Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.

 

A Year Without Facebook

It’s been a year since I completely deleted my facebook account, and I have no regrets. None. Aside from my medical challenges, the past year without facebook has been one of the best years of my life since before facebook was invented. My stress levels are significantly reduced, and I am actually enjoying life again.

It’s a great feeling to be able to spend time with someone and not constantly be thinking about taking a photo of something or a witty quip to make as a post. When you are not constantly documenting your life for the facebook world, you get to actually participate in and enjoy each moment. When I was on facebook, I felt like an observer to my own life. “Oh, I have to post …” Like everyone needed to know what I was doing every moment of my life. They don’t.

I do training classes where I work, and we have a no cell phone policy. When I train people about the no cell phone policy, I tell them that I believe they can do it. In a world where cell phones are practically an appendage, you can survive for 90 minutes without your phone. The internet will go on, facebook will survive, and your friendships will not end. It will be okay. Constantly checking your cell phone is a compulsion for most people. Not only have I broken my facebook habit, but my cell phone habit also.

I still have a cell phone. However, without a facebook, I use the phone for its intended use – mostly texting and *gasp talking on the phone. Yes, there are still people in this world who pick up a phone and dial numbers to make it ring to physically talk to a person on the other end instead of typing a text message. Plus, the people with whom I talk know I have a job and a life, and may not instantly reply.

In a world of instant gratification, I’m doing it old school. Sometimes people don’t answer the phone because they actually have a life. I’m too busy living mine to have a facebook or to respond right away. I will respond, but if I’m enjoying someone’s company, I’m not going to ruin the moment by being a slave to a chirping, palm-sized piece of technology.

I do not feel as though I have missed out on anything in the past year without a facebook. The only news I get is from the radio, so I managed to miss a large portion of election coverage. Even the political news I hear on the radio has been getting too much for me. I’ve been listening to my CDs and vinyl records more so that I don’t have to hear newscasts. But I’m pretty sure that if I had not deleted my facebook account last year and was online for the duration of the election season, that I would have lost my sanity by now and be in an asylum.

Most people have gotten the clue that I am no longer online and make the effort to either see me in person, write a letter (that’s when you use a pen to write on paper and put this little square on it called a stamp), call me, or text. My time now with family and friends is that much richer and precious to me. I actually have time to spend quality time with people and give them my full attention without the “ping” of social media constantly distracting me from the people who are right in front of me.

I have used my time without facebook to focus on what’s important to me. Mainly, the people in my life and the relationships I neglected not only from being online but also all the years I spent as a professional college student who was working multiple jobs. I may be paycheck to paycheck, but my year without facebook has made me richer in so many ways.

Now, I have the time to pay attention to my body and my health as I still struggle to recover from being in the hospital last fall. The past year without facebook has shown me that I need to pay attention to what is truly important, and one of those items is my health. Deleting my facebook has helped me retain my sanity in a tumultuous election year, and is now affording me the time to focus on my physical health as well.

I’m looking forward to entering year two without a facebook account. I can only imagine that life will continue to move in a positive direction, as I am able to spend more time with people I love and focus on things like health. So here is to a year without facebook, and looking forward to many more.

Lost & Found

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I’ve thought about calling this year the Lost Year. In the now 10 months that I have been retired/out of school, I have felt completely lost. A huge chunk of my identity (student) is no longer there. I don’t know what to do with myself. On top of that, this is the first year that I am not running a major race or getting a medal. That has never happened before. I have run through pretty much everything. This year, I have been waylaid by my autoimmune disorder, my work schedule, and now the flu that has simply rendered the requisite 5-month training schedule an impossibility.

I’m seriously starting to wonder if NOT being a student is making me depressed. In what seems to be a bottomless pit of despair, there have been some pinpricks of hope this year. These are the three top aspects of “found.”

