Thursday, October 24, 2013

You Need to Disconnect

Maybe it's that I live in a "tech" city where every other person works in an industry that creates an iPhone app or works for Google or Yahoo or Apple or [insert heavyweight tech company here]. Maybe it's that I've simply become more of a recluse and don't go out as often, so when I do, I notice how attached people are to their handheld devices. Maybe I've just been a Luddite this entire time and didn't realize it. There was a period of four or five years where I didn't have a cell phone - and it was GLORIOUS.

And honestly, it's gotten to the point where I would laugh and laugh and laugh if I saw someone, eyes and fingers glued to their phone texting like mad, walk into the middle of the street and get smooshed between two city buses. Terrible, I know, but the number of times I've had to swerve out of someone's path on the sidewalk because they were too busy to look up is an astoundingly infuriating number.

Earlier this year, I was nearly assaulted outside of my work early in the morning. I had just gotten my coffee and began crossing the street. As I crossed the street, I noticed a man acting erratically. He wasn't dressed as if homeless and he didn't seem to be completely mentally disturbed (you get to having a pretty good barometer for these things in San Francisco), but I loosened the top of my coffee cup regardless. Just in case a'la Jason Bourne. Sure enough, as I walked past him, he tried to swing a rock at my head. Instinctively, my hand went up, splashed him with my coffee, and I bolted.

Now, a year or two prior to this, I had been wearing my headphones while traveling into the office in the mornings. A little music of one's own choosing can certainly make or break how the day goes. But I had given up on that practice, realizing exactly how much of the outer world I was missing by focusing too intently on the music being pumped through my headphones. I heard nothing but the music and this was a bad thing. Eventually, I gave it up and simply started reading a book on the bus...because really, who steals books over iPods or iPhones or e-readers? No one.

This is a little tangential, but remains relevant to my point: disconnect. Do it for a week and see what happens. I frequently deactivate my Facebook account in order to clear my head of the digital clutter (because I'm an ACTIVE user of Facebook). I get so much more done in terms of writing and reading and furthering where I need to be in my life when I'm not wasting my time on social media. I've gotten more writing done with this last period of deactivation than I'd seen in months (part of which is due to writing prompts being sent from my friend Surya). Regardless, put the phones down for an evening. Turn them off when you're at dinner with people. Quit taking pictures of your food and start living in the moment like you actually want to be there. You'll find an enrichment in your life you didn't previously realize and you won't soon forget it.

There's very little your electronic device can do that outweighs the benefits of realizing you are in the middle of living a life. That Facebook notification? It'll still be there when you finally get home. That email from a prospective client? Same deal. We're a people that have gotten so used to getting what we want immediately that we've forgotten how to be patient, how to enjoy the silence between moments of noise. The longest amount of time I deactivated my Facebook for was three months. The first couple of weeks were rough, but the ones Productivity like whoa.

So yourself a favor and disconnect. Do it now. The digital world will still be there when you return and you truly won't have missed anything.

(Plus you'll just end up being far, far less mentally frazzled. Trust me on this one...)


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