I have been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of structured disengagement with regards to technology. What I mean when I say that is actually making the choice to engage in my relationships without technology. For example, when you walk into a restaurant with a group of friends or your romantic partner and you leave your phone in the car. Or when you are standing in line at the grocery store or Chipotle and you don’t scroll through your social media. Or when you have a question for someone, and you ask them in person rather than sending a text. When you make the choice to do things differently, things can really begin to shift.
Technology is a very real part of our every day life and it is not going anywhere. Honestly, there are a lot of ways that technology is actually pretty wonderful! I was able to make it to an appointment on time today because I used GPS. When I left my house this morning, I set the timer on my washing machine so that it would begin one hour before I arrived home from work and this message is coming at you straight from the page of a blog. Without technology, all of that would not be possible so I am actually quite grateful for its existence. It is important that we notice that it is time to start teaching people how to use it appropriately. That is where the idea of structured disengagement comes from. Creating a life that integrates technology instead of letting it take over. Having relationships that are supplemented by technology rather than replaced by it. Intentionally taking the time to be without technology, whether it is with your friends and family or completely alone.
Here are some things that work for me:
No Technology Tuesdays. I totally stole this idea from my friend, Erin, and I really enjoy that alliterative nature of the title. The idea is to avoid technology as much as possible for one day per week. I know that it my case, avoiding it completely is nearly impossible, but at least one day per week I make sure to leave my phone in my purse instead of putting it on my desk all day. When I get home from work, instead of zoning out to an episode of Friends, I sit on my patio and read for the 27 minutes that an episode usually lasts. Instead of watching a movie on Netflix with my husband, we play a game instead. It does not work flawlessly, and I still catch myself lost in my Instagram feed while I am mindlessly eating lunch, but it is a step in the right direction and practice makes progress!
I identify times that I do not let myself look at my phone. For me, I don’t pull out my phone in the car (driving or passenger), while I am in any kind of line, while I am waiting for a meeting to start or while I am in a restaurant-even when I am eating alone. I choose to use those times to let my mind wander or to interact with the people who are around me. Those are also good times to pull out a notebook and jot down ideas for the blog, write a to do list to keep myself accountable or journal about whatever thing my mind is spiraling on at the moment.
Limit texts whenever possible. I love texting. I really do. The fact that I can send someone a reminder or ask a question and they can respond to me within their time frame is so incredibly convenient! But, text conversations instead of word conversations are not usually conducive to connecting with people. So, if I am in a text conversation that is lasting more than 3-5 text exchanges, I pick up the phone and call them instead. Or I set a time to call them so we can continue the conversation. When you have a full-blown conversation via text, you miss all the nuance of their tone of voice, the pauses they employ and the words they choose when they don’t have the ability to edit before they send. You will get so much more out of a word conversation than a text conversation. Whenever possible, I really encourage you to have word conversations.
I never watch more than 2 episodes of a show unless I am on vacation. Binge watching is dangerous, isn’t it? You could sit down to find out what the deal is with Meredith Grey and next thing you know; you are three seasons in and the whole day is lost. This is one that I try really hard to stick to. No more than two episodes in one sitting. And, no, that does not mean get up to go to the bathroom or make a snack every two episodes. It means, watch two episodes and then go do something productive. Back in the day I used to wait an entire week to find out what happened to Dr. Grey, I can do it again.
I challenge you to try one of these strategies this week. If it doesn’t work for your life, adjust it so that it does! I will never tell anyone to eliminate technology from their life (mostly because that would be a waste of breath), but taking some time to take stock of how you utilize technology and to take responsibility for the ways that you could be making a more persona connection with others (or with yourself!) is something I am 100% willing to suggest. Try mine or come up with your own!