Happy New Year.
I took a short hiatus from writing this blog in order to just get away from my postings, enjoy the holidays and do some reflection. I have been studying Stoicism regularly for a while now and am in the midst of a 21 Day Stoicism Challenge, which will be the subject of another post.
But part of this challenge is to go 24 hours without any social media or email. You have to put away your cell phones, iPads etc. and take a "digital Sabbath," as it were. I am fairly prolific on social media as you know, and though I learned a long time ago to tame the email beast, I knew this was going to be a challenge. However, this past weekend, January 13-14, I took up the challenge.
The idea of this particular challenge is to a) Reveal how much time many of us spend on our mobile devices, surfing the net, doing FB, X (formerly Twitter) and IG postings, responding to emails, watching YouTube etc. You can do that by going to your phone settings and checking out your screen time usage (the image you see at the top of this post is an actual one of my iPhone and shows my own weekly screen time!) and, b) Letting you discover what other things you could be doing or focusing on when you don't have these devices and external stimulation bombarding you at all times.
I went from Saturday morning to Sunday morning. I turned off my mobile phones (yes, I have more than one - one Apple and one Android - call me a tech nerd) and iPad and put them away. Cold turkey. It was slightly disconcerting but part of the challenge was to focus on "being present" and enjoying the "now" of whatever you are doing. So often we find ourselves, on our devices, while talking to our spouses/friends/significant others, while the TV is on, checking social media, reading email, well, you get my drift. Our minds are constantly moving from one stimuli to another.
There was also a challenge in that I get communications from people, as you undoubtedly do, on social media as well as email. I let everyone know on FB that I would be doing this. But not everyone is going to get the message. There were times this weekend that if there was something that needed to get to me, people would send it to my wife Janice, and she relayed the message to me. But it had to be something that really needed to be answered right away, something important, not something frivolous. This kept the "second hand communication" to a minimum. It got funny too as for instance, when we wanted to order from Door Dash or Grub Hub, I normally do the ordering. So, I had to walk Janice in how to do this because I couldn't touch my mobile device. We got our food so it all worked out in the end :)
So, what did I find myself doing?
Well, I was certainly more focused on being "present." Without the distraction of my devices, I had more time for introspection. I promised myself at the beginning of the year that I would journal more as a way to capture what happened during the day and, for reflection and personal growth. I found more time to journal in earnest. I had more time for reading, for prayer, for studying Stoicism, for Bible study, for playing with our dog Kiku, for focusing on Janice and "really listen" to her with both ears and not just one ear (while the other is listening to something else)
Without the noise of social media, my mind also was more at peace. I didn't have to hear about Ukraine, Gaza, Republicans and Democrats, liberals vs conservatives, gossip which masks itself as the news media etc. I could tune all of this out. And it was glorious!
For 24 hours, I had the time to truly focus on what was important in life. And after a few hours of enjoying being present and focusing on the really important things in life, I didn't miss the mobile devices and social media at all. I knew they would all be there after my 24 hour challenge was up. I was still cold plunging, working out regularly so having this free time to reflect, truly communicate, journal, read, pray and think made it a wonderful (and painless) 24 hour challenge.
I actually didn't want to use my phone again even after the 24 hours was done but I eventually did and I am back online so to speak. but just as I tamed the email beast many years ago while at Microsoft, I am using the same methodology to tame the social media mobile device beast. I calendar my social media time now just as I do reading email. One hour before bedtime, I don't look at any mobile devices (this helps in your sleep as well.) I don't look at any devices for the first hour after I wake up. That time is for me, my wife, my God and Kiku. Prayer, cold plunge/shower, getting five minutes of morning sun to help your body's circadian rhythms, journaling, all take place before I look at my devices and start to read email etc.
I also limit my viewing news coverage. I unsubscribed to the myriad of "news alerts" I was getting. If I want to find out what is going on in the world, it is now a "pull" from me and not a "push" from the news sources. I am curating my own news and determine when I actually look at same.
The challenge was a great one for me. Taught me a lot. I plan to incorporate this "no devices for 24 hours" challenge monthly at a minimum going forward. This is now part of my personal improvement growth DNA forever. Give it a try and see how it works for you!