on my mind lately has been our attachment to our phones + perpetual need to be plugged in. As a blogger, it’s something that I think about a lot. My iPhone is simultaneously wonderful and awful. I never get mad at someone for being late as I can literally do most of my job from my phone. At the same time, all those hours staring at that little device can’t be good. My eyes aren’t what they once were (I’m very nearsighted and frequently don’t recognize my friends from across the street if I’m not wearing my glasses), and I’ve had a lot of neck + shoulder pain which I’m sure is partially caused from spending all that time looking down (anyone else read this piece a few months back? The iHunch is very real.)

We are all, in part, a little bit addicted to our phones, and that scares me. It’s bad for your eyes, it’s bad for your posture, it’s bad for your relationships because it prevents you from being (mentally + emotionally) present. I am being dramatic, but if something is both physically and emotionally bad for you, it’s probably time for a change.

Two things happened recently that made me acutely aware of the problem. The first was at yoga class last week. I looked around the room only to see that at least half of the people in my class had brought their phones into the studio with them. As I was stretching before class, the girl next to me was taking a selfie. The girl next to her was hammering away at an email. Throughout the class, the both of them had their phone screens facing up. Every time either of them got a push notification, the screen lit up the dim room. I am generally pretty easy going, but I found myself really annoyed. When does it end? Are we so addicted to our phones that we can’t put the phone away for a one hour yoga class? And here’s some real truth for you… what probably frustrated me the most was that seeing them check their phones made me want to check mine and start to think about work. Oof.

The second happened over the past few weekends. I’ve been hanging out with a guy who lives in a different city than me and I stayed more or less off of social media while I was visiting him. This weekend I was here, and I did the same thing. Over the course of each of these weekends, I noticed how much more relaxed and easygoing I felt. It felt good to de-prioritize the phone, live in the moment, and focus my energy on the people I was with. I struggle with some obsessive behaviors, and one of them is with email… but the reality is that no one really cares or expects a response over the weekend, so why not use that time to check out a bit? It takes a conscious effort on my part to stay offline, but when I do, it’s incredibly rewarding.

I started doing a few other things that have helped me. The first one is an obvious one – the phone stays put away if I’m out to lunch or dinner. I’ve been doing this for the past couple years and it makes all the difference. If I want to take a photo or show someone something, of course it can come out, but then it gets tucked back into my purse. The second thing I do is a new one, and it’s been really helpful… I don’t sleep with my phone near my bed. I bought an old fashioned alarm clock and use that now. The phone stays downstairs (aka down the ladder), at my desk. This has been a big one. I wake up in the middle of the night a lot, and the temptation to check Instagram, Facebook, etc. has slowly gone away since doing this for a few weeks.

I don’t know you guys. I’m a blogger, I consult for brands on their social strategy. I live and breathe social media and I truly love what I do. But I really don’t like feeling perpetually plugged in. Life’s too short to spend all your time staring at your phone. I’m not saying we should all smash our phones on the (snowy) sidewalks today (though I’ve accidentally done that plenty of times), but I think it’s something to be more mindful of. I want to live a life that feels rich in experience and great conversation… not one where I’m always looking down at my phone, feeling preoccupied.

Seriously though, go back and read that NY Times piece. It’s such a good one. I reread it again this morning and found myself shaking my head yes! If anything, it will make you sit up straighter.

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Comments

  1. Merritt Beck says 2.8.16

    Great points on unplugging! Always so necessary to take a break from the little screen.

    xx
    Merritt
    The Style Scribe

  2. Dana says 2.8.16

    Loved reading this post – it’s SO hard to find a balance between unplugging and remaining present. It really is difficult when your job (and/or blog) depends on being socially present ALL THE TIME!

    Pink Champagne Problems

  3. Meghan says 2.8.16

    Really need to unplug more often. I recently read that if you’re with others and your phone is even out to see (vs. tucked away) it has an effect on the conversation you’re having and the people present actually have a presence. And it is so true! (Also in unrelated news, need to hear more about the boy asap)

  4. Elana says 2.8.16

    I love this post! I always keep my phone in my purse when I’m out to eat with friends. My biggest pet peeve is when someone is scrolling through Instagram or something when we’re out to eat. I’m definitely going to make even more of an effort to enjoy some downtime sans phone.

  5. Thuy says 2.8.16

    I also put away my phone during lunch or dinner out with a friend, catching up. Sometimes I do have it on the table but it’s face down or face up away from me just in case something occurs.

    I enjoy being plugged in but being plugged out is not bad. I remember only being able to access the internet twice day when I spent 2 weeks in China. That was liberating and frustrating.

    I haven’t gone so far as to keep my phone outside of my bedroom while I sleep but I use the “Do Not Disturb” function and I don’t look at it until the morning. I also cover up my old fashioned alarm clock so that I don’t worry about how much sleep I’m getting when I wake up in the middle of the night. I just sleep based on feeling now! Try it! 🙂

    http://www.dressupchowdown.com

  6. Don’t you feel like Snapchat has made this problem even worse? I love Snapchat, but usually forget to use it, but it’s like, now you can be filming and posting every second of your activities. As if remembering to take pics for Instagram wasn’t enough. If I’m shooting a post at a place, it’s like I’ve got my DSLR, then I need to take Instas, then I should be snapchatting it too…yikes! Too much. Usually I get so into my DSLR pictures that I forget about the other two anyway, but still, I think Snapchat definitely isn’t helping.

    • graceatwood says 2.8.16

      Haha yes, so much worse! I kind of only Snapchat when I feel like it. I am a little over the pressure to show every single thing I’m doing ever… you might or might not notice I’ll go days without posting to Snapchat, and then feel inspired and post a ton. I kind of like it more for work-related events + posting mini product reviews. To be honest, I think there is so much oversharing on there right now… I try not to be a part of it. I really don’t need to share (or see everyone else’s) little mundane details or personal moments. Maybe a cat pic here or there, or a snap from brunch with my girlfriends but otherwise I’m good 😉

  7. christin says 2.8.16

    i desperately need to do this AND buy a real alarm clock for my room.

  8. Hallie says 2.8.16

    There’s nothing that annoys me more than when people bring their phones (or use their Apple watches) in yoga/SoulCycle. Like, you can’t disconnect from the outside world for 45 minutes?

    Great post G. Miss you! (And deets on the dude, pretty please… 🙂

  9. Jess Zimlich says 2.8.16

    I go to a few different studios here in Kansas City where cell phones aren’t allowed in the room where we workout. If you’re expecting a call that just can’t wait, you can tell the front desk person, but other than that, you’re out of luck. I really appreciate that time we’re I’m completely unplugged and checked out.

    As for the phones at brunch/lunch/dinner…I’m a stickler about it. That’s not to say I won’t bring it out to snap a quick photo, but there is nothing worse than talking to someone’s scalp (because they’re looking down at their phone, not paying a lick of attention to you).

    I’m guilty of sleeping with my phone by my bed and while I don’t wake up a whole lot in the middle of the night and check it, it’s definitely the last thing I look at and the first thing I check when I wake up. May be time to invest in that old school alarm clock you speak of 😉

  10. sarah says 2.8.16

    I totally agree with the struggle, I don’t work in the social media world, but I do try to unplug from my work email on the weekends. It’s just too tiring to be expected to be “on” all the time.

    Have you read The Circle? I didn’t love the ending of the book- but it really makes you wonder/think about where things are heading- given that you’re a ‘reader’ and your thoughts in this blog post you should check it out if you haven’t read it yet.

  11. Emily says 2.8.16

    I’ve been trying to focus on being in the present more in the new year, and staying off my phone is a big part of that. I’ve been getting so much better at putting my phone away during meals, and my next big step is an unplugged weekend. There are so many other things I could do with 5 minutes of down time than check Snapchat (as much as I love it). Thanks for sharing your experiences with this!
    xxEm

  12. I love this post! I too feel so much more relaxed and human-like when I unplug and I love that you’re being intentional about it — goals for this month!

