The average American spends almost half their day staring at a screen and 3.2 hours a day on their mobile devices, which is equivalent to almost an entire day every week and 49 days in a year. It doesn’t take a genius or these crazy facts for you to know that we are addicted to our devices. We’re addicted to being plugged in and often times, plugged into multiple places at once. As you walk down the street, stand in an elevator, attend a concert or event, you’re surrounded by people with their heads down looking at their devices (and if their head is up they’re probably just taking photos or videos for their networks). This is now the world we live in. I get it and it’s pretty damn hard to escape it unless you’re 80 years old, retired and grew up reading the newspaper.
I know that I am one of those people that I mentioned above. In fact, I’ve made a career out of it as a social media and content marketing professional. Nine years ago when I started school, a career like mine didn’t even exist. In fact, it was hardly a thing when I graduated five years ago. I know my addiction to my devices and the online world is unhealthy but I also know everyone my age has an unhealthy addiction. We are obsessed with knowing everything people in our lives (and even not in our lives) are up to. We need to post photos of every cool thing we do, eat or see and we get gratification from people liking those photos. In fact, it’s been proven that social media releases a burst of dopamine which is created in parts of our brain and gives us pleasure and enjoyment.
But lets face it, my life is built around social media and being connected. I’m a blogger, a social media professional, and a millennial. So how do I take a break? Simply put, I can’t.
Recently I headed to Sigiriya, Sri Lanka to visit a retreat (Mahagedara Retreat) that invited me. I assumed that the retreat would have no internet given the nature of what it was and that it was in the middle of the jungle so I thought there was no better time to try and unplug. In fact, it would be quite easy to since I wouldn’t be able to connect even if I wanted too. Even though I soon learned I could buy a cheap SIM card at the airport and that the retreat actually did have WiFi, I still stuck to my guns. And you know what’s shocking? I survived. The world didn’t collapse because they couldn’t see my social media posts, photos and videos in real-time and shockingly everyone went on with their life as per usual. Hard to believe, right?
Surprisingly when I unplugged in Sri Lanka it was easy. When you’re in a beautiful country, learning about a new culture and having new adventures, you don’t really care as much about what you’re missing back home. In fact, within those few days I lived with my phone on airplane mode, I was very present in my life and current surroundings. I don’t even know if I’ve ever even felt that way for longer than an hour. I wouldn’t say it helped me “find myself” but I learned a lot and had some realizations.
I realized how much time is wasted behind a screen doing meaningless stuff. I mean, I like Instagram to share memories but do I need to scroll through it 15 times a day for hours? No. Instead of wasting my days away stuck inside on WiFi or trying to pick out the perfect photo to share, I was embracing Sri Lanka and the beautiful place I had the opportunity to stay in. I was taking time to “smell the roses” and allowed myself to regroup on what truly is important in my life. And let’s face it, my job and blogging falls pretty high up on that list. However, just because I work in social media doesn’t mean I need to go home and watch the 150 new Instagram stories people have posted or sit there scrolling endlessly until my vision gets blurry. And just because I blog doesn’t mean I need to post in real time every single thing I’m doing. Because the hard truth is that nobody gives a shit on if you post a photo on the exact day and time you experienced the memory or if you post it later on or when you return. I travel for myself and not the likes, retweets, fans (although I do love you). I travel because it genuinely makes me who I am and with or without the blog, followers, free trips and experiences, I would still travel.
Society has made us into people that are so eager to show how awesome our lives are. It has made us all into competitors and the contest is how great you can look on social media, how cool your life is. In reality, the world goes on with or without you. My blog could disappear from the interwebs tomorrow and likely it wouldn’t negatively affect anyone’s lives. It wouldn’t change the world.
The internet and technology has changed the way we live and the most part, for the better but it has also made us unable to live in the moment. We spend so much time multi-tasking on our devices. Whether it’s while watching TV, working or walking down the street, and it’s amazing what you begin to notice when you just put your phone away and focus on one thing.
Whether it’s in your every day life or on vacation, I encourage you to try unplugging even if it’s just for a day or a few hours. I promise, you’ll feel completely different about social media, the internet and this beautiful world we live in.