Digital Availability: Blessing and a Curse
Working from home was a blessing during lockdown, while following stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders, but it is also starting to become a curse. It may not be an expectation to be available all the time, but it’s starting to feel that way. After all, we’re all just a text, direct message, and a Zoom away. Working after hours is starting to become normal replacing my usual after-work routine due to gym closures, capacity limits, and cancelled race events.
I wanted to stay informed, educated, and updated about the social issues the US and the world are currently facing but doing so requires more time being in front of a screen. I thought I’ve figured out how to remain active and provide support to social causes that matter to me but whenever I see what others were doing online and via social media, my efforts felt incomparable and small.
Social media updates are becoming less and less appealing to me. In the past couple of months I am finding it unnecessary to see updates and throw a “like” on posts of people I follow on social media. I am also becoming less inclined to post updates on my own social media feed. I know that I spend [or waste] a lot of time scrolling through my social media newsfeed and so, I made the decision to slowly change that habit.
I have picked up reading again and started going through my big list of unread ebooks and began purchasing books about topics I am currently interested in. So far, it’s been working well for me. Those 3 hours I used to spend on social media daily is now becoming my reading time. Setting a time limit and turning off some app notifications on my cellphone has been a game changer as well.
Sorry, I can’t be reached
Here’s the icing on the cake — since our plan to travel to Asia in November and December of this year has been cancelled, we ended up camping for 4-nights at a location remote enough that the closest grocery store and cellular service availability requires a 30-minute drive through a mostly unmaintained dirt road and another 30-minute drive on a paved road. At first, the thought of not having access to a cellular network is pretty daunting. I can think of all the different scenarios where being able to make a phone call is important but as soon as we arrived at the camping site and completely lost service on our cellphones, it felt like a huge boulder has been lifted off of me. It also turned out to be a great location for social distancing as we were the only people in the entire 11,000+ acre canyon.
It is no longer about not being able to contact and connect with someone during an emergency, it is about me being unavailable. Free from notifications and the urge to act and respond to every ping on my cellphone. Being disconnected felt so good that when it was time to leave the camping site, putting my cellphone off of airplane mode made me a bit anxious. The second my cellphone picked up service, texts, chat messages, and emails started showing up. I immediately placed my cellphone back to airplane mode and reminded myself that I do not need to act and respond to every ping at that very moment. So, we spent our 6-hour drive back home talking about random topics on existence, life, big bag theory, singularity, simulation, etc.
Yes, doing a technology fasting, digital detox, or whatever you needed to do to reduce the amount of time you’re spending around technology and digital devices does not require a public announcement to stay committed to the task. However, I will advice to send a few family members and close friends your location coordinates, date, and time of your expected return to civilization if you are planning to go off the grid for a few days to disconnect from the digital world.
On a napkin
Technology fasting helped reduce my anxiety from:
- working after hours
- social media updates and activities
- wasting time scrolling through social media newsfeed
- multi-tasking and unproductiveness
- being available and connected all the time
Also, here’s a quick read on how to do a digital detox.
Of course, this is a work in progress for me. It is a marathon to change behavior and to form new habits. It’s the effort you put in that matters most, not the time it took you.
Do you think you need a technology fast? How are you planning to do it?