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?