“I quit the Internet.” That’s what the world heard.
This week, the hilarious Louis C.K. was on Conan O’Brien‘s show tonight and he expressed (in his comedic way), why he walked away from the Internet to be a better parent. We all have the same feeling that Louis has. We will be talking to someone, and our smartphone will beep (or, worse, we will think of something else) and completely implode whatever connection is in front of us for some alert on our iPhones.
Don’t blame technology for our unhealthy relationship with our family, friends and coworkers.
I’ve written about this countless times before, but it bears repeating. How many notifications do you have set up in your life? Think about your smartphone. When does it notify you of anything? A call? A text message? A voicemail message? An update from Facebook? A direct message from Twitter? When you have a scheduled appointment? When someone would like to set-up an appointment? A notification that a meeting is about to happen? A warning that your flight may be delayed? An alert from your many messaging apps? What about your computer? A new email? An incoming Skype chat? A request to connect? A news alert? A nudge from your Apple Watch? A special price for that hotel you were hoping to stay at? The lists, pings rings, beeps, buzzers and more could go on and on. The enthusiasm that many people are expressing to create these digital bankruptcies and technology sabbaticals shore up to a bigger problem: finding a healthy balance in our lives.
How to take your life back (without making your daughter create an access code to your iPhone).
People are often shocked when they spend any amount of time with me in my protein form. My smartphone and laptop have zero notifications. Zero. There is only one notification set, and that is a customized vibration tone on my iPhone for when my spouse calls and/or texts me. That’s it. Otherwise, I look at my devices when I have a moment. Seems simple enough? It is. Over time (and I have been using these technology from very nascent stages), those who connect with me no longer have expectations of an immediate response. The goal is simple: never put yourself in Louis’ position, so that your life requires a moment to unplug. Instead of letting the technology and their notifications manage you, start managing your technology and notifications.
The results will stun you.
You won’t find me thumbing the iPhone while pushing my kids on the swing at the park, because there is nothing notifying me of any sort of message. So, unless I take a break on the park bench and decide to pick up the device on my own accord, I don’t have to play life judge and figure out if a text message is more important than the swing-set. This is key: notifications are ambiguous. They no longer tell you what’s important, they simply inform you that there is something new to look at. Like the Pavlovian creatures that we are, we just can’t help but take a peek at what the message could mean. Over time, this conditioning has jaded our judgment and confused the importance of our work. Many people attack the last message that came in rather than the important ones. Many people attack the messages that are quick to respond to and wait for more time in their day to attack to the ones that require more work. All of this isn’t technology’s fault. All of this is our fault, because we’re allowing the technology to manage us, instead of the other way around.
Take a break.
Instead of taking a break for any period of time, start deactivating your notifications. Agree that before you make a grab for any device, you will proactively define if what you’re doing in the here-and-now is more substantive than what may be on the digital screen in your pocket. See, if you unplug, you will eventually plug back in. What you’re plugging back into isn’t technology. You’re plugging back into bad habits. These habits were facilitated by how technology works, but they don’t have to be that way. The next time that you’re thinking about unplugging from it all, take a step back and ask yourself what, exactly, you’re unplugging from and how you can best manage the process?
Plug into what is most important in your life.