‘Unplugging’ has, in recent years, become one of those buzzwords that pop up on blogs and in conversation. What does it mean and can it be helpful?
A recent blog post about an artist’s experience of ‘unplugging’ got me thinking about how much time we spend looking at screens instead of doing other things and why. The artist found that she was spending so much time online doing what she felt she had to do that she missed out on doing the things she wanted to do, and ended up feeling lost and unhappy. By choosing a different way, she challenged her beliefs about what she ‘should’ be doing, and became much more fulfilled.
Many of us spend several hours every day looking at our screens – both at work and in our personal lives. I am not saying that this is an objectively bad thing. For people who might otherwise be alone, electronic communication is important for wellbeing. Friendships between people who otherwise rarely (or never) meet in the ‘real world’ can flourish via social media.
However, use of phones and other devices can interfere with our lives just like in the case of the artist. ‘Unplugging’ is a deliberate choice to prevent this by switching off phones, tablets and computers to engage with ‘real’ life. This can be part of mindfulness practice – how many of us have eaten a meal without really tasting it (an unmindful experience), because we are looking at our phones?! Have you ever missed out on something because you have been looking at your phone? You might even be ‘addicted’ to your phone, as described in this article!
Unplugging can also help you to enjoy spending time with loved ones without missing what is happening. You might find you have more time to think, and to do so without being interrupted. Facebook can be a lot of fun and a great way to stay in touch, but it can also be a time-suck and lead to FoMO. We only usually see the ‘highlight reel’ of people’s lives on Facebook – the parts they want us to see. It is easy to believe that ‘everyone else’ has better lives than we do, as we look at our ‘behind the scenes’ and see our own ‘bloopers’.
It is also possible that screen use before bed could impact sleep cycles. Restful sleep is extremely important for both emotional and physical wellbeing, so unplugging a couple of hours before bed might be helpful.
You might find it useful to add up how much time you spend with electronic devices. How much of that time is spent doing things which are, in one way or another, actually helpful for you? If there is a difference between the timings then would you like to change that, and how?