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[UPDATED] Is The Ability To Disconnect Becoming More Myth Than Fact?

Over the holidays my family went on a trip to Costa Rica on our annual family vacation. It was an amazing trip and it was nice to “get away from it all.” Except for one problem, it sees impossible to actually get away from it all. In the old days (old, meaning about 5-10 years ago when smart phones barely existed) when one went on vacation they would do exactly that and go on vacation. Vacation days were taken, and the point was to relax and get your mind of work. On this trip I expected to do the same thing and found it nearly impossible. I had important emails that I was expecting, and would need to respond to quickly. And, of course, why wouldn’t the hotels in the middle of the rainforest, that are only accessible by boat have wireless service? I was able to respond to emails and make sure things weren’t blowing up back home while I’m on a family vacation. And I hate myself for it.

The point I am trying to emphasize is that technology has become so ingrained in our culture that we are almost continuously connected to the point that when we are sleeping is our only break. Even when you sleep is becoming a connected part of your day with sleep trackers and products like Jawbone’s UP. There really isn’t a part of our daily lives that allows us to remove ourselves from technology. Personally, I think that’s a major issue. I am all for technology and its integration into the daily lives of people, to some degree. It makes things A LOT easier. The amount of time saved because of technological advances is invaluable. However, it promotes an overworked lifestyle that prevents people from having time to themselves.

Personally, I make an effort to spend part of every day completely disconnected from technology. What exactly do I do instead?

  • Go to the gym and unplug. Instead of listening to my iPod I’ll go music-free…except for the unmotivating Top 40 playlists continuously playing over the gym’s speakers. I focus on my breathing and stay tuned to how my body feels and how it can push itself to its limits. I love listening to music when working out, but there is a degree of separation once the tunes start playing that prevents you from being 100% focused.
  • I close my laptop, turn off the TV, put down my phone and have nothing to do with technology for the last hour before bed. I love to read. I will almost always be reading before bed. It allows me to escape into another world and unwind from a stressful day.
  • I’ll go for a walk. Self explanatory.
  • On more than one occasion I have just laid out on my couch and just stared at the ceiling, thinking. It’s amazing what any form of meditation can do for the mind. It’s almost unheard of for someone to just do…nothing. But it’s actually really nice. I dare you to try it. Don’t look at a clock until you believe 15 minutes has passed.

The thing about technology is that it is stressful. Being connected at all times takes a lot out of a person. Here’s something you should try: the next time you get a text message when you’re sitting at home don’t answer it. I bet you’ll feel at least a hint of anxiety caused by your thoughts saying “who is it?” “what does this person want?” That’s not healthy.

The ability to truly disconnect is becoming more impossible every day. We’re even getting to the point where we’re going to have augmented reality overlays in our contact lenses. Does this not bother anyone? The amount of information we receive every day is amazing. Do we really need that much more? We can’t retain but a small fraction of it to begin with, why overload ourselves even more?

Do you think we’re too connected? When was the last time you truly disconnected from every bit of technology you own?


[UPDATE] I just read this article on Volkswagen. They shut their Blackberry email servers off after business hours to allow employees to disconnect. This is revolutionary and more companies should start embracing this. The stress caused by always being connected can cause real harm and VW is taking a huge step in the right direction to prevent their employees from getting burned out. Way to go Volkswagen!

(Coincidentally I also own a VW Passat so this makes me even prouder of the company)