One of the major things on the list given to me by the doctors for how to manage my autoimmune disorder is to reduce my stress levels. It has now been over 6-months since I completely deleted my facebook account and canceled my home Internet service. Getting off of facebook is the #1 thing that I have done to decrease my stress levels. Words cannot express how much happier I am now that I am not online. To be honest, people talk to me a lot less, yet I do not feel lonely. When I was on facebook, a lot of people talked to me, but I always felt lonely. So now, I’m lucky if someone sends me a text message once a month, I am actually less lonely than I was before. Strange, but true.

Out of all the things I have done to decrease my stress levels, going offline has taken the most burden off my shoulders. I drink green tea and meditate, and I still want to slap someone. Going off facebook is better than yoga and jazz and all the new age relaxation techniques combined.

Second, when I had the flu last week, there was one day when I was trying to watch football, and just physically couldn’t. That’s when I said, you know what? I can’t do this, I don’t have to do this, and then I shut off the TV set and went to sleep. Having the flu last week was the first time in my life that I have been sick and was able to listen to my body 100%. If I had been in school, there was always something to read or something to write, and I would have fought through the flu because I had schoolwork to do. Last week, I did not have schoolwork, so I was able to say “no” to everything around me, and give my body what it needed to heal, which was pretty much sleep.

Third, I had less beach days in 2016 (in retirement) than I did in 2015 (in school). When I first realized this, I was dismayed. Why would I have less beach days when I have taken great pains to slow down my life and my schedule to have more time to do what I want? And that’s when I realized that life cannot be measured by beach days. When I was in school, I made a point of scheduling beach days so that I could relax. Scheduling a day to relax is about as much fun as making a schedule to have sex. It’s not. Fun. It’s more fun when it’s spontaneous. Looking back at summer 2016, I may have had less beach days, but here is what I had more of: baseball, live theatre, movies, time with family, time with friends, picnics, hiking, camping, sunsets, swimming, reading, and sleep. I did so many things this summer other than going to the beach.

Days before I was completely flattened by the flu, I had made plans to return to school. Yup. That’s right. I have talked about teaching, but I actually have that opportunity at work. I am enjoying the “teaching” I do at work so much, that I do not feel the need (at the moment) to teach in academia. I am truly blessed in that I have a job doing what I love.

But I’m a person who likes to finish what I start, and I was thinking I have some unfinished business. I would like a PhD, but my student loans are maxed. I know I cannot get financial aid, so the PhD is off the table. There is, however, the question of the physics degree I started and never finished. Three years into that, I switched to psychology, and stuck with that field. Plus, there is the fact that I actually looked through my high school yearbook this summer given that it was technically my 20-year class reunion. One of my future plans under the Senior Directory was to “get my PhD in Chemistry.” I’m thinking of going back and finishing a degree in either chemistry or physics. Of course, I would have to pay for classes out of pocket, but I could take one at a time.

I could, theoretically, complete my 5th degree by the time I turn 40.

That was the plan before the flu. Now post-flu, I am thinking “hell no.” Going back to school must have been part of my flu-induced delirium. There is no way I want to go back to school and be stuck in that schedule again. Especially now that my time is my own, I enjoy being homework free.

However, it is only October. The spring semester does not start until January. We will see what happens and what I think over the next three months. Apparently, I had a lot more wisdom at 17 than I do at 37. At 37, I feel like this past year has been lost and found. At 17, my quote in the yearbook came from Luke Skywalker: “I’m ready for anything.”

If I can hang onto that, maybe this year can turn around from lost to Found.

No Regrets

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I used to say that only had one regret in life – that moment when I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I distinctly remember moving on 4th of July weekend, thinking it ironic that at a time when everyone else was celebrating freedom, I was in fact, relinquishing mine, and voluntarily taking up chains. I spent well over 10 years after trying to return to Massachusetts.

It didn’t work. The cost of living is way too high for me to be able to pull an income to live there without being homeless. Not only did I have to face that heart crushing reality, but I also came to realize over the course of time, that I needed to let go of that solitary regret. There is a Buddhist saying that if you live in the past, you are depressed, if you live in the future, you are anxious, and to live in the present because it is a gift.

I agree wholeheartedly that the present is a gift. When I face challenges or adversities and start to become stressed, I try to summarize the situation by identifying the two or three things that are bothering me the most. Then, if I mentally set those things aside, I realize that life is pretty damn good and start counting my blessings.

