Picture it. There I was, floundering in a haze, desperately trying to make an early morning meeting. I grabbed my purse on my sprint down the hall, stepped into the most available pair of shoes, nearly tripping over the cat on my way out. Short on breath, I bolted for the streetcar and just in time, crammed my body through its doors. Then I reached into my purse for the fare, and it hit me: I forgot my phone. Panic! Being this late, I had no choice but to keep moving, but it was hard to ignore my brain yelling Retreat, woman! For God’s sake, retreat!
The idea of being completely out of touch with the world—if even for a moment—made me break into a sweat of perimenoupasal proportions. My smart phone is everything. I don’t even wear a watch anymore, so I’d be lost all day long. And what if I missed an important call? Or that email I’d been waiting for finally appeared and was forced to sit unanswered in my inbox?
The worst part of it all was that there was nothing I could do about it, short of messing up the entire day. It’s only when you don’t have something that you realize how vital it is. Running my own business, I consider the outside world my lifeline and losing touch with it makes me feel, well, inadequate.
Then, after I stopped berating myself and subconsciously reaching for my missing phone, I realized something. Somehow, I was feeling less scattered and more present. Everything that was happening around me was suddenly interesting now that I was noticing it. So I did something I hadn’t done in years. I engaged in some good old fashioned people watching on the streetcar. I made up stories for each of them, imagining who they were and what they were up to, and it was fun. Remember doing that? Walking to my meeting, I noticed how sunny it was when I actually felt the warmth on my skin. When it was over, I had nowhere to check what was next, no stress to add to a virtual to-do list. I was right there where I was meant to be, living in the moment.
Which got me thinking. What else am I missing when I’m tethered to my personal handheld device? Well, a lot. Let me know if you agree.
UNPLUG TIME: 5 AREAS OF MY LIFE THAT TECHNOLOGY MADE WORSE
1. Conversations. Full-on conversations always end better when I’m face to face—especially with my man. I ask you this: How many times have you been misunderstood because you were arguing over text and forgot the right emoji? Relationships are hard enough without the inevitable miscommunication that happens via technology. The fact is, no emoticon, exclamation mark or use of capital letters can ever express what I mean or how I’m really feeling because with technology, there’s no tone or context. What I’m trying to say always comes across better in person.
2. Entertainment. Sure, nowadays I can google just about anything. But why spend my day creating my own virtual entertainment when I can get out and experience the world in 3D? What happened to using my imagination to get me thinking about new perspectives and possibilities? When I’m bored, I can pick myself up and go check out a museum or art gallery. I can read a wonderful new book, or go for a walk or hang out with a friend. Newsflash: I can get off my butt and actually do something other than poke about on my phone.
3. Special Occasions. As cute as an electronic animated greeting card may be, it’s almost too easy to send those out. The fact is, there isn’t much thought behind a card I can email to all of my contacts, marking every special occasion with an automated signature. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there’s something about the personal touch of a hand-written note that feels more genuine. And seeing a card tucked in with all the bills and junk mail? It’s a guaranteed smile in the making.
4. Relaxation. We’re all attached to our TVs and computers all the time. While Netflix definitely has its place—seen any of these sleeper hits?—I try not to forget to spoil myself with a night in sans screens. Imagine this: I’ve poured a glass of chilled wine, cooked a fabulous meal or even better, ordered in. I turn on some music and flip through a trashy magazine. I do my nails nails. Experiment with that new makeup technique I’ve been meaning to try out forever now. I meditate or take a relaxing bath complete with candles, wine, a good book and some music. More often than not, when I’m watching TV, the time disappears faster than I’d like and can leave me wondering where it went.
5. Sex. What if I switched off my ringer, clicked off the TV and stowed the laptop when I got into bed? Think about it. The last thing I need to worry about when I’m getting it on is a request from my boss. Ask yourself this: If your sex life is waning, could it have something to do with the fact that you’re nodding off during SNL instead of being intimate with your special someone? Why would I whine about work stress when all my partner can think about is me in a hot little red number? I’m convinced that since I’ve made intimacy about just being with my partner, present in the moment and distraction-free, I’ve changed my relationship forever.