Imagine… No texting. No email. No social media. No Internet. No computer. No TV. No GPS. Just relaxing without distractions. Amazing right? Sounds like perfection and a great way to relax and get away from the day-to-day distractions and stresses we face.
However, now picture being unplugged in the same way while still running a business and living your everyday life. Not quiet as relaxing when the only way your business associates and friends can reach you is via actually calling you. You can’t use your GPS to get around and you can’t use your computer to do any work.
This was my reality for 48 hours.
On Tuesday, December 2nd at 7pm I unplugged for 48 hours. The only means of communication with the world was using my phone; as just a phone. That night I had an event that started at 5:30pm. I arrived a few minutes early. While sitting in my car, I set my phone settings to the most basic options. I moved all app icons to the second page so I wouldn’t see them and be tempted. I turned off all my notifications and ringers. I did have three minor cheats: 1. I left my calendar on the home screen in case of emergency, but thankfully never had to use it. 2. I used my alarm clock, because I realized I didn’t have a traditional one, and using the kitchen timer wasn’t going to work – sleeping in 60-minute increments was not an option. 3. I’ll cover this in a minute.
When I arrived home from my meeting, I immediately reached for the remote to turn on my TV – my normal behavior – and I realized I couldn’t. Like many American homes, the TV is on just for noise. Suddenly my house was REALLY quiet. I could now hear every noise outside, and the squirrel rustling in the leaves had me convinced someone was watching me. I quickly realized that if I was isolated in quiet for too long I would go completely nuts. So here is cheat number three – I turned on the music on my phone. If I had a CD player and CDs, I would have used those, but apparently those were thrown away along with the alarm clock, leaving my phone as the only option to save my sanity and peace of mind.
Within two hours of being unplugged, several friends called me to check in and make sure I hadn’t lost it yet. I hadn’t fully lost it, but I was on edge from this cold turkey change. Since I own my own business, work for three other companies and volunteer for six non-profits, I normally stay up late into the night and work, i.e. emailing, posting on social media, updating my website, sending invoices, creating spreadsheets. With all of that off the table, I decided I might as well catch up on sleep so I grabbed a book I bought years ago but had never started. I was asleep well before midnight, which is virtually unheard of for me.
As I awoke to my first full day of being unplugged, I realized yet another change – I wouldn’t be staring my day by checking emails, texts, online calendar and social media as I usually do. Thanks to the ‘old fashioned’ pencil and paper method, I had written my schedule for the day on post it notes and placed them all over my house as reminders.
Throughout the day, I became highly aware of how many phone apps I rely on and how technology really has made our lives more efficient. Tasks I could normally complete in under a minute were now taking longer or just not getting done at all. For instance, my monthly phone bill arrived in the mail and normally I would just open my Bank of America app and pay it. Tap, tap, tap, done. Well not this time.
Yes, I could have written and mailed a check, but that would require I have checks on hand. Note: Order more checks!
One thing that really made my day more stressful was not being able to text. I’m of the texting generation and use it more than I do my phone. It is how I communicate with my friends and many of my business acquaintances. It allows for sharing brief feelings or observations, where a phone call isn’t necessary – more like a stream of conscience or daily journal with our friends. This left my friends and I having to pick up the phone and call one another. Yes. Call.
A second stressor – my generation no longer answers the phone! There I was, virtually out of communication with the WORLD. Perfect example is the dinner I had scheduled with a friend that evening. I make it a habit to always confirm we are still on earlier in the day. Well, not tonight, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped she remembered. I arrived downtown, parked and called her to let her know I was on my way into the restaurant. No answer. I sat down at the table and called again. Again, no answer. Finally, when I had been sitting in the restaurant a long 30-minutes waiting, I called again. This time, she answered! However, only because she was worried something was wrong. Why else would I call three times in a row? Turns out, she had forgotten we had dinner plans, but we were still able to get together. Disaster averted.
Here’s the thing – I was selected for this project because everyone knows just how ‘plugged in’ I am. I do it for business, and I am the face of my business. This technology is what keeps my business going. My personal life is a different story—I’m new to cable, Netflix, even home Internet. Although, I have found computers, smart phones and social media is what makes my job and all the work I do grow my business.
I can see why some people feel removing or reducing the use of these technologies from their day-to-day life would make for a much simpler, slower pace. But in my case, I have business on the brain 24/7. Not being able to easily communicate with clients, business associates and other contacts may have wound me up more than it did unwind me.
With that said, upon my return to the “real world,” I turned on my notifications, anticipating my phone to freeze from the overload of incoming data. Low and behold, within two hours I had answered all the texts, emails and social media messages and fully reentered the digital world.
Looking back, I may have over anticipated how detrimental unplugging would be, all be it only 48-hours. It did allow me to appreciate just how much technology has shaped not only how we conduct business, but how much our methods of communication as a society has evolved in just my lifetime.
While I will not be giving up my beloved social media, Internet and email, I will be sure to make time to pull the plug more often.