Now I live with no regrets.

Regrets are borne out of the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” mindset. We all have it from time to time. Sometimes we wonder how life would be if we had done this differently or chosen that over what we are doing. The key is to not get caught up in that exercise and beat yourself up over what could have been. It typically happens when we are contemplating major life changes. When faced with big choices, choice A is sure to have a distinct and different outcome than if we were to go with choice B.

I have had some pretty major life changes over the course of the past year. My 20-year career as a college student ended, and I have been out of school for 6 months now. I have no regrets. The timing was right. I was ready to be done. Four or five years ago, when various people were encouraging me to drop out of school due to my grueling commute, I was not ready to be done with school, and to drop out at that time surely would have resulted in regret. The timing was right for me to be done now. I am completely happy.

About 3 months ago, I completely deleted my faceboook account. Every so often, I will be in conversation with someone, and they will say “I saw it on facebook,” or “on facebook …” and trail off. I just smile and nod. I honestly do not feel I am missing anything by not being on facebook. My stress levels have decreased significantly. I do not feel the pressure to keep up with the Jones’. I am no longer subjected to everyone’s drama. Believe me, to quote the infamous Deadpool, facebook is to my mental health like what “Limp Biskit did to music in the 90s.” I am significantly happier without it.

To add to the plethora of changes that have been occurring, I cut my hair last week. You are probably like, “whatever, I get a trim every 7 weeks.” I typically get my hair trimmed also, except this was a major cut. My hair has been halfway down my back, approaching my butt for going on 10 years, and it is now up above my shoulders closer to my ears. One of my coworkers did a double take and literally almost fell over when they saw it. It just needed to be gone. When your hair is so long and so fine that it not only gets caught in every seatbelt, purse strap, and starts to attempt to try to dreadlock itself, when you don’t want dreadlocks, then its time to be gone.

With my new hair, I can drive with all the windows down without having to worry about my hair being knotted worse that a rubber band ball, and showering is quick and easy. Believe it or not, I can still style it in my signature braids for running, although the braids are now so small, they make me look like a toddler. My hair is just slightly longer than that kewpie doll look.

I am looking to sell the bed in my spare bedroom so that I can reclaim that space for a different, yet to be determined, purpose. Not only am I changing myself, but the space around me.

Big changes that are coming in the future is that I will be shutting off my home internet, and giving up my space in the parking garage I use for work and having to walk a few miles to work from someplace that has free and safe parking. Giving up Internet and parking are going to be challenges, but are necessary changes that need to be made for financial reasons. There are only two ways to get more money in life to pay for necessities. You either earn more money or you reduce your expenses.

I could earn more money. I could apply to teach at one of the colleges in the area or look for some other part-time job. I don’t want to. I enjoy the time I have now with my given work schedule. It is not worth it to me to sacrifice my time to work another job to try to get more money. Now that I have experienced this phenomenon called leisure time for the first time in my life, I am hooked and do not want to give it up. I spent decades working 70 hours a week. I don’t want to do it again.

The only way to come up with more money to cover the unexpected medical expenses I am facing right now is to reduce my expenses. The only frivolous expenses I have are parking and Internet. So, they have to go. Once the parking and Internet bills are gone, I am only left with necessities like rent, electric, car, and insurance. If cutting parking and Internet does not free up some cash to pay medical bills, then I don’t know what will.

Before everyone throws a fit over canceling home Internet, be aware that my cell phone has unlimited Internet. When I switched phone carriers last fall, I not only saved myself over $100 a month in the switch, but I also went from having an Internet cap to unlimited. I can still email, catch the news, sports, and weather right from my phone. In fact, in looking at my Internet usage over the past 6 months since I have been out of school, the only time I bring my laptop out and plug into the Internet is when I’m writing this blog. Not only can I do that from my phone with an app, but I also have access to some places with some pretty good wifi if I want a larger platform than my phone. Spending $2 at my favorite café once a week for coffee and wifi is a whole lot cheaper for Internet at a grand total of $8 per month ($2/week x 4 weeks) than what I am paying now. Plus, going to the café once a week gets me out in the community. Or, maybe I will alternate. If I can blog through an app on my phone, then maybe I will only frequent the café twice a month. Either way, I do not feel I am using the Internet enough to justify paying for home access, and the money I will save by shutting off Internet will be better used for other bills.

