How is it possible to spend so many hours on your phone? Doom scrolling the internet…double tapping every photo in your feed (even though you don’t even care for the person or the photo that you just liked)…going from phone to computer back to phone in the span of three minutes…walking through the door staring at a glowing rectangular orb instead of making eye contact with the people waiting for you across the threshold.
I’ve done it. I’ve also been on a quest to undo it. And by ‘it’ I mean being impossibly tethered to my devices in a way that I wanted to shake but didn’t know how. Because, hi, it’s 2021…isn’t this just life? This is just what we do, right? It’s how we consume…it’s how we connect…it’s how we work. I wondered if I was just trying to fight a current that I wouldn’t win.
Wanting less time on social – Wanting less time with every digital news headline – Wanting less time being hit with anxiety out of no where because of someone’s well-intentioned self-helpy post that got my brain spiraling about my own inner world, which left un-wrangled, likes to travel to far off places it doesn’t need to go – Wanting less time worried about what other people are doing – Wanting less time having my creativity tied to the four sides of a digital device – Was it too much to ask given how we work, operate, connect, and communicate?
No. In the last three months I’ve been able to, for the first time in my adult life, untether from my devices in a way that still retained my work and my relationships, but in a way that also shaved off the 20-30% of needless screen time that felt like it was sucking my spirit dry and leaving me with nothing to give.
Here’s how I’ve gone very offline the last three months:
All social media is removed from my phone. And this isn’t like “for a week” before I download it all again. It’s been most of this year and it’ll be forever. Here’s the trick: I schedule everything I write and create, which my team posts on my behalf, and I use the facebook business portal to respond to comments and direct messages. Turns out, you can do basically everything you need on social media from a web browser. It cuts the addictive nature of scrolling, consuming, and wasting time looking at things you don’t even want to look at. I feel so free. I’m unbothered in a way I didn’t know could be available to me… and I’m present to the gratitude of my own life instead. Sorta like taking your bra off, only then realizing how uncomfortable you’d been.
Newspaper delivery. A good ole fashioned newspaper has been showing up on my doorstep every day. And I read it, every day. With a cup of coffee, or in the afternoon after a workout, everything I need to know is there. I worried about removing myself from twitter because I felt like it kept me in the know. Turns out, I can be aware of current events without having to dread-watch cable news or fall into the quicksand of twitter’s rage-y algorithm.
Writing longhand. One of the frustrations I was having about all this screen time is that writing is my first love. It’s my creative life force. It’s my joy. And yet, I was making excuses on the daily to not write because I couldn’t stand to be on my computer first thing in the morning (when I feel the most creative). I came across an old article about former President Obama writing the drafts of all of his books by hand first. I thought it was just a quirky habit of his. Something only presidents could do, ya know? But I soon learned that many prolific writers, novelists, and playwrights, write by hand first (and swear by it). Well, I can now say I, too, swear by it. I have a stack of legal pads that are filling up from my morning hours spent scribbling with black ink until my hand hurts. It’s probably my favorite part of the day and I attribute so much of my renewed sense of creative and centered peace to these routine morning hours without a device in sight.
Book on my nightstand, not a phone. If you’ve been reading my work for a while you know I’m a no-phone-in-the-bedroom girl. But sometimes when I’m not tired, I get tempted to curl up with it until I feel ready to go to sleep. A book will talk me out of that every time. I don’t think there’s any better feeling than falling asleep with a book in your hand. Plus, you cannot underestimate the power of a few minutes of peace to bookend your days that don’t include looking at your phone.
Other things I’ve been doing for years to put space between me and the online world:
Do not disturb is set for the evening.
I have zero push notifications. Not on slack, not on email, not on anything. I’m available when I’m available.
My phone charges over night in another room.
I’m sharing this all with you because I had almost given up hope that any other options were out there to be anything other than VERY ONLINE…event though I knew in my heart being VERY ONLINE contributed to my latent discontent. I wondered if maybe this is just how it was going to have to be…especially since I run a business that has the internet to thank. It’s either deal with the meh or change lifetimes. Neither of which were options.
The reality is less black and white. We don’t actually need to go 100% offline. We just need better digital hygiene. We need to drop or replace the 20% spill over that’s making us tired, burnt out, and over it all with something more fulfilling. Something more analog. If you’re feeling the same, consider some of these strategies. It’s possible to be very 2021, and not feel indentured to your devices.
You don’t have to go off the grid to feel better. You just need to make small changes that relax your mind, free up your spirit, and give you some white-space to create instead of consume.
It’s balance, so try to find yours. Woman on xx