For a while now, social media has been a huge part of my business and personal life. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family as well as to promote my business and the products/services offered. Heck I blog about it regularly and even speak of the benefits that social media brings to a military spouse and online small biz owner. I even focus on the importance of personal interaction and the need to step away from technology and social media to find joy and connection in your day to day life.
But the reality is I had personally never taken a break from technology. In fact prior to 10 days ago, my latest gadget, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5* was never far from sight since I integrated it into my life a few years ago. And my notification bar was ALWAYS filled with alerts from email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other application I could find. To say that my life had been taken over by technology was an understatement.
So, I decided to do a 10 day challenge and live unplugged from all things social to share my experience with you. I actually took myself off the grid for 10 days during a time when I would normally use my tech ALOT – at a business event and on vacation with the intention to prove that it wasn’t that hard. And I was wrong.
Was it hard? YES – more so than I ever imagined – and the adjustment didn’t happen overnight. But before I tell you about the experience I challenge you to live unplugged for 10 day and come back to tell me how it went. For me, the experience was downright miserable until it wasn’t – but that progress happened in phases and here are some highlights about what I learned….
Phase 1: The Detox
My husband had been focused on the fact that I ALWAYS had my phone on me, and if I’m honest, I did experience some anxiety when I ran to the store for milk and forgot my phone. I had even started to charge my phone bedside “just in case” but hey it’s just a phone, and I needed to be connected – I have an online business and kids that live away from home. At least that’s what I told myself. In fact in this case it’s so much easier to talk the talk than actually walk the walk.
Reality Check #1: Never did it occur to me that living life unplugged would be so difficult. For the first 24 hours I kept reaching for my phone. I can’t tell you how many times I glanced to the notifications bar fighting the urge to swipe and just take a peek. Honestly my inability to ignore the alerts got so bad that I physically had to go into the settings and turn off notifications from every single app and email address, literally making my device a flip-phone in disguise. It was only then that I was able to fully disconnect.
But the challenge had only just begun.
Phase 2: Life Without Tech
Once I had 36 hours “tech-free” under my belt I slowly began to see how integrated technology had become in my life. Everything from driving directions to hotel confirmation codes was tied to my device. Heck I remember a time when I could remember the phone numbers of most everyone I knew, and now choosing a perfect glass of wine became a discussion rather than a quick glance at my Vivino app to compare vintages. But it didn’t stop there.
Both at V-WISE and on vacation there were challenges that I hadn’t expected.
Typically when attending events I’m all about the hashtags, pictures and sharing awesome stuff with those who may not be with me. I find myself listening for the perfect sound bite that will resonate, stopping a great conversation to “capture” the selfie moment or worrying if I look fat in a picture as I take the time to craft a message and share it on twitter & Facebook. Here’s what I realized:
Reality Check #2: Those who follow me don’t need to be part of every event or experience the moment that it is happening. In fact by disconnecting myself from social media, I was better able to focus and get more from the experiences than I would have had I been worrying about sharing the advice/moment. Without the distraction of processing the information on the spot, the events more valuable to me personally. And in the case of V-WISE now that I have a better understanding of the material, I can use that knowledge to better serve my peeps long-term.
Reality Check #3: Without the constant stream of pictures, tags and instagram posts I wasn’t self-conscious about my life or what people might be thinking about how we spent our time. In fact I felt great about myself, my businesses and my relationships in a way that I hadn’t for a long time – without judgment. I was living in the moment without any distractions to make me feel bad about myself. I laughed, cried, was goofy and I cut loose without a care in the world – and let me tell you it was refreshing. Without the burden of social media I was free to be me, and enjoy my life rather than be worried about writing a witty hashtag or being stressed about what someone else may think. This experience taught me that
[Tweet “Social Media fails when we spend more time thinking abt a perfect caption than living the moment”]
Reality Check #4: One of the beliefs I had was that in order for my business to grow I had to be engaged ALL of the time. Truth – I need to get over myself – no one needs that much of Judy, not even me 🙂 ! Interestingly enough when looking at the effect of my time off, while my engagement on Facebook was down (only slightly) my blog numbers didn’t dip at all. Proof positive that no one REALLY cares or notices how many likes or retweets I get except me, and if I’m sharing good stuff the right peeps will follow and engage when it works for them!
And isn’t that what I want anyway – real, transparent interactions that lead to long-term followers/customers/clients?
Sure I need to be Judy like – which means you will still get Direction Moments and glimpses into my hectic and awesomely crazy life, but I’m beginning to understand that I also need to stop my love affair with social media. I need to end the inconsequential posts and countless hours trying to figure out if I have enough “stuff” on my feeds. I need to quit trying to understand the latest trick for how to gain likes and create a post that can “go viral”. All that kind of thinking does is make me crazy, stress me out and make me obsess about the numbers. Which is the opposite of a good thing.
Reality Check #5: Technology is convenient. I remember the days of trying to coordinate a meetup while at an event or on vacation without instant messenger, texting and Facebook groups. Hours were spent waiting and looking for each other. And let me tell you I did miss out on a few networking opportunities at the V-Wise event because I wasn’t on social media. The reality is that most people use social media as a primary way to communicate with one another and when you aren’t plugged in you do miss some things.
Phase 3: Reflections
There were times throughout these 10 days where I was shocked, disappointed and enlightened by the experience and I will say it has changed the way I will use social media and technology in my life from now on. No I won’t say that I’m sworn off of it, because the reality is that most people use social media as a primary way to communicate with one another and when you aren’t plugged in you do miss some things.
- A friends miracle baby being born.
- The initial news of the Paris attacks.
- Multiple meetups and information about where various groups were getting together to network and hangout.
- 3 opportunities for paid blog posts
- 2 last minute radio interviews
- Passing of the torch by founder Tara Crooks of Army Wife Network
- Multiple photo opportunities with long time friends and online business connections I FINALLY met in real life.
and that’s all I can remember off the top of my head…
But what I missed was irrelevant compared to what I gained in my life unplugged experience. I had forgotten what unfolds when you don’t have your head buried in your phone.
I laughed more than I have in years,
I connected with old friends, creating new memories and rekindled our friendships.
I made eye contact, met new people, and had meaningful and deep conversations about so many different things.
I was in the moment with my husband; focused on us and our experience rather than feeling the constant pull that I “should” be working or posting about what we were doing.
I was able to be still and relaxed in a way that doesn’t happen when you are plugged in.
The result of these 10 days was that I was fully present in every thing I did; at an event that taught me how to grow my businesses and on a vacation that recharged my battery in so many ways. Living life unplugged was challenging but it showed me where I need to make some big changes in my life and in my business so I can really thrive and be happy.
I didn’t realize that I had lost so much by allowing a tiny device to have so much control over my daily life and my actions, but now that I do, I can make the adjustment.
What about you?
Will you take the 10 day life unplugged challenge?
Let me know what your reality checks and aha moments are!
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com