In 2015, it's safe to say that most of us rely pretty heavily on the digital world, right? For better or for worse, nearly everyone is at your fingertips via email or texting, and most folks offer a peek into their everyday personal lives via social media networks such as (but certainly not limited to) Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I'll be the first one to admit that I'm a HUGE social media advocate. It can be a wonderful marketing tool, as well as a giant source of inspiration, and a way to keep up with far away loved ones, or with people that inspire you. It's also a FANTASTIC way to connect to like-minded souls around the world to share thoughts and goals and spread love and awareness to people in places you may have never otherwise connected with. That being said, it can also be a HUGE distraction and a playground for comparing your real life to the digitally enhanced lives of others. It can also snatch you right out of the present moment. Like most people, my business also revolves around the digital world. Being readily available to clients, students and studios is necessary in order for my business to run smoothly. So as technology has expanded our communication possibilities, it has simultaneously turned us into slaves to our electronic devices, and to our digital worlds. Some of us have become too accessible to others, feeling stressed or panicked when we leave a message or an email unanswered and some of us have developed unrealistic expectations of what our lives "should" look like due to social media addictions. I believe there's a VERY fine line between using the digital world for all of the lovely, positive and necessary reasons, and in overusing it and abusing it. How do we find the right balance?
I'm writing this even though it's not fun to talk about (in fact I've written and re-written this several times) because I am completely addicted to digital life, and I want that to change that about myself. I started noticing a sense of overwhelming panic if my phone died and I wasn't near a charger, or if I had a few texts or emails that I hadn't yet responded to. I started to compare myself to other people online on a daily basis. My phone became like a secret lover, always trying to lure me away from the present moment and into Social Media land! Instead of really being present and focused on the people and situations happening in real time, I was mentally checked out, in a hurry to get to social media and post about the very moment I was rushing though! So backwards! I was accessible and connected to thousands of people around the world, sure, but in the same breath, I was neglecting to give the beautiful souls and experiences unfolding right in front of me my full attention. For me this is a huge problem because I stand in front of my yoga students nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day, talking about being present, mindful, and attentive, yet here I am digitally multi-tasking to the extent of failing to be present myself! Oh boy. Something had to change. I decided a digital detox was in order. I needed some time to disconnect so that I could recharge my real life batteries.
That's exactly what I did. I boogied to Lake Arrowhead after clients and classes one weekend for my best friend's birthday. As soon as my GPS (and my friend Siri) had gotten me safely to the cabin joining 13 friends, I turned my phone off and it stayed off until halfway through the following Monday. I haven't done that in YEARS! Even when I'm out of the country, I desperately seek wifi connections like a fiend in case (heaven forbid) I miss a text, email, tag, or like! (what have I become?!)
Anyway, I anticipated it being much more difficult to detach than it actually was. I thought, and kind of hoped for writing's sake, that I would have this dramatic overwhelming desire to check some form of social media, that I would be miserable without it, or that I would have to ask someone to hide my phone from me or something. Nope. It was quite the opposite- I felt FREE! I was present! I wrote in an actual journal and read actual books- nothing digital! I was interested in everything and everyone right in front of me, giving every moment my full attention. I wore a real watch for the first time in ages, I didn't set an alarm and I didn't go to bed double-tapping through instagram, or wake up and immediately fumble around for my phone to start checking emails and Facebook. I didn't spend the weekend trying to come up with clever Lake-themed hashtags, or get wrapped up in scrolling through the digital lives of others.
My days were simple and un-rushed. I awoke to the sounds of birds chirping, or to friends cooking bacon or brewing coffee, not my jarring iPhone alarm. I had no idea what the weather was going to be like until I actually stepped outside. I had no anxiety about emails, texts, or calls left unanswered since this was a planned disconnection. I wasn't obsessed with getting the perfect photo to capture a beautiful moment during the weekend- instead I reveled in that beautiful moment and smiled, creating a permanent mental picture. The whole weekend was so relaxing, spontaneous and enjoyable! We played games: Cards Against Humanity, sardines, charades, you name it! We read lines from the play Hairspray, each of us taking on a different role. We made home cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Six of us jumped into the freezing cold lake without first googling the water temperature! (ok maybe not the smartest idea but still fun nonetheless). I felt like a kid again, free of the chains of the digital world, and back in the present moment, connected and recharged. I didn't want the weekend to end!
Just as most good things though, my detox came to an end on Monday. I switched my phone back on around midday and texts, emails, voicemails, and social media notifications poured in. I just stared at my phone for a few minutes, wishing I was back on the Lake. Before I began responding, I promised myself that somehow I would figure out a way recreate that liberating feeling I'd experienced over the weekend into my everyday life.
When I got home, I formulated a plan. I decided to have specified times to digitally check in- to "like" stuff, promote, e-mail, support, reply, message and to be digitally connected, but to also allot specific times to disconnect and tap into real life- daily time to connect to real people, to write on real paper, or read a real book. In addition, I'm going to avoid grabbing my phone first thing in the morning, and having it be the last thing I look at before I close my eyes at night. I'll use a real alarm clock, old school style, and maybe even fall asleep to a book instead of instagram!
The way I see it, the digital world is useful and beautiful in its own way, but there is so much happening right before our eyes that is SO deserving of our full presence and attention. I don't want those precious, irreplaceable moments to pass me by because I'm zombied out on my phone on all the time. I plan to keep up with my new digital rules and to constantly work on balancing out digital time with real time so that I can be fully present and genuinely connected to the people and situations around me. I'm also committing to a digital detox at least once a year, every year from now on so that I don't lose sight of that again. If you're digitally addicted, you're not alone, and I hope this helps!
Happy 2015 and cheers to being present!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, Mary has called Los Angeles home since 2010. She is a licensed massage therapist, as well as a registered yoga instructor with 300+ hours of training. She's the co-founder/owner of YogaFam, which hosts family oriented yoga adventures around Southern California and beyond. Mary can be found teaching yoga in studios or privately all over the west-side of LA, soaking up some California sun on a hike or at the beach, or tackling a taco tuesday. She strives to approach life with love, gratitude and self-acceptance, and she hopes to inspire her readers to do the same. "On our beautifully messy path to radical acceptance, rather than aiming for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness."