Do You Need a Digital Fast?
There are always a lot of discussions going around about the addiction that many of us have to our email, smartphones, tablets, and the like. Let’s face it – for many of us it is true – we need to learn a little about balance. We all struggle with life/work balance – but the “always on, always connected” world we live in makes it even more difficult to step away from work.
When doing a digital fast, where we just unplug from it all – from the smartphone, social media, the Internet as a whole, we think somehow that it will set us free. The problem is that it causes all the information to pile up into a bunch of places so that when you come off the cleansing you are completely overwhelmed. If people would quit sending emails, updating Facebook, stop Tweeting etc., this concept might have a chance at working. But they don’t – in fact – it always seems that the intensity of the sending and updates ratchets up a notch when we are offline.
Many people seem to feel that our ability to unplug is necessary to prove that we’re not internet addicts. But really, we’re online because we enjoy it. When we’re online and participating in social media, we’re meeting some of our most basic human needs – creative expression, connecting with other people, being part of a community, or most of all, the need to be seen. We can have meaningful emotional or intellectual contact with people that we rarely or never encounter in person.
But in the back of our minds, we’re thinking that we’re supposed to demonstrate our grasp of human relationships by our ability to relate face-to-face, as well as online. We’re supposed to show that we can be present by being absent from the web, but what most digital fasters find is how much online and offline lives are integrated. If unplugging needs to be a part of our approach to living and working digitally, it’s through the daily practice of taking downtime, of opting for reflection rather than distraction.
The real answer to all of this is still the same basic principle – balance. We will never return to the days where we are not connected everywhere we go. (Or at least not without significant planning and effort.) So it comes down to CHOICE. We have to make a conscious effort to put our digital connectivity where it belongs – getting our focus and attention when appropriate, or remaining in our pocket or turned off completely when it is not. Up to this point at least, we still have to interact with the device to have it communicate to us. We can’t blame anyone other than ourselves. It is a matter of self-control and discipline – like most things that matter in life. If you need some help figuring that out – check your phone in with your spouse when you walk through the door. My guess is they won’t struggle to make the choices for you at all!