I recently took 2 weeks off from work and promised myself that I would make the best use of my time, which included a deeper examination of how often I’m online in one format or another and the impact it has on my other interactions. The idea of disengaging and reconnecting may seem contradictory but in fact they are intricately related and dependent on each other. In order to tune in, you need to turn something off.
Disengaging from the digital world was an important step towards prioritizing my interactions with others and my time. This included not just turning work email off, but also reducing (if not stopping) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. I realize that “always on” can become an addiction. Just try not looking at an app, a newsfeed or You Tube for 24 hours. You realize how often you turn to these things, often subconsciously. How often have your kids or spouse told you to “put that thing down”? With two kids at home, I’m starting to think more about the behavior I’m role modeling. Seeing my daughter go down the same path is concerning. The frustration she feels when my attention is divided, is the same I feel when she constantly has her nose in her smartphone and ignores my questions about her day.
With all this running through my mind, and only two weeks to try and adjust my behavior, I started my vacation by reading “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan. The author is a Google engineer who designed this first as a course at Google and later a book. It was intended to transform employees’ work and personal life, enhancing meaning, fulfillment, etc. I won’t turn this into a book review, but it was a valuable and quick read. Anyone interested in mindfulness, the practice of meditation, etc. will recognize some of the practices and concepts. As a preamble to getting myself focused on disconnecting and re-engaging, it was a good motivator. There was even one quote that I wrote down as a reminder of why I’m doing this: “If there are people in your life that you care about, be sure to give them a few minutes of your full attention every day. They will bloom like flowers”.
I love social media. I’m a believer in the power and great potential of technology to change lives. With that said, I will never stop believing in the importance of personal relationships. Of providing undivided attention. Embrace social media but don’t lose connection with the physical world. Your friends and family will be there when you need them, more than your fans and followers. Learn to turn off and tune in.