Anne Lamott, a favorite writer of mine, describes what I call “spontaneous electronic regeneration” by saying, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
We live in a society that expects the response to the simple question, “How are you?” to be “Oh, I’m so busy!” or “There just aren’t enough hours in a day!” It’s like we’re being judged for not doing enough if we don’t respond with how much we have yet to do. We can’t slow down or rest, because if we do, we’re not successful enough, or not valued enough, or just plain not good enough. Can you imagine the looks you would get if you answered the question “How are you?” with “I’m super relaxed, and calm and rejuvenated!” People would literally think you’ve lost your mind. And I say, let them!
Let’s give ourselves a break.
A recent study suggests 78%–95% of us (depending on the age bracket) own a smartphone. We are checking these phones on average every 12 minutes of our waking lives, with 54% of us feeling that the devices interrupt our conversations with friends and family, and 43% of us feeling that we spend too much time online. It seems that we can’t relax with them, and we certainly don’t know how to relax without them. Seven in ten of us NEVER turn them off! These statistics are mind boggling.
If you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of being as old as I am, you can remember a time when a phone was just for making phone calls and it was attached to the wall by a cord. If you were working in front of a computer, you were actually working and you couldn’t carry your work around with you everywhere you went.
This meant time away from work—being outside, shopping at an actual store, getting your nails done or a spa treatment—was actually time away from work! It meant actually taking time to relax and breathe. An important combination of things keeping us healthy that seems to have gotten lost over the last couple of decades.
Researchers recently discovered that one in three people felt bad after visiting Facebook because they experienced more dissatisfaction with their own lives after seeing the posts of their “friends.” Facebook isn’t necessarily a bad thing overall, but the FOMO (the fear of missing out—a recently recognized psychological disorder) is real and can affect some more significantly than others. Jealousy, envy and feeling “less than” can create a real problems if those feelings are fed on a daily basis.
Yes, technology is a beautiful thing and we are learning everything about anything on the planet from a YouTube video. And that’s cool. But taking care of ourselves with a little more “unplugged” down time and focused compassion has gotten lost recently, and I think it’s time to find it.
There is evidence that by unplugging, you will probably sleep better, have better interpersonal skills with the real live people in your life, and your overall quality of life may improve as well. Doesn’t that all sound lovely?
So, put down (or turn off) your phone for a bit and truly take some time for yourself today. Give yourself a break. It’s good for you, and you deserve it.
Lisa Petty, Editor
Equal Opportunity Employment Journal