Don't Take A Technology Sabbatical

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How long can you go without your smartphone?

Let’s be candid. Very candid. My smartphone has the same impact on me, personally, like my blankie did when I was a toddler. I simply don’t feel safe without it. I feel empty. I feel scared. I didn’t want to go anywhere without it. I am not alone. You may think that this is not a healthy place to be, but let me explain.

Without my smartphone I don’t…

  • Know the phone numbers of the people that matter most to me. I don’t. I can’t remember them. I inputed those numbers once (well over a decade ago), and I simply don’t know them by heart.
  • Have immediate access to my banking services. Do you know your bank account numbers, etc…?
  • Have my calendar on hand to see what’s happening next in my day… week… month.
  • Know when people’s Birthdays and Anniversaries are (including my own!).
  • Know my travel plans (airline tickets, car services, hotels and more).
  • Have instant connections to family, friends, clients and others (messaging apps!).
  • Really know how to get from here to there (I am terrible without directions and can’t read a traditional map to save my life).

My smartphone is my safety blanket.

In 2001, I worked at a company that specialized in content for mobile devices. Yes, 14 years ago. Do you know what mobile devices looked like then? There were no apps, there wasn’t even the mobile Web browser yet. No ringtones. Cell phone carriers had these “decks” with text-based/simple content plays. Back then, one of the company’s co-founders (the awesome Andy Nulman) used to say that mobile phones will soon become the remote controls for our lives. Andy was right. Andy was wrong. In no time at all, our smartphones did become the remote controls for our personal lives. Lately, these smartphones are becoming the remotes that allow us to control the world. Yes, they now allow us to control our world. Don’t believe me? Need a car? Need some food? Need a private jet? Need a place to think and work? Need someone to do something for you on the cheap? It’s real. it’s here. 

We have become so reliant on our technology that we can’t live, work and play without it.

You have seen the the constant stream of news, articles and reports on just how unhealthy our relationship and reliance on technology has become. The New York Times just published an article titled, Could You Block Your Mobile Phone? How’s this for a piece of data: 35% of people wake up, and the first thing that they reach for is their smartphone. Only 10% of us reach for our significant others. You tell me, which one is providing us with more comfort? You may have also been exposed to the countless studies that demonstrate how bad sleeping habits are only magnified by our use of smartphones prior to bed (or, even worse, using them when we wake up in the middle of the night). The New York Times article also focuses on a hotel in Germany that has a bedside switch that allows guests to completely disconnect from our digital world by, literally, blocking all signals.

This summer, many of my friends are taking a technology sabbatical.

They’re doing things as varied as not going on Facebook for a few months, refusing to use email for a length of time, or completely going off the grid to work on a project. I can’t do it. It’s not for me. It’s not that I am afraid to leave the comforts of my safety blankie, it’s that I have never felt that stuck and sick of technology. I have a technique that I have always deployed when it comes to technology. It’s actually, less of a technique and more of a philosophy. Here it is…

I don’t let technology manage me. I manage my technology.

What does this mean? It could be a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, but the first thing that I do – across the board – is mute everything. From the overall sound of the device to notifications on every applications or piece of software. Everything. On my mobile device, the only time that it buzzes (yes, vibrate only) is when it is my spouse and a very select number of family, friends and work colleagues. This way, there is never any disruption. I have a lot of emails, but I could not tell you how many I have, or when they come in. The second phase of managing your technology, is making it a destination (and not something that comes to you). I only know how many emails I have, when I open up that application. I don’t even have the number count that likes to hover over the application icons (remember: disable everything). 

If you don’t want to be disturbed by technology, you have to manage it and not let it manage you.

One day, I will probably get an Apple Watch. But not today. After evaluating it, my sentiment was that the most powerful functionality of the watch is that it delivers alerts to your wrist. More alerts. I’m not looking for more alerts. I am searching for more time to focus on what matters most. When the watch can become something more than a glorified alert mechanism, I will be all over it. The issue with people feeling so overwhelmed by all of this technology saddens me. Personally, I don’t need a break from technology, because I’m only engaging in it, when I proactively need to. I don’t need to leave the iPhone away from my bed, because it is my alarm clock. But, before I set that alarm – every night – I also hit that little half-moon icon, and set it all to “Do Not Disturb.”

The truth is that you will never need a sabbatical from technology, if you simply start taking control back from notifications and alerts.