The hardest transition is going to be giving up my parking pass. Having a parking pass is a huge convenience. It is close to my work, it is in a safe location, and the car is covered so I do not have to deal with snow and ice in the winter. My car is safe there. Now, the challenge will be finding a safe place to park my car. Once I do find a safe place, I will have to walk a few miles to work. Normally, this is no big deal. I run marathons, after all. The challenge is that the time of day I will be walking due to my work hours is not the safest time or place to be on my own, but after surviving some negative experiences in big cities, I will be sure to play it safe.

I have done a lot to decrease my expenses in recent years. Most of it has just been cutting out excess and fluff. Getting rid of my parking pass will be my first true sacrifice in trying to get more money to pay for bills. I am hoping I don’t regret giving up my parking pass. Time will tell. It is definitely going to be a huge change. I have viewed my parking pass as a way to keep my investment (vehicle) safe, so my life is about to get more challenging.

Whenever we face big changes in life, we have the potential for regret. I want a live a life with no regrets. I want to look at all the options, make an informed decision, and jump in with both feet: this is what I’m doing and live with the consequences. Change is scary. It is fear of the unknown. Even the best-laid plans do not always work out. We may make a decision, and then find out information later that makes us wish we had made an alternate choice. Yet we can only go on what is in front of us at that time. How do you live a life with no regrets?

Get a Real Life

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It seems the old adage “get a haircut & get a real job” has a modern day incantation as “get off the internet & get a real life.” As an update on the technology post  that I did this summer, here is where I stand on my progress to divorce the world wide web of drama, misery, & illusions.

I made significant progress this fall towards getting off the internet & getting a real life when I made changes to both my cell phone & internet carriers that resulted in over $100 a month savings.

First, I evaluated my needs and what I actually use the most to effectively communicate. While I had initially planned to completely disconnect home internet, a friend whom I deeply admire made the convincing argument that internet is now a utility as much as electricity or water and that without it, I would be severely cut off from human interaction. While my focus is on in-person dynamics, there is some truth to the notion of internet as utility when one considers that the internet delivers more information than traditional media forms of TV, radio, and newspaper.

Again, this brought me back to the quality of my interactions through use of technology. I quickly realized that I was paying an awful lot of money for very slow service that was constantly dropping and restarting itself trying to find a connection. My largest consumption of media came through the fact that I was streaming radio to the tune of 8-10 gigs per month. I was able to use functions provided by my carrier’s online account to ascertain that my radio streaming was basically what I was paying almost $200 a month to use. I had a plan that allowed me 450 minutes of talk time – of which I typically used less than 30 minutes, unless I had medical or other significant things going on that required phone calls. I was using less than 200 texts per month. I was essentially paying almost $200 a month for radio. This was not even satellite radio. I am pretty sure I could have gotten satellite radio cheaper, and honestly, why pay for radio when it is FREE?

A long time ago, in another lifetime, I worked in radio. I know how the radio world works. Why was I paying so much for radio?

So, I changed both my cell phone and internet carriers and now pay just over $50 a month for both services. I literally cut that bill down to one-fourth of what I was paying. I have plenty of local radio stations that I can listen to on my home radio for free without needing to stream. The internet service that I now have is not only cheaper but also significantly FASTER – yes, faster – than my old carrier, plus it is unlimited. Yup, that’s right. When I was paying a certain company almost $200 a month, I had a cap on my internet usage. It was not the “your service will slow down” type of cap. It was a “your service will completely stop unless you want to pay 99 cents per minute” kind of cap.

While I am now saving money, and getting faster service that is unlimited, you would think I would use technology more.

But, I’m not. I’m using it less.

