You might already know how I am constantly inspired by my uncle; he was a talented photographer, an avid reader, an almost-obsessive journaler, and kinda a grumpy gus. He complained often about the state of the world today - except, this was several years ago, and I imagine he'd be even more disgruntled about how some things have evolved since he passed.
I bring him up because, well because I think about him all the time, but especially when I find myself too "plugged in." I recall his frustration with the iPod coming out, everyone walking around with those trendy white earbuds like a big “don’t talk to me” sign, no longer engaging with each other, with their surroundings. Obviously with the iPhone this got worse - now we're not even looking where we're going. And then the iPad, oh I remember a rant he went on about the iPad...
But it's not Apple's fault - in fact, I love Apple and all their products and the ease they've brought to my life, how they've enabled me to document my journey and strengthen my connections and share my message and follow those that inspire me – not to mention, um, run my business. But I do worry about this lack of engagement, this checking out of the present moment, and this escape from real life that's become such a permanent state of being, it's causing physical, mental, and emotional shifts in our species as a whole. And it makes me think about my uncle, and the conversation we might have about it all, and the rant he might go on.
This might be that rant.
The irony of having a business that is very much about connecting with yourself and finding quiet and being present, and yet that business being online-based and so you must be plugged in to share anything is, well, notable. And I have been feeling it lately, that constant engagement, and the effects it has on me. I'm not sleeping as well, I feel more scattered, I struggle to ever fully "turn off."
These are common ailments, and yet many don't make the connection between our constant plugged-in-ness and these side effects. It is yet another thing we tend to accept as "normal," because we have sadly made it so. But don't you feel jealous, sometimes, of the life our grandparents lived? That sitting around a table and chatting with friends, without the glow of smartphones, was a completely satisfying evening? That they went on adventures and did "silly" things and ate beautiful food simply for the joy of it, never to be documented and shared on instagram to show others just how great their life is? That they spoke to each other mostly in person; that they had to show up when they had plans; and that “ghosting” simply wasn’t a thing?
To think it's been less than a decade since the idea of a touchscreen phone was foreign - that there were no apps, the hashtag was a pound sign, and most of us were on MySpace... My bestie pointed out how living in a city like New York has become less city-like post-iPhone. And having not experienced it myself, I can almost not imagine it: all those people walking up and down the busy sidewalks and actually looking up, maybe looking at each other, relating for a moment. Exchanging a smile, an eye-roll at the shitty weather, a flirty glance, or even a scowl - that was part of the romance of living in a city.
And while I make a point not to walk and tap away at my phone simultaneously, the truth of it is: it's 2016. We all have smartphones and this is the way the world works now. The laptop-based lifestyle is a real thing and I feel extremely lucky to be living it. But continuing on the theme from last week, I have been contemplating how to find balance with our new reality – with MY new reality. How can we enjoy all the great benefits that come from having the entire world at our fingertips, without forgetting to actually LIVE the moments we’ve got?
Can we share a meal without all putting our phones on the table, as if almost anything that might come through would be more important than what we are doing? Can we ignore the phone when it rings, or leave a text unanswered, to simply enjoy the company we're with? Can we check out at the grocery store without our phones, acknowledging the human on the other side of the counter and showing respect for the work they are doing for us? When did these things become normal and not rude?
Answer: they didn’t, they are still rude. Rude has simply become normal.
So this is my commitment to myself, and to my uncle, to maintain some semblance of balance in this online-based-business world of mine, to draw some lines and be plugged in less of the time. Because this state of constant multi-tasking is a choice we all make, and I know it’s up to me to do things differently...
But habits are hard to break, so maybe we can do it together?
I'm getting ready to launch my next challenge, directly inspired by my uncle and my own desire to be less plugged in. If you want to join me on my journey to unplugged-ness, sign up here to get daily emails for one week, sharing the simple steps I'm taking to unplug. And yes, I recognize the irony of an online-based “unplugging” challenge, which is why one of our first tasks will be to set boundaries around when we interact with our devices. Because after all, technology is a fantastic thing - I wouldn’t be talking to you right now without it! Let’s just be the ones who control our relationship with it, and not let it control us, shall we?
It's time to look up.
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