Creating Balanced Rhythms with Your Tech
I’m going to shoot it straight - there are thousands of helpful articles out there about how to keep your tech in check and how to create healthy boundaries with those tools we can’t seem to live without. I’m going to give you four quick, tangible suggestions that have helped me personally.
Some thoughts are below for a leisure read, but you’re welcome to skip ahead to get to those quick tips!
I love the invention of the smartphone for so many reasons, namely my ability to go places without printing out Mapquest directions, or to look up information about the businesses I need to contact, like the doctors office or hair salon. Even more, I appreciate the ability to meaningfully connect with people all around the world through platforms like FaceTime and social media.
But doesn’t it seem like our phones have become parasites latching onto us, either physically on us at all times, or never far out of reach, taking a bit of our lifeblood? I don’t know about you, but I have something different in mind when I imagine living my life fully and presently.
Has anyone else felt like they reach for their phone without really knowing what they’re going there for? It’s like going to the pantry even though you’re not hungry and just standing there. I have experienced addiction, and let me tell you, the way we treat our tech is a lot like that, too. Reaching for something to fill a void, so I don’t have to face my own thoughts, or avoiding having to do the necessary work of life (dishes and laundry, anyone?) and relationships.
As it pertains to social media, the closest thing I can relate it to is this: going through a fast-food drive-thru, over and over again. I know it’s not the best thing for me and it’s not the healthiest version of food, but it’s fast, it tastes good, and it fills me up briefly (and often gives me a tummy ache.) For those who are starving, any food can be life-saving. Those who are isolated in some part of their identity can find very real, meaningful connection through social media. We can find camaraderie and encouragement for life’s challenges, like parenting, experiencing an illness, or taking on new goals. Social media is powerful, but if we eat it all the time, it will eventually make us sick (filled up, but few nutrients), and we will miss out on the real deal of face-to-face relationship and community. The latter takes more work, but it’s totally worth it.
For most of us, our phones are our businesses, our way to connect with family and friends, and the practical personal assistants that help us do life with more ease. It’s not likely that we will just throw our phones out the window and start living off the grid (though the temptation is real!)
So how do we create more balancing rhythms with these devices designed to help us, not hinder us?
Don’t go to bed with your phone.
Not in your bed, not on your bedside table, and if you can stand it, not even in your bedroom. “But I use it as my alarm!” “But what if a burglar comes in in the middle of the night?” “But what if there is an emergency and someone is trying to get in touch with me?” I get it! Your mind needs time to really shut off, and you owe yourself this mini-vacay every night. Go order a real alarm clock off of Amazon - they even have nifty ones that mimic the sun rising and have chirping bird sounds to wake you up like a regular Disney princess.
I plug my phone in for the night in the hallway, and put it on sleep mode. That way, if anyone texts right after I turn the lights out, I don’t hear the ping and get flustered. My morning alarm still goes off while the phone is on sleep mode, and I have to put my feet on the floor to go turn it off or snooze.
Turn it off (at least once a week.)
That’s right, like hold down the power button and turn it ALL the way off! It’s a concept rarely used, but it’s good for you and your tech. For me, this usually takes place on Sunday, but you can do it any chunk of time that makes most sense to you (go ahead and think of that time now.) The actual act of turning my phone all the way off materializes what I say I believe - that I don’t really need my phone as much as I think I do. I become more aware of the people, places, and activities around me. It helps me to fully rest mentally and thoughtfully prepare for the week ahead.
Plan for regular social-media-free times
Make it whatever amount of time you need it to be, but do make it a regular occurrence. I have friends who delete their social media apps every weekend so they can be fully present with their loved ones. I do it the first week of each month (as inspired by my friend Kristin at Tyger Alexis) and by the end of the month, I am actually looking forward to my social media free week. You can still capture life during this time with pictures and videos, but not under the compulsion of posting them right away. There is a tangible freedom that comes when I give myself the boundary of not consuming or creating any posts for a time. It reminds me that I don’t have to know what everyone is doing, that I don’t have to prove anything or qualify my life or time to my “audience”, and that the people who are truly in my life are people I should make an effort to spend face-to-face time with!
Speaking of face-to-face, don’t be rude - put your phone away!
I said it! When you’re meeting with a friend or are hanging out with your family, don’t pick up your phone and start looking at texts, or worse, your Instagram. If you need to look at your phone to check something, say “excuse me, I just need to check if the babysitter called” or “I just need to check the time". It’s courteous towards the other people you are with, and sends the message that you value their time and effort to be with you. I find it easiest to avoid the temptation by putting my phone out of sight during hangout times, like in my bag instead of on the table. I invite you to embrace the challenges, subtleties, and skills that come with engaging with people face to face and being available to them (such as listening thoroughly) instead of checking out mentally at the first sign of a lull or awkwardness, and hopping on your phone for escape. We can do it!
I hope those are helpful tidbits to check yourself against and to give you permission to keep your tech in its place. We all deserve a rest from the noise and unnecessary stress it can bring.
Wishing you a truly restful holiday season, with and without technology!