  13. Grace says 2.8.16

    Awesome points, Grace. You don’t realise how much technology is impacting you until you take a step back.

    I’m struggling to find a balance between staying connected with friends, writing and getting work done, but not taking it overboard. Hopefully when I’m back at university next month I won’t have as much time for looking at my phone ‘just because’.

    That Twenty Something

  14. These are great points, Grace. I hate that I often spend my workouts on the elliptical watching a show on Netflix, only to come back to my apartment and stretch in front of the evening news broadcast…so much time in front of a screen and it’s not okay!

  15. Kayse says 2.8.16

    I love this post! I will actually (gently) call people out on it if they’re using their phone during the time I spend with them. Certainly, some times you do need to send a text to someone, but scrolling facebook while we’re having a cup of tea? Might as well not show up! I think it’s so important to make space between us and our connections to our phones.

  16. Tracy Schwartz says 2.8.16

    I’m definitely going to make even more of an effort to enjoy some downtime sans phone. It’s sometimes hard to remember life before being completely plugged in and then when I do I smile at the memories. The conversations that were.

    Great post!

  17. Alysa says 2.9.16

    Love your honesty and agree!

  18. Rachel says 2.9.16

    Running into an interesting dilemna regarding this for my upcoming wedding. I’m requesting that the DJ ask everyone before the ceremony to put their phones away and not take pictures so they can be more aware and in the moment. Plus we have a photographer, so I don’t need a bunch of poorly framed iphone photos to be able to see these memories afterwards. My mom flipped out because at her friend’s daughter’s wedding they all had their phones and took pictures during the ceremony and she said part of the fun was standing around afterwards looking at the pictures on the phones with each other. I’m standing my ground. My scenario: everyone watches, takes it in, and then interacts with each other. My mom’s scenario: everyone is on their phones the whole time…. it’s an interesting generational shift.

  19. Iris says 2.9.16

    Sharing your post. I’ve kept my phone downstairs, either charging or in my handbag, to resist looking at it while I’m in bed. I have a hard time prying myself away from my laptop. The phone and its instant gratification (takes a lot less time to turn on than a laptop) would be too much.

  20. There are times when I feel so, so grateful to be the age that I am (mid 30s). I love technology and adore my smartphone, but I had to live quite a few years as an adult without social media, without the immediate gratification of endless distractions at my fingertips, even without texting. And believe me, life was just fine — easy, even! So for me, there is always a pretty clear threshold. Having your phone out dinner is always weird. Having your phone out and actively in use during yoga…I can’t even.

    What’s clear is that there is a generation of people (it’s not always about age…but often it is) who are truly addicted to these devices, in the same way you get addicted to cigarettes or caffeine. I know people who feel angry, uneasy, and uncomfortable when they aren’t on their phones, and it’s just like any other addict with a craving — scary!

    I’m glad you have the self-awareness to recognize behavior you don’t like and do something about it! There’s nothing wrong with using your phone to do all the cool stuff it’s meant to do, but you can’t live your whole life looking through the lens of your phone’s camera.

    • graceatwood says 2.14.16

      I totally agree with everything you are saying here! I am also in my mid 30s and find it funny (+ so much better) that we never had Facebook and Twitter (or MySpace or Friendster) during college… or even for the first few years after college. And even then, we didn’t have smartphones so we couldn’t access social media from our phones. It’s so addicting and yes, it’s great that it can do so many cool things… but I always find myself so much happier putting the phone away and just living my life IRL, being present with the people I love. 🙂

  21. Kara says 2.22.16

    LOVE this! After noticing how I have a hard time staying off my phone on a short 20 minute bus ride to work each day, I knew I had to ween myself off. It’s hard when you’re addicted! I now set mandatory “no screen” times for myself (like on the bus, or weekends when I’m out with friends, dinner, etc).

    Kara
    http://www.whimsysoul.com