The sudden realization that an avid addition to technology and social media is dangerous and can lead to more than a few knee-jerk reactions.
You may find yourself wanting to “purge” yourself to tear the grip of social media away—deleting every app and account with reckless abandon.
Is it any surprise that being reactionary can come with drawbacks as well?
The truth is, in the modern world, you’re going to need to make measured and nuanced choices about when and how to remove the technology that’s controlling your life and leveraging the real world back into the equation. So much of that leverage needs to come from a discernment between the concepts of “unplugging” and “disconnecting.”
While often used interchangeably, there are profound differences to consider when beginning your journey to minimize technology in your life. In some cases, disconnecting will allow you to keep using technology while removing the addictive properties. In others, a full unplugging will be required.
We’ll be going over the differences between unplugging and disconnecting, examples and advice for balancing technology and cutting out the ill-effects and showing you ways that you can manage the different aspects of your life without being reactionary or incendiary.
The Internet & Technology At Large
Much of the divide between the two concepts is intimately connected with the usage of Internet and connective technologies.
Speaking of technology in nebulous terms, there is simply no way we will be able to purge all technology from our lives—nor would we want to. From the trading of stocks on servers to the credit card in your pocket, we’ll be needing this technology to enable further value in our lives.
From this point on, when we refer to technology, we’ll be referring to the commonly-cited and often-addictive forms that we find on our phones and computers. You may have already begun to uncover our reasoning.
The Internet fosters a sort of resonance with us that usually correlates with addition. Our computers and phones are limited to pre-existing materials and software, but our technology, addled by the Internet, can grow, change, transform, and interact with us on a larger scale.
This is the root of addiction, and this interconnectivity is what we want to disconnect. Thus, disconnecting from the Internet in many cases will be enough for us to gain control over our lives without a purge of the technology that is often needed to survive.
Knowing all of the above when it comes to the Internet, we can now look into the specifics of what unplugging and disconnecting will look like.
A connection to the Internet usually means a connection to a world far beyond our line of sight. In small doses and handled with nuance and tact, this is a wonderful thing. We can see the lives of our friends, read the news of the day, and interact with people we would have never met otherwise.
The insidious side-effect of this connection is overindulgence. The obsessive nature of endless scrolling feeds and arguments online. The way the 24-hour media cycle continually churns out materials for echo chambers and Internet slap fights. The way it becomes all-too-easy for us to harass and bully others online.
In short—disconnecting has nothing to do with the technology itself, and everything to do with the access we’re granted by owning the technology. You may find that the usual suggestions, such as deleting Facebook or turning off Internet connectivity at certain hours of the way will be enough to satisfy your desire to lower your dependence on technology.
For others, however, it may not be enough. As is the case for many people, the connectivity to the Internet itself doesn’t pose a problem or a stumbling block to become addicted. It is the technology itself that is damaging to the body and mind.
For example, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has released studies showing that the blue hue of LED lights that our phones and laptops emanate has been connected with the disruption of our circadian rhythm and the development of various sleep dysfunctions.
The CDC has also labeled and brought awareness to Internet Addiction Disorder—which has developed in over 8% of Americans. While there’s no removing the codependency of technology and success in the modern world, there is much to be discussed when it comes to the outright dependency on technology to placate others and keep many happy.
When we discuss unplugging, we’re referring to the complete removal of the technology in our lives. This could refer to switching to a ‘dumb phone,’ or a phone without a screen (or connectivity to the Internet), or completely getting rid of a personal computer or gaming console.
These distinctions are going to be important moving forward—as we’ll be discussing ways to unplug, ways to disconnect, and the benefits of doing either or both.
Disconnecting—The Happy Medium
Most of the cited reasons for a disconnect includes our previously mentioned gripes with the online community—such as a binary and often polarized political space, or a problem with productivity due to online gaming and social media.
Limiting your devices to their hardware functionality as opposed to the benefits of the software will allow you to keep using your phones and computers without experiencing the overindulgence of the Internet.
For example, disconnecting may allow more time for you to seek the great outdoors and enjoy the myriad of health benefits to be discovered. Much like how the blue hue of an LED light can disrupt circadian rhythm, the National Institutes of Health has shown that exposure to “greenspace” outside can improve mood, decrease anxiety, and develop immune strength.