That extra money is great. I am able to take that $100 a month and comfortably pay all my bills, where before I was stretched very thin with no wiggle room. Now, I have a little wiggle room, and if I want to spend some quality time in-person having lunch with someone, I can go out to lunch without guilt (over money).

But when I cut the cord to that antiquated, overpriced internet plan, I also cut the cord that was binding me to all the drama and misery that came with a continual online presence. I went from using 8-10 gigs of data per month down to 1-2 gigs. That’s a significant downshift. Not streaming radio anymore is helpful, and I still hear all my favorite tunes. Since I am not using my phone to listen to radio, I notice that I have no desire for social networking platforms either. Phones work two-ways. If people want to talk to me or see me, they can call or text to check in. I now have unlimited calling and texting on my phone too that had been capped under my previous carrier.

Going offline has helped me to be more present in my everyday life and interactions. It has significantly decreased both my stress and my anxiety levels. I feel peace that I rarely feel unless I purposefully drive myself out to the middle of nowhere to escape the reach of a cell tower to feel.

I have been reading voraciously and averaging 3-4 novels per week depending on my work and home obligations. I am able to put more planning time into meals, which has been helpful in managing my severe food allergies. I have been able to listen to my body more closely so that I can be better prepared for the 2016 running season and hopefully get through my fall marathon uninjured. If I need the internet to look up a recipe, or simply want the internet to stream music, movies, or TV, it is there, but I am not tethered to it.

I am, in fact, living a good life.

Not only have I finally finished school after a 20-year career as a professional student, but also I have finally broken up with my dependence on the internet for external validation. I have found that when I do not have that background of mindless chatter that I am able to self-validate easier. My internal compass is clearer and I can hear my own voice easier.

Today, we hear people saying that people quitting facebook is the new version of running away from home. People say they are going to quit, and do for a few weeks, but then they are always back because they cannot stay away. Instead of running away from home, wouldn’t it be easier if we were to stay, stand, and confront life? While technology has the capability to complement our existence, sometimes we need to get off the internet and get a real life. An online presence is not the be-all and the end-all to life. There are moments that cannot be experienced online, but must be felt, seen, and lived with our hearts and souls.

 

 

Digital Sabbatical

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An update on my pulling the plug post, as one of the intentions of this blog is to hold myself accountable to my goals; I have not done well with pulling the plug on technology and making my interactions more meaningful. I was successful for awhile, but then discovered that I was not getting the type of engagement in real life that my brain required, and I tend to get more attention online than I do in real life.

The past two months have been a learning experience in how I interact with the world and have forced me to take a step back and evaluate my relationships more critically. The benefit to having an online presence is that it results in more interactions than in real life. By the same token, the detriment is that constantly being plugged in results in increased levels of anxiety and decreased ability to focus on the task at hand.

I took a digital sabbatical this weekend to unwind after a particularly challenging week of all things grad school on top of my normal day-to-day responsibilities. While my phone has been off and I have not been on social media, I have used an Ethernet cord to plug into the internet when I have needed to do something grad school related. Yes, I know the purpose was to unwind, but I am nearing the end here, and need to seriously get some work done.

What I have discovered these past few days is that the people who matter most in my life are already with me – my cats. Other than that, people so rarely contact me that I am sure no one is having meltdown over the fact that I have been unreachable the past few days.

I have discovered that I do, in fact, have a healthy relationship to the internet when I must access it old school via Ethernet cable. I only plugged in when I absolutely needed something this weekend, and not for more than 20-30 minutes per day. My downfall with internet and social media comes from my smart phone. That little square glowing diabolical hand held device that allows instant access to the internet at all times and from all locations.

With my phone off these past few days, I have gotten more accomplished on grad school, I have spent more quality time with my cats (those who are most important), and have even managed to read a novel for leisure that is completely unrelated to any of my degree programs.

I had a real-life in-person discussion a few weeks ago with someone whom I greatly admire about my desire to completely shut off my internet after grad school. That person persuaded me not to, arguing that internet is now a utility much like electricity or gas service, and that the internet provides me with a way to communicate. This is true. So while I will not be getting rid of internet service completely, my goal instead is to put better boundaries around its use.

