7 Lessons From Unplugging

We all have different ways that we refresh. My ideal is always sunshine, a stack of books and some water close by. For me, getting some new thoughts, ideas or inspiration is refreshing.

One of the books I read earlier this summer was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. A few friends posted about reading it (kind of ironic that I learned about the book from digital platforms…) and really enjoyed it. One of the things the author challenges and encourages his readers to do is go through a 30 day “digital declutter.”

So, starting August 1st, I decided to give it a try.

This isn’t because I think social media is evil or bad (although is does seem to create a perfect environment for some toxic behavior that seems to be quickly justified). Social media has been a blessing in many ways. In fact, some of you are reading this because it was posted on social media. Social media isn’t an enemy – being consumed, addicted, or driven by its seeming necessity is what we should avoid.

For me, the exercise of a 30 day digital declutter has been an opportunity to evaluate what is truly valuable and important — something that I believe all of us should do from time to time.

With that in mind, I have been learning some things.

Here are 7 lessons I’ve learned from unplugging these past number of weeks.

The people around you notice your presence, or the lack there of

Not all of us have kids. I do. They notice. They watch. They repeat what they see. Next time you’re at Starbucks standing in line, take a moment to put your phone in your pocket and look around at what people are doing. They are on their devices – scrolling, checking, looking — switching apps and then switching back to see if they missed anything. Your spouse, co-workers, friends, kids, parents and your Uber driver all notice your presence or the lack there of.

Not everything needs your attention

There are many things that simply do not need your time, energy, emotions or attention – no matter how urgent they may appear on social media. Phone calls still work. Face to face appointments still work. Not everything that shows up in your feed or your timeline requires your attention.

Real connection is valuable

I love that fact that through Instagram or Twitter that I have been able to stay connected to so many friends and family. But receiving a double tapped heart on one of my photos from my sister who lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is no comparison to actually getting a hug and talking over coffee. I’m glad Instagram is an option to keep up – but I would take real connection 10 out of 10 times.

Life keeps on moving forward

i know that there is so much that I have “missed out on” these past few weeks. Here is the crazy thing though: life keeps moving forward. If you set out to disconnect for a little time, don’t make your goal to be a snob or to be a disinterested friend. But here is what you will quickly realize: the sun still comes up and the world continues to spin, even when you do not login.

It is easy to be at peace when you are stewarding your life, not measuring your life’s worth by what you see

Maybe your trap is comparison – which always kills. Maybe you suffer from FOMO and you realize once again you got left out. Maybe you loved your new outfit, until you saw one that looked better… Peace is a byproduct of stewarding well what has been entrusted to you. Peace is never found in being consumed with a life that isn’t yours.

You can live life without having to document it for people to see

We all have those moments where we think: “Man, I need to share this with EVERYONE!” It is fun to share moments and memories that are near and dear to us. The problem comes when we have a need for our moments to be needed. The trap that can lead all of us into is that we begin to measure our moments by likes instead of just measuring our moments by the moment themselves.

Free Tip: Document what you will actually want to remember…this probably doesn’t include your nicely cropped dinner plate.

It is easier to be engaged when you’re not consumed with notifications

Be engaged in the moment. At home, at work, with friends, with family, in nature… the list goes on and on. Engage with where you are at, who you are with and what you are doing. Turn off the notifications. Don’t keep going to the app to see how many new likes there are — in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.

To be clear, I am a fan of social media and some of the things that it has brought to our lives. I am not a fan of some of the things it has done to us as a culture, as families or even within the faith community. What used to take effort and an intentional conversation can now just be sent as a post and an opinion. People used to go on vacation, take picture and then develop them later to show the memories with friends and families. Enjoying the moment was never in competition with sharing the memory. If it has been a while since you have “unplugged” I challenge you to give it a try. It is good for my soul. I know it will be good for yours as well.

  1. Thanks, Tyler, this is really important and a good reminder. My three young teen grandkids are coming over to spend the weekend and I am going to be very mindful about putting my phone away to interact with them while they are here. I find that it can be addictive to keep checking your texts/social media sites, etc. and I remember we all used to live fine without seeing/hearing everything going on in everyone else’s lives! 🙂

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