Do you bring your phone with you everywhere, including the bedroom and bathroom? Is your phone the last thing you see before falling asleep and the first thing you see as you crack open your eyes? Do you freak out when you can’t find it? Do you check your social media and email apps every hour, every few minutes, hitting refresh as though it were a reflex?
Do you feel extraordinarily bored when you don’t have your phone in your hands? Do you reach for your phone when you’re waiting in line, when you’re sitting on the bus or train, any time you have a few minutes, any time you’re alone or you feel uncomfortable? Do you find yourself scrolling your phone when you’re with your family, when you’re with your kids?
Then you might need a break. Then you might want to explore your relationship with technology, and perhaps start cultivating a different one. Maybe after some reflection, you delete social media apps from your phone or get off social media altogether. Maybe you stop carrying your phone with you from room to room.
Consider taking your break on National Day of Unplugging: “a 24-hour global respite from technology. It highlights the value of disconnecting from digital devices to connect with ourselves, our loved ones and our communities in real time.” Starting at sundown on March 9th, you put down your smartphone and don’t pick it back up until sundown on March 10th.
For the details, I interviewed Canadian spokesperson and author Christina Crook. Below, she shares all about the power of unplugging, why we can’t resist our phones, what can help us to unplug, what to do when we do unplug, and much, much more.
Q: Why is unplugging so important?
A: Disconnecting, unplugging, digital detox—call it what you like—these are just the beginning of forming new habits. By tuning out the noise, we open up space for silence and solitude. In quiet we better hear our deeper self, the place from which we can trust ourselves to make big life decisions and smaller daily choices that direct our lives. When we unplug we surrender our distractions and give our attention to the people and experiences right in front of us. We’re resetting our minds, values and intentions.
Q: Why do you think we have such a hard time not using and resisting our phones?
A: Because they’re designed to addict us. The newly founded Centre for Humane Tech tells us:
“There’s an invisible problem that’s affecting all of society.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google have produced amazing products that have benefited the world enormously. But these companies are also caught in a zero-sum race for our finite attention, which they need to make money. Constantly forced to outperform their competitors, they must use increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued. They point AI-driven news feeds, content, and notifications at our minds, continually learning how to hook us more deeply—from our own behavior.
Unfortunately, what’s best for capturing our attention isn’t best for our well-being:
Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, redefining how our children measure friendship.
Instagram glorifies the picture-perfect life, eroding our self worth.
Facebook segregates us into echo chambers, fragmenting our communities.
YouTube autoplays the next video within seconds, even if it eats into our sleep.”
Q: On the National Day of Unplugging and beyond, how do you suggest we stop our knee-jerk impulses to check our phones? In other words, can you share some practical tips for stopping phone use, especially when it’s become such a stubborn habit for so many of us.
Find a New Home for Your Phone. Most people park their phones in their bedroom overnight. Instead of using your phone as an alarm clock, purchase a cheap one and set up a new charging location in another room. End the day with at least an hour of screen-free time, and start the day the same. These are sacred moments that set the course for your day. Use them wisely.
Save Yourself from Push Notifications. The dings, pings and vibrations from your smartphone are killing you. Turn them off. Yes: Every. Single. One. Take back control of your life.
Identify What Matters Most. What things in your life sustain and move you most deeply? Chances are, they’re not online. Name these things, write them down, and commit to pursuing them with all your heart. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” says Annie Dillard. How we spend today is how we spend our life.
Q: What do you suggest people do on National Day of Unplugging instead of using their phones? How will you be spending that time?
A: I suggest you spend it with your best people doing something you love. I suggest visiting www.Artery.is and looking for a showcase to attend somewhere in your neighborhood. That’s what I’ll be doing! Artery is a brand-new startup that matches spaces and creators in the belief that “every space is a stage.” I’m good friends with one of the founders, fellow Torontonian, Salimah Ebrahim.
Q: After this day, how do you suggest people develop a healthier relationship with technology?
A: I suggest people sign up for Daily JOMO — playful prompts I’ve created to help you stay connected to the joys beyond your screen!
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday you’ll receive a JOMO Quest: Think awesome thing to do that’ll only take a few minutes and make your whole self sing; a JOMO KNOW: a fact you simply won’t believe you lived without knowing and a JOMO QUOTE: filled with wisdom from walking bundles of embodied joy (aka, smartypants folks who know how to live in the now.)
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A: All of us are drawn to the promise that technology will empower and simplify our lives, but increasingly we miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our devices, chronicling our every move on social media and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of silence that our earphones create. It’s hard to know when to stop.
If you recognize that in yourself—or your friends, families or colleagues—join us for the National Day of Unplugging and reconnect to the joys beyond your screen.
Christina Crook is the author of The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World and co-founder of Experience JOMO, and a proud supporter of National Day of Unplugging.