How I survived (and thrived) 33 hours offline

I unplugged, and plugged in to what matters most. (image from nourish.lifecoaching.com)

Perhaps the headline is a bit dramatic, but it would make a great TV drama, don’t you think? We’re so connected to our online networks (and I think that’s a good thing), that we often can’t imagine what we would do if we couldn’t log in. No Facebook notifications, no Twitter mentions, no Google Plus…whatever. I’m just not that into Google Plus. Yesterday, I chose to log out of all social networks, and I actually didn’t venture online at all. At 10ish Saturday night, I logged out, and didn’t log in until just a few minutes ago (8 a.m. Central on Monday morning). I had 10 Facebook notifications, 2 inbox messages, and 4 Twitter mentions. And my blog traffic? Ha! The lowest it’s ever been. Loooowest. 

So what was it like being disconnected?  It was kind of nice. My laptop has some sort of invisible string connected to my brain, pulling me in when I have a particularly clever thought. But when that string was cut (or at least untied), my thoughts started to shift. My mind was forced to stay in the present, and not condense a particularly noteworthy moment into a 140 character tweet. When status updates would pop into my mind, I would force them out. It was hard keeping my experiences to myself. I’m hardwired to share and share and then share some more. Don’t get me wrong. I love social media, and I’ve benefited tremendously both in my professional and personal lives. But the self discipline was good for me.  It was refreshing. And come next Sunday, I’ll do it again.

Some things I observed:

1. You have to make time for God no matter what obstacles you face. While I was hoping for more “quality time” with God during this disconnected Sunday, I found that the day-to-day in-person distractions are enough to keep me from my devotions (chasing kids back and forth to the nursery during church, the kittens spilling my hot coffee on my preschooler when I sat down with my Bible). Unplugging was helpful, but it wasn’t enough. Changes in my worldly habits are no match for a spiritual overhaul, a dramatic change in how I interact with God. But I’m glad that I know now what I need to do.

2. Social media is not what’s keeping me from my housework. Sure. Not Facebooking or Tweeting freed up a little more time, but my house still looked the same at the end of the day. Foolishly, I thought my new-found freedom would allow me to tackle a few chores, but my kids had other plans. As any parent knows, while you’re cleaning room A, they’re destroying room B. And so it goes. But, I did find time to do other things. I made homemade chicken noodle soup in bread bowls, I played fetch with the dog and brushed her coat for nearly half an hour (she needed it, badly) and I successfully transitioned my baby into a toddler bed. (That’s a whole ‘nother post.)

3. I actually did focus on my kids more. I feel confident that I pay my children an adequate amount of attention during the day, but I did notice a change when I wasn’t logged in to an outside world. Although I felt compelled to publicly document some funny (and some stressful) moments, I kept them to myself. And it felt nice. Kind of like our little secret. (Until I blog about it later this week.) I love my children passionately, and anything that helps us forge a stronger bond is a good thing.

4. It was hard for me, and that’s precisely why I needed to do it. Yesterday, it wasn’t as if I had to pry my fingers off my laptop, or keep it under lock and key. But social media is so ingrained in my nature, that it was more like breaking a habit. I had to constantly remind myself, “you aren’t supposed to do that today.” I didn’t have an internal dialog back and forth, and I wasn’t even all that tempted to log in. But if you think this is something you could never do, then you probably need to do it the most. You’d be amazed at how much heavy social media use actually changes your thought process. Force yourself to unplug for just one day, and see for yourself.

I’m definitely going to make this “Social Free Sunday” part of my life. It will help me to grow as a person, and as a parent. I would love it if you’d join me. And if you think you won’t be able to find enough willpower, you can try a program like Freedom, that locks you out of the internet for a small fee. Or, you can just shut down your laptop, only pick up your phone if it rings, and enjoy freedom, for free.

…………

Bonus: I shared my story about “Social Free Sundays” with Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama, an online movement for parents to disconnect from their devices and connect with their children (thanks to my friend Sarah for connecting us). Here’s what she had to say:

What a beautiful blog you have and the post you shared is so valuable! When I began taking entire Saturdays to “unplug,” my life changed. Instead of focusing on what other people were doing or what things I needed to get accomplished, I was able to be present with the people who mean the most. I especially loved your last line: “I’m logging out tomorrow, in order to fully log in to what matters most, my family.” Brilliant and inspiring! Thank you for taking time to share! 

If you’re intrigued by the thought of how putting down your devices can affect your parenting, I highly encourage you to check out Rachel’s blog (and movement). With each child, you only get one chance to get this parenthood thing right, so we owe it to ourselves and our children to do the best we can.

 

 

4 Responses to How I survived (and thrived) 33 hours offline

  1. Mia says:

    I admire you for following your dreams and sharing them with us these past few months. Plus, I look forward to that email each morning when I open my eyes and check my phone for something interesting that happened while I was sleeping – it’s usually the email about your newest blog post that catches my eye.

  2. Wow! I love your follow-up post! I am amazed at how similar our revelations were about having a weekend day unplugged! By unplugging from technology for a significant amount of time, It becomes clear how these digital distractions sabotage our time, our focus, and our energy. These were the two revelations I made after my first weekend unplugged:

    – I realized just how much “daily distraction” makes its way into my home, into my thoughts, into my happiness, and into my life through my cell phone and my computer.

    – I also fully realized how daily distraction has a sneaky way of stealing time, that precious rare commodity that once we lose, we never regain. Every time I get on to check email, Facebook, or search the Internet, suddenly a large chunk of time is gone. Is that really how I want to spend my precious family time?

    Below is the link to the entire post, if you would like to read it. It was written April 2011 and that was changing point in my life. I now take Saturdays or Sundays (or both) to be completely unplugged. It actually fuels my writing by enabling me to focus on what TRULY matters in my life.

    I Had It All: http://www.handsfreemama.com/2011/04/01/i-had-it-all/

    Thank you for the lovely mention of my blog in this powerful post! It has been a true blessing to connect with you and read your inspiring insights.

    • cpoland says:

      I loved that post! And yes, so many things in common. Thank you so much for the movement you’ve created, and for encouraging others to unplug. Keep up the good work!

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