If over half a decade of unplugging has taught me anything, it is that unplugging is the easiest part of, well, unplugging. Just walk away from the screen. Through years of trial and terror, err, error, I have learned a few lessons on how to spend a day offline.
First thing first: Out of sight, out of mind. I recently unplugged for a day, and while it is very nice to unplug as part of a collective effort to disassociate, oops, disconnect, from the digital noise, you can unplug for a 24-hour period, or longer, and shorter, at any time of the week, of the month. It’s good practice in digital wellbeing.
So, turn off all devices and put them away; deep in your closet, packed away in a box, or my all time favorite, put it in a plastic bag and wrap it with an ungodly amount of tape. Trust me, the shame you feel every time you consider un-taping that monster will invoke enough self-disgust at your own weakness for— one needing to go to such lengths to unplug, and two to still feel the need to plug back into dear tech pacifiers— that you simply won’t even bother.
Which leads to the second, and this is the most important, part. Get a fucking life, or in a more gentle sense, make a list of things you can do offline for a 24-hour period. If you spend most of your day online, and do very little things offline, this is going to hurt; mostly psychologically, but it could also lead to physical discomfort as well. There is a lot of time available to you once you unplug. Time becomes infinite. You must do something with all that time.
So, start with the question: What would I do if I had a full day unplugged? Pretend you have no choice in the matter; the internet servers went down, or Mark Zuckerberg wants to punish us for a day so he shut down Facebook and Instagram. Whatever. What would you do for a day if you had no access to the internet and your digital devices? Make a note of what comes to mind and do those things. For me, I would read a book, go for a long walk, do chores around the house, and most importantly, try to sit still.
Which brings us to another important, maybe the second most important, point: pay attention. When you unplug, your attention becomes yours. Your attention belongs to you, and you have to do something with it. I say, lean into the moment, and pay attention to your attention. What do you notice? Do you feel a certain discomfort? Is it boredom? Fear of missing out? Are you feeling lonely? Pay attention and reflect. It’s okay if it feels uncomfortable. I try to think of it as my brain reorienting itself to a different way of being, but it’s not a bad thing or something that needs to be fixed. It just requires getting used to. In any case, you can always turn your phone back on.
Lastly, do not bullshit yourself, and do not overcomplicate it.
Some people (your own internal dialogue) ask, what if I am at the store and accidently looked at the security camera screen? Does that count as a digital activity? The sink is leaking, can I look up how to fix leaking sink on Google or would that ruin the challenge? And, oh my mom died, can I still call my family? I hope you do. It’s not all or nothing as much as it is, if you can fully unplug for a whole day, how would you spend your day, and what can you learn about your relationship to the digital world by taking a break from it?
My favorite thing about unplugging for a full day, or more, is how easily I adapt into the daily grind without the internet. I simply do. When there is nothing other than what is in my immediate reality to distract myself with, I naturally immerse myself into what is around me; a kitchen that needs to be cleaned, a book I have been meaning to finish, the garden that needs to be tend to, and so on. Living flows without the interruption of the digital world, and it is lovely.
It can be scary to step away from what has become routine, comfort, stability. You remove the blanket, and realize it is a cold lonely world. So what? You can choose knowingly. Maybe you like being online; it beats the alternative. Or, you realize it is not too bad to unplug, to be left alone to your surroundings, without the noise and gaze of the digital space, and you prefer it that way. In any case, it’s good to know why you do what you do.
Until next time,
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