When I was in my early twenties, I would get excited upon walking into my apartment and seeing the red flashing light on my answering machine. Who could it be? At the time, I didn’t have a cell phone and frankly, I didn’t want one. Why would I want a buzzing phone in my pocket all day?

If my memory serves me correctly, I think my sister and I bought a computer before we purchased cell phones. It seemed like the more practical move. I remember signing up for this thing called AOL.  An electronic mail box. Say what?! On a good day, I would log on and hear “You’ve got mail,” and giddiness would ensue.

Then in the early 2000s, everyone and their mother was hyped about this thing called Facebook. And I distinctly remember thinking, don’t you people have jobs? Who has time to be on Facebook all day? I was a public school teacher at the time and I was pretty much shut off from the rest of the world during school hours. Although, I was able to check my messages, I chose not to because I had important work to do. Duh!

Fast forward 10 years and I now have all of this communication ability in the palm of my hand. Welcome to my new normal.

OMG, I have 5 new likes on my FB page. They like me..They really like me!

Why hasn’t ____ replied to the email I sent 10 seconds ago?

What’s the WiFi password here?

Should I take my iPad or my iPhone into the bathroom with me?Decisions, decisions!

Unlike my younger, and apparently wiser self, I have eschewed my non-negotiable “do not disturb” hours. I am now one of those people that I used to make fun of. Ouch! Is this really happening?

At least, I’m not on Twitter and Instagram… but, I want to be. I find it quite fascinating how we attempt to rationalize our social media and tech vices by creating a self-placating hierarchy. My husband, for example (sorry honey), refuses to get a smartphone. This is hilarious when you consider that he’s pursuing a PhD in computer science! He has a Facebook account that sits idle and his email inbox could use some attention. Yet, right now he’s on his tablet probably perusing reddit or watching endless YouTube videos. No judgment here. I’m itching to grab my iPad.

Sigh, I really don’t like how this feels. It’s like I’m regressing by using the latest technologies. How’s that for a conundrum?

If I’m honest with myself, this is a path that I have chosen. When I allow myself to bounce from emails to Facebook notifications to Google chats, I’m chasing instant gratification and allowing my ego to run wild. And when I really pay attention, I can identify when the urge to check social media arises. I’m usually feeling stressed or I’m avoiding something that I should be doing. No bueno. Time to reign it in. On the flipside, I know that when I shut everything off, I am really fucking productive. Pardon my language. But it’s true. I surprise myself sometimes.

Clearly, I need to set boundaries for my work and creative time and define my intentions for social media. Hence, several important questions require my attention.

How can I best connect with family and friends that are across the globe?

How do I build an online presence if I’m not online all the time?

What would mindful internet use look and feel like for me?

To be honest, I haven’t completely sorted this stuff out. However, I will hold myself accountable to the following while I attempt to restore balance:

  • Check email at specific times (after breakfast and after lunch).
  • Set “do not disturb” hours (after breakfast until lunchtime). During those hours, I will work without checking email, facebook, etc., and use the internet for research or specific work purposes only.
  • Set a timer and shut off all devices one hour before bedtime.

This list may likely evolve but I think it’s a sensible place to begin. I commit to writing a follow up post next month to share my experiences. I know this “experiment” will certainly present some challenges but I am looking forward to reclaiming my precious time by any means necessary!

I’m curious to hear about your experiences. Are you aware of the amount of time that you spend checking mail or social media notifications? Do you have “do not disturb” hours? Does the thought of it scare the crap out of you?

I’ll leave you with a simple yoga pose that will serve to give you a break from your devices. In my experience, it’s one of those poses that quickly allows you to really let go. To begin, turn off your phone! Then kick off your shoes, put your legs up wall, breathe, and watch the mind stuff go by.

Peace & Love,

Grace

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