Where is your phone right now? Within arms reach? Thought so.
Don't worry, I'm guilty of it too. Mine is currently in my lap - something I am becoming more and more conscious of. The sad truth is that in today's society, our phone is an appendage, attached to us at all times.
Think about your day. How many of you cannot cross the street without looking at your phone? How many of you continuously try to reload your Instagram feed on the subway, even though you know you'll never have enough service? How many of you keep your phone in your lapor on the table when you're out to eat, just so you can always be readily available, just in case?
The unfortunate answer is probably most of us. We live in a world where we always feel the need to stay connected. What's even worse about this? It's expected. You're expected to be readily available. To answer the first time someone calls. To immediately Snap someone back. To be able to find any information you want at the palm of your hands. Social interaction in its true form becomes less and less necessary with every new iOS update. To put it into perspective, the average smartphone user checks his or her phone about every 6 1/2 minutes - that's around 150 times a day. Scary, right? Talk about dependent..
So what happens when we cut that cord? When we finally decide to disconnect? I'll tell you what happens. We experience the world around us.
This week, I decided to celebrate the gorgeous weather by doing some work at Central Park. As crazy as it sounds considering I've lived my entire life in South Jersey, this was only my second time there. Ever. I was completely blown away by the fact that there could be so much nature and so much to experience within the concrete city I had been getting to know these past few weeks. I'm sure many of you reading this have been there and can agree on its beauty. However, how many of you have been there completely disconnected? For those of you who haven't, I strongly urge you to go with no electronics (Okay, maybe just your Kindle.)
And here's why:
My first hour or so in the Park, I found a nice little bench in the shade (helloooo 80 degree weather!) and worked on my laptop. I tethered my phone so that I could work on the blog. Being the crazy OCD-planner that I am, I also made sure to google if there were any hot spots with wifi the Park. Fun fact - there are!
Realizing I wouldn't have too much juice on my phone if I tethered for very long, I packed up and moved to the Reservoir.
It was absolutely gorgeous and made it extremely hard to concentrate when all I wanted to do was take as many pictures and send as many snapchats as possible. I sat next to a young couple who were observing a man taking a selfie in front of us and were commenting about how no one needs social interactions anymore - we have our phones instead. They brought up the fact that back in the day (aka a few years ago) you actually had to go up to strangers and ask them to take a picture for you. They continued saying that the only place left where you are forced to interact is the subway - at least in NYC... for now. Without cell service underground, you actually have to talk to people to get directions.
While I'm sure this dead zone drives many people crazy in our world of instant gratification and constant cell service, it made me stop and appreciate it. As someone who falls into the category above of effortlessly trying to refresh my news feeds underground, the conversation of the men next to me made me realize how dependent we have become on our technologies.
Even at that very moment, I had both my cell phone and computer in my lap literally tethering my laptop so I could continue to be connected in the middle of Central Park. I was Exhibit A.
So what did I do? Packed everything up and went to the Great Lawn. I let my phone die with a few percent battery left, shut down my computer, and opened my book. It was the most relaxed and happy I had felt since being in the park. As someone who has been struggling with the need to accomplish things and check off my To-Do lists, I finally took some time to myself. And it was the best thing I could've done.
I had no agenda and no distractions. I read in the shade for about an hour and just enjoyed my surroundings. It's incredible how much more we can take in and appreciate about our world if we actually take the time to experience it.
Of course, it also helped that I am currently reading Thrive.
Arianna Huffington is a huge advocate of disconnecting. Comparing her turned-off phone to a binky she writes about weening herself off of technology and taking "email vacations." She also stresses the importance of meditation, prayer, mindfulness, yoga, and contemplation - especially when in nature. Coincidentally, I just happened to read the following quote while I was enjoying my complete disconnection on the Great Lawn:
"To fully experience the world around us, we first have to be able to free ourselves from the distractions that are constantly begging for our attention...We walk the city texting and talking and listening to music on our smartphones, disconnected from those around us and from ourselves.. In trying to lessen the hold of technology on our lives, we need all the help we can get."
- Arianna Huffington, Thrive
She continues with great examples of Thoreau, studies from the University of Washington, Ohio State, University of Essex, and more to show just how crippling our dependence on technology has become. Her overall message, though, is to just take that time to disconnect for ourselves. There are studies upon studies about the power of meditation, mindfulness, prayer, and just being aware of the moment you are in. Disconnecting from our devices, even for five minutes, allows us to reconnect with ourselves.
So my new challenge for myself, and for all of you, is to just start small and take those 5-10 minutes a day for yourself. Whether it's during your commute to work, the first few minutes after waking up, or a much-needed break throughout the day - take time to step away from it all and reconnect.
Cut the cord. I promise you, it's worth it.
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