Event Profs: It’s Time to Unplug
I’m a big fan of experiences, but I have to admit that sometimes I don’t enjoy them to the full extent. A lot of times my experiences are clouded by constant interruptions from notifications, pulling my attention away into my screen. Sometimes, I get pulled in so deep that the experiences don’t happen at all. Some nights I waste my time in front of my television WHILE scrolling through my phone at the same time (as if seven episodes of Gilmore Girls aren’t enough mental stimulation). My point is, we all have a hard time unplugging.
It’s amazing to see what happens when you unplug for a day. Allow me to paint a picture for you. It’s Saturday morning, I wake up to the sound of my alarm and head downstairs. Normally, I attempt to make some fancy breakfast food I found on Pinterest and my husband and I watch TV together while cleaning but not this Saturday. Today, I am going to unplug. I went 24 hours without looking at an electronic screen. Here’s what I learned:
Take Back Your Time
Typically, I feel like I never have enough time in the day. I feel like there are so many things I want to do, but my excuse is always “I have no time.” On my day of unplugging, I found out that I actually have a lot of time. My day of unplugging was full of moments where I would finish a task and say to myself “Well, now what?”. It was incredible. How much time do you spend aimlessly scrolling on your phone? The average American spends 10 hours a day in front of a screen—computers, video games, smartphones, tablets, etc. Imagine if you took all those hours, minutes, and seconds you spent looking at memes or binge watching Netflix and used them to learn a new skill or check out that local band you keep hearing about instead. Take back your time by getting rid of what I like to call your “filler phone.” “Filler phone” is used to take up the empty space in your life. It fills the empty space when we have nothing to do (or think there’s nothing to do). It fills the silence when we’re around people we don’t necessarily know. Fill your time with experiences and relationships instead of mindless screen time. There are so many events happening in our own communities and things to do.
Pics or It Didn’t Happen?
There’s an old saying that goes “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I feel like I experienced a version of this on my day of unplugging. My husband and I went to a play that night with some of our friends. It was a fantastic play and a great night, but my phone never made its debut.
I didn’t get to take pictures of my food before I started eating. I didn’t take a picture of my husband and I standing in the same pose we always are in all our other pictures. I didn’t post anything with the hashtag #datenight.
So the question is, did it really happen? If my followers don’t see it, and I didn’t get to prove it to them, was it worth it? My answer is a resounding YES! The chicken alfredo I ate was STILL delicious even though I didn’t post a picture of it. It was even more delicious because it didn’t have time to get cold as I thought of some witty caption for my post. My husband and I still had a great night at the play. We were still just as happy spending time with our friends and probably even more so because our phones weren’t there to distract us from each other’s companies. The experience was greater.
Come to find out, I use technology for a lot of things in my life that I didn’t realize. Remember how I said I usually made some crazy Pinterest breakfast recipe on Saturday mornings? It’s hard to look up a Pinterest recipe when you aren’t allowed to use your phone, computer, or tablet. I was determined to keep the tradition alive, so I climbed on my counter to reach the top shelf and pulled out a cookbook my mom had given me a few years ago. After shaking off the dust of having never used a cookbook before, I searched for a breakfast recipe to make. Using the cookbook was really refreshing.
On Pinterest, if you look up “Breakfast ideas” you’ll find thousands of pins. Most mornings it would take me 5 to 10 minutes of searching through pins, trying to decide what to make. Information overload. Too many choices. When I looked through the cookbook, my options were somewhat limited, making the decision-making process much shorter and just as delicious.
When it came time to go to the play that night, we realized that we didn’t know how to get to the theater. I cheated a little and used my smartphone to call the theatre and ask for their address. Luckily, most of Utah is set up like a grid with north and south based streets, so we made it there, but I am not sure if it was the fastest way to get there. However, on the drive we got to see neighborhoods that we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to see.
At dinner, I was trying to tell our friends about a movie that had Rami Malek in it, but they were confused as they had never heard of the movie and didn’t know who that was. “Come on guys, the dude in Until Dawn!” Still puzzled looks. Normally, this is when I would pull out my phone and visit my ol’ pal IMDB, but not tonight. So instead, I just let it go and we switched topics. It made me really frustrated that I couldn’t validate myself and get them to know who I was talking about, but when I stepped back and looked at the situation, I couldn’t figure out why it mattered to me. It was just a movie. He was just an actor. I felt like the instant access to information that my phone supplies somehow made me more powerful and right. When I didn’t have the information at my fingertips, I felt almost as if my ego had been bruised because I couldn’t reassure myself (and everyone else) that I was right. It was disheartening to find out how much I used my cellphone as a crutch in just one day.
You’re Missing Out
There’s a whole world out there waiting for you to experience it. So many of us spend our days with our faces glued to our screens. We seldom leave the comfort of our living rooms except when we absolutely have to. When we’re out with friends, many of us still have a hard time putting our phones down.
On my day of unplugging, I saw what I was missing out on. Everything was really clear. I was able to focus all my attention on tasks I was trying to accomplish and the people who were physically with me. I was able to experience time with my S/O, my friends, and the play that I went to that night while feeling all the different emotions that came with those experiences. I feel like the times when I allow my screens to distract me, I don’t notice things. My mind is cloudy, and my attention is divided into a million pieces.
There’s something about a real life experience that fills you up and makes you feel whole. It fills the void for the human connection that I think we are all searching for and that’s not something you can get from scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed or binge watching your favorite show for hours on end. It’s not the same type of happiness. This day of unplugging showed me that we not only need to get out and do something but also that while we’re out there, we should be all there. Put down your phones and go do something!
The greatest thing I learned from unplugging is that there is a feeling of freedom that I don’t allow myself to experience. When I spend too much time in front of a screen, my mind is filled with unimportant junk and it makes me feel heavy. I know it sounds crazy, but on my day of unplugging I felt lighter. I felt like I was thinking more clearly and I was thinking about things that actually mattered. I felt creative and happy and overall… FREE. It felt good to not be chained to my phone. It felt good to not have to succumb to every notification that pinged me throughout the day. It felt good to not have all the answers for once and to risk getting lost in our own city. Physically I felt better as well. I typically get headaches with sharp pain behind my eyes. It worsens when I look at a screen too long. Once I get the headache, it doesn’t go away. When I unplugged from my screens I also unplugged from my headaches. They were totally absent that day and when I lay my head on my pillow that night I got a great night sleep. I didn’t lay in bed and scroll through my social media for an hour and a half. The whole day was liberating.
Our devices are so much a part of our lifestyles. In those 24 hours, I felt like I was going through withdrawal, but my day of unplugging was so enlightening that I encourage all of your to try it! You don’t have to go a whole day, but maybe just try a night where instead of scrolling through your social media, you go out to an event with friends. Try going to a concert where your goal is to enjoy the music rather than posting a rad video on your social media. Find out how freeing unplugging can really be. Experiences are greater!