People are always on their phones, tablets, computers, Kindles, the list goes on. People text while they drive, play games while they’re out to dinner, and basically just don’t pay attention to the world outside of technology.
Okay, so this may be an extreme view, but a lot of it is true. Did you know that on average, American’s check their phones 1,500 times per week? That’s over 200 times in one day. And as millennials, we’ve been said to spend more time planning experiences using all the technology at our fingertips rather than actually enjoying them. So what should we do?
Well, I took a drastic measure, and it involved spending a weekend at a cabin in Potter County, Pennsylvania. The cabin had no cell service, no TV or computer, and no running water, so I had nature and 10 of my family members to entertain me. The simplicity taught me that I don’t need to be connected all the time, and neither do you. Here are seven other truths about unplugging.
Did I tell my friends that I wouldn’t have cell service for the weekend? No. Did I have any worried texts from my friends wondering where I was after I did come back to civilization? No. The truth is, everyone is busy, and no one will miss out on your daily check-in text. Now maybe if you disappeared for a week, that’s a different story.
So this cabin thing is a family tradition, just one that I didn’t take part in for quite some time. And part of that tradition is writing a journal entry about what happened during the weekend. Since I’ve been coined the “family journalist” I got the honor of making the entry. After just a page of writing, my hand hurt, and it was embarrassing. The previous entries were all in beautiful cursive from my grandma, or nice and neat block letter for my uncle. Mine was nearly illegible, and there was no way in heck I could have even attempted cursive. So what’s the lesson here? Instead of constantly typing away and possibly causing carpal tunnel, consider taking notes with some good ol’ pen and paper. It feels good to get back in touch with those kindergarten days.
You know what I do (and I’m sure you do, too) when I’m early for a meeting or am waiting for a friend? I whip open my phone and do some FB stalking. Does this help me in any way? No. Does this entertain me? Not really. I started making a conscious effort to NOT do this and look around instead. I realized that when I put down my phone and picked up my head, the people I saw were entertaining. People do silly things, interesting things, nice things, and we mostly miss out on all of it. Remember this commercial? We should all be like that.
If I had to give up technology, I’d be totally okay with it, because I’d still have my family, my friends, food, crumb cake, cards, sports, you get the idea. When I got back to the magical land of cell service, I had no desire to tie back in. I just wished I could go back to that fire-smelling cabin, deal out a hand of escalare, and drink a grapefruit soda. That’s the life. (Make a list of your own. Is technology at the top? My guess is probably not.)
It’s no secret that most work environments are getting more flexible. And especially in the startup world, it means that you can still take care of personal things during the workday–like texts and calls. You text the guy you like, you confront your roommate, you get a call about a family member’s illness: it can all happen during the 9-5. By removing that form of contact, it’s like a weight is lifted. For those 48 hours (or however long you want to unplug), you don’t have to worry about anything in that virtual world, and you can give your mind a rest. Let me tell you, it feels good.
You know what you have to do when you’re unplugged? Talk to people. Ask questions. Answer questions. Find other ways to get entertainment. Ninety-five percent of my week was spent throwing the football or Frisbee, playing cards, and eating. And during all those activities, I interacted with my family. We talked about past trips, our current lives, Ebola (it wasn’t all happy talk), Penn State, and the Eagles. It’s amazing how much you can learn when you put down your phone and listen up.
When you live in a big city like New York, you forget that people out there do lead simple lives. And honestly? It’s not so bad. I don’t think I could deal with no running water all the time, but it’s nice to be out in the country sometimes and just relax. Maybe Potter County isn’t on your radar, but it’s the same idea as finding a nearby park and leaving your phone at home. Or maybe you go hiking for the day and really connect with nature. With our lives getting more hectic every day, it’s important to find that time for yourself to decompress.
Could you survive unplugging for a weekend? Let us know in the comments below!
—Erica Murphy is the editorial assistant at Levo and loves all things related to editing.
This article originally appeared in Levo and is reprinted with permission.