Saved by the Ethernet cord is how I am going to accomplish this goal. Given that I do not have self-restraint with my so-called smart phone – once I am on the internet for one thing, I am looking at all the things – I will be turning my phone off more and plugging in my Ethernet instead.

I am quite sure that if it was not for the fact that I needed email for things grad school related that I probably would have only been online once in the past 4 days – and that would have been to double check the ingredients for a recipe about which I was doubtful.

I have not missed the status updates, the rants, the raves, or the photos. I more thoroughly enjoyed all my activities this weekend because I was fully present. I enjoyed the sunset. I enjoyed the beach. I enjoyed music. I have had the opportunity to plan my cross training schedule for when I am fully recovered from my running injury.

I am coming up on my last few weeks of grad school before my final defense. I may take a sabbatical every weekend I have off. Really, the only time I need my phone is if work needs to find me or I have to email for things grad school related. My stress levels have been a lot lower the past few days. I am looking forward to returning to work tomorrow energized and focused without the distraction of grad school panic and everything else that overwhelms when you are trying to finish a degree and do 10 million things.

Have you taken a digital sabbatical? Has it been relaxing for you? Have you noticed less anxiety when you turn the smart phone off?

If you are not on social media, how do you improve your in-person interactions? My problem is that I tend to get more interaction with people online than I do in real-life (even though the people I know online I also know in real life). With everyone so busy these days, how do you find or make time to spend with those important to you?

Cut the Cord

Technology can help or hinder you. Instead of allowing it to consume us, the use of technology with intention is a tool that can enhance your life. I love being able to go online and find instant answers to my questions. I have a smart phone, and sometimes I think it has replaced my brain. They did not name it a smart phone for nothing.

I am constantly connected. My excuse has always been that I have been so busy working multiple jobs and being a full time grad student while managing a household means that I need technology in order to have human interaction. However, the smart phone has replaced my human interaction when I find myself playing with the phone at times when there is a real, live person in front of me with whom I can have a conversation. As everyone stands around looking at their phones, the zombie apocalypse is now.

I have seen this social experiment circulating the Internet where a group of friends go out to dinner, pile their phones face down in the middle of the table, & the first person that picks up their phone in disruption of the human interaction, foots the bill for the cost of the meal. This is a brilliant idea. Too bad in this day & age, we have to force ourselves to do those type of things in order to unplug from the smart phone.

In my efforts to rewind real slow, I have decided to unplug. Cutting the cord allows me to focus fully on the people in front of me and to live and enjoy the moment I am experiencing. Are you really having fun or just doing it for the face book post, tag or photo? Cutting the cord and unplugging is not only scary for some, but also difficult. In today’s 24/7 world, the smart phone is constantly dinging with some notification of this or that. It is the modern day method of keeping up with the Jones’.

Here are some strategies in which I am going to try to cut the cord:

  • Turn off notifications. Do you look at your phone every time it makes a noise? Is this taking away from having lunch with your grandmother, or appreciating that sunset? Turn off the notifications. It can wait.
  • Set a timer. The internet will not explode if you stop checking it 20 times per day. 20 minutes twice a day should be enough. Once in the morning, and once in the evening to be able to check and respond to any important emails or get caught up on all the latest face book gossip. Do you really need to know what your 400 friends had for lunch today? This is adulthood, not a middle school cafeteria.
  • Make plans to see people in person. In realizing that I have allowed digital communication to take over my life, I have noticed that it has replaced my human interactions. The human part of my interactions is missing, that is. I would rather spend one hour of quality time having dinner with a friend hearing about their latest trip or the cool thing their kid did than spend 5 minutes commenting on someone’s post.

I’m looking for a life full of meaning. Quality over quantity. For me starting a blog is about more quality interactions on the internet than I currently have in 140 characters on social media. While I am looking to cut the cord in favor of in person interaction, I also want to improve the quality of my online interaction as well.

What do you think? Do you have an obsession with technology? How do you set boundaries around your media use and make time for what matters most – the people in your life and the experiences you have with them?