Keeping your phone on you as you go for a remote hike or walk in the city park can allow you to utilize the GPS functionality and step counter while keeping you disconnected from the greater world. Don’t be so bold as to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” and disregard the legitimate benefits of technology to appease a dream of happiness.
Or in other words—you may find that disconnecting will be enough to bring positive change and happiness into your life and that unplugging simply won’t be necessary.
We can apply this concept to other areas of our technological lives—such as using our computers at home without the connection of the Internet to work on our careers or possibly create something using word processors, digital audio workstations, or otherwise.
When it comes to our gaming consoles, you may still find the allure of an interactive medium to be too addictive. Try to switch solely to offline-only gameplay, or limit your time on the console to multiplayer games to improve your connection to other in real life—and not online.
As with all things, balance is key, and if you can manage to leverage technology by disconnecting instead of unplugging, we highly recommend doing so.
Unplugging—The Last Resort
If you’ve tried to implement the above tips to no avail or already know that your technological addiction is too deep to attempt half measures—then it is time to unplug completely.
The easiest way to do so would be to “dumb” down our technology—or utilize equipment made far before blue LED displays or wireless connectivity.
With our phones, seeking out a phone that’s sole functionality lies in phone calls will allow you to retain the minimum connection needed for career and personal purposes, while still removing the addictive forms of technology to the point of unplugging.
Computers, likewise, can either be sold off to disposed of whenever they do not provide value or use to you. Consider recycling or donating your technology, however, to not generate further waste and completely remove value from technology that happens to be worthless to you.
While these drastic measures can be taken in serious and outlier cases, often, we can learn to unplug in ways that don’t involve physically throwing away the technology.
For instance—if you have an addition to your computer, see if you can leave your computer at your place of business or in a location that would be difficult and costly to access until needed. Additions are had to break, and sometimes, trusting yourself with a computer in the room just isn’t a good idea.
Likewise, phones can be set to “airplane mode” whenever possible and left far beyond your reach. If you struggle particularly with the usage of your phone in the night or first thing in the morning, leave your charging cable on another floor or your home or by the front door—to not place yourself in a position of weakness as you work to remove your dependence to the technology.
The establishment of systems and fail-safes will allow you to unplug either seasonally or hourly, depending on the severity of your addiction and the goals you hope to achieve. Consider informing trusted friends and allies about your goals to keep accountability partners close at hand and instilling further motivation.
Defining Success Away From Technology
Ultimately, finding that happy medium between disconnecting, unplugging, and removing technology altogether is going to rely on which goals you hope to achieve.
Before embarking on your technological purge, consider writing down milestones or goals that you need to hit to find that balance point between pure removal and pure acceptance. This list will allow you to approach your newfound journey with both a means to track progress as well as a stopping point.
Remember—the entire reason for removing technology from your life is often from the perspective of regaining control, increasing productivity, or improving relationships.
Much like your current addiction to technology is limiting to your overall health and success, obsessing over fine details and making grand shows of committal like tossing all technology away may be just as harmful.
Once you reach a stopping point or arrive at the goals you initially set out to achieve when culling back technology, take a moment to reflect and consider what you’ve accomplished. Think if there’s room for improvement, or if technology could be leveraged to help you further achieve your goals and tenants of success.
Technology is a tool as much as it is a bane, so don’t be so bold as to try to accomplish tasks without the technology that could often help you achieve the things that truly matter to you.
Life After Unplugging and Disconnecting
Once your technological journey is either at an end or a milestone, you may find that the need to unplug has lessened, or that you can trust yourself with higher levels of connectivity.
Of course, try not to return to habits that were particularly insidious—like responding to social media or allowing yourself constant and unlimited access to the 24-hour news cycle through television and the Internet.
If you’ve made it this far, you can look to the physical manifestations of your efforts and use them as motivation to keep up your resolve and work to become a better person.
This could refer to a toned body formed through more time spent hiking in the great outdoors–or relationships formed through rich interpersonal communication that would have otherwise been impossible due to the distraction of the online media.
Whether or not you unplug, disconnect, do both, or do either—we hope that we’re provided value in the distinction between these concepts, and shown you ways that you can implement both into your life.
Keep working hard to limit the grip of technology, minimize distractions and negative influences on your life, and regain control in a world that’s wired to take it away from you.