My husband asked me if I was actually going to do it this time. Apprehensively, I nodded and closed the lid to my laptop. Together, we powered down our phones, and set out to have a night of enjoying the people we were with instead of the phones in our hands. Anxiety set in immediately, and I began to worry about a multitude of things – “what if somebody needs me,” “what if I get a business call.”
It’s easy to become consumed by the “what ifs” spurred by technology, but what’s not easy is intentional, genuine connection. As of 2013, web-connected devices officially outnumbered people in the United States, and the numbers are anticipated to increase. Most people even own more than one device, and sometimes use them simultaneously (shameful side note: there are 17 in our house). Around 40% of Americans spend more time making connections online than off. Having a screen to your face sends a clear message: I’m not here to connect with you; I’m connecting elsewhere.
When my husband and I were married, we opted for an unplugged wedding. I wanted our guests to connect with us and with the ceremony, and to really be present. Our photographer was able to capture our guests’ faces, and their expression during such an important moment in our lives. They were watching us, and not through screens.
There are numerous known health benefits to unplugging. As we switch off our lights before we go to bed, we often turn on our devices. However, the blue light emitted from these devices prevents the release of melatonin causing a rough night’s sleep. Also, we’re developing “text neck” from the harsh angles we expect our heads and necks to maintain during endless scrolling.
Additionally, studies are showing that the more we use our devices, the less likely that we are to engage in prosocial behavior – doing things for the common good. Essentially, people are actually turning down a chance to help their fellow man simply because their online interaction is making them feel negatively toward society. I don’t want a technological device to dictate my character.
There is such an importance in connecting with those around us – to the living, breathing souls that have molded us into the people that we are. That connection is fading though, and we need to revive it, we need to blow the dust off of our communication skills and learn how to be good friends again – friends who can genuinely listen, not friends who listen while scrolling through Facebook.
In the end, my night of unplugging was not nearly as scary as I had anticipated it to be. Several times during the night I reached for my phone to see if I had any notifications, but I didn’t turn it on. It was nice to relax and not worry about the obligations that were waiting whenever I heard the ping of an email, or fall into the cycle of comparison via social media. Of course it’s not something that I can do every night, but I will make a point to do it at least twice a month, and more as I learn a routine from it.
So, I’m inviting you to join with me in unplugging and overcoming the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that is so rampant in today’s society. Invite friends over to play games, share a family meal, go on a walk or plan a vacation together – just do something and engage with your whole heart, and whole mind.