“Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say? Can’t you feel the fears that I’m feeling today? I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation. When human respect is disintegratin,’ this whole crazy world is just too frustratin’.”-Barry McGuire, from the 1965 song Eve of Destruction
The world has changed drastically in the past 25 years. Perhaps the most notable of these changes is also one of the most subtle. Travel anywhere in a metropolitan area and you’ll notice at least half of the people have some kind of electronic device visible on their person, a cell phone, iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Notice how many of them are engaged with their devices and notice their level of absorption. It’s also safe to assume that those that don’t have a device visible probably have one on them somewhere. Progress? Maybe.
I read something last week which said that current versions of the iPhone give us more computer capability in our pockets than President Clinton had in the White House in 1994. Pretty mind-boggling, if you’re old enough to remember the era of shoebox size cell phones. We have instant access to anything going on anywhere on the planet, as much information as a small town library, and the ability to speak with anyone, virtually anywhere, at any time, no matter what that person is doing. It would appear that everyone is someplace physically, and another place mentally, and not fully aware of where they are currently.
While many of us turn our noses up at those who text and drive, talk loudly on their cell phones in public places, (why do people seem to speak louder when talking into a cell phone?), use texting for personal things, such as breaking up with a significant other, and use their cell phone as a status symbol, most of us are distracted more than we’d care to admit. We don’t need to have our phones on in order to be distracted by them. Just having that phone, iPad, or laptop nearby is enough to frequently pull us out of the present moment. While many of us, myself included, love this instant access, it’s probably a good idea to put this all into perspective.
In 1989, MTV began a series called MTV Unplugged, showcasing music that was usually played on amplifying instruments, such as electric guitars and synthesizers.The music was performed on more traditional instruments such as acoustic guitars and piano. The mere act of switching the instrument dramatically changed the listening experience. Yes, it was the same songs but it was difficult not to appreciate the difference in sound and tempo. Very subtle, but very cool, a different look at something that we thought we knew well.
Going unplugged in our daily lives, at least occasionally, can have positive benefits for our emotional and physical well-being. Shutting off the phone, computer, iPad, and even the radio and TV for periods of time can make a big difference. Yes, you may go through some withdrawal and “what if, what am I missing,” emotions, but that’s okay. If you set aside regular periods during your week where you go unplugged and make technology off-limits, you will get used to it and learn to enjoy it. You’ll find that you will become more attentive to family, friends, significant others, and will experience a greater connection to nature and the world around you. You’ll become more in tune with where you are, both literally and figuratively. Despite what most people think, going unplugged occasionally leads to better time management, task completion, and problem-solving. Research studies have consistently shown that multitasking is, in fact, a myth.
Modern technology has been both a blessing as well as a curse. The negative impact is that many of us live our lives in a constant state of hyperarousal and hypervigilance, waiting for what next, what if, other shoe to drop moments. Many of the maladies caused by technology, such as anxiety, fear, worry, and increased diagnoses of ADHD, can be traced in part to our addiction to being distracted. Going unplugged is good for your brain’s health, pure and simple.
If you follow this blog regularly, then you are familiar with some ways to cope with the detrimental effects of modern life. Here’s a recap of some ways to counteract technology and life in the Age of Distraction:
⦁ mindfulness activities
⦁ getting outdoors
⦁ learning to breathe correctly
⦁ connecting with supportive friends and family
⦁ going unplugged
The point is to schedule unplugged moments into your day. It can be as simple as going for a 15 minute stroll during your lunch break while leaving your phone at your desk, shutting off phones for 45 minutes for a family meal time, or unplugging for 10 minutes of meditation. Like many things that are good for us, there is a temptation to overdo it. If you’re not comfortable with going unplugged for long periods of time, learn to be comfortable with brief periods and learn to appreciate the benefits. There are not many things in this world that can’t wait at least 15 minutes.
“Silence is a source of Great Strength.”― Lao Tzu
P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.