These days we are more ‘connected’ than ever. Connected to our jobs 24/7 through emails, phone calls, and texts, and in touch with far-away friends and relatives through face time, skype, and social media. It is such an amazing time for keeping in touch and sharing with those we love. However the constant connectedness often leaves us feeling tethered to our desks and our responsibilities, and pressured to portray the picture-perfect life online.
We talk a lot about the connections we make on the trail. Connections with our hiking partners, with nature, and with ourselves. I find such a sense of satisfaction and relief when I’m out hiking as a result of being disconnected from technology. There is no cell service or Wi-Fi in the backcountry, and that kind of forced-unplugging allows me to focus on my surroundings, the sights and sounds of nature and the meaningful conversation with my group members, instead of being distracted by the pull of social media and what I may be “missing out on” at home. Being truly present with my surroundings and the people that I’m with gives me such pleasure. I always come out of these week-long tech detoxes with a fresh mindset, feeling renewed, relaxed and connected in more significant ways.
Of course, in my regular day to day life I could certainly do a single day, or even week long digital detox now and then, even when I’m not in the backcountry. So why does it always seem so hard? I don’t feel like I’m addicted to my phone, but it definitely is a regular part of my day. Appointment reminders, notes, news, playlists, photos, recipes, countless “how to…” google searches, and of course, social media. It’s too easy, and it’s always accessible. It becomes second nature to reach for the phone to find an answer instead of doing some critical thinking and asking questions, or to fill any down time by logging in to an app instead of just appreciating a quiet moment alone.
Beyond the practical purposes that our pocket computers serve, the social media side of this era can leave us with paradoxical feelings of inspiration, and inadequacy. In my experience I feel that I benefit greatly from apps like Instagram which - based on the accounts that I follow – provide me with an endless source of helpful information like parenting support, book recommendations, recipes and art. I try my best to un-follow and avoid accounts that promote perfection and unattainable self-images, but it’s hard not to fall victim to the trap and start comparing yourself to those who seem to have it all.
I’ve noticed myself slipping lately, falling into habits of mindless scrolling, killing precious time that could be used more productively on house work, cooking, exercising, or most importantly actually connecting with my loved ones. Since I’ve noticed these dependent behaviors creeping in, I’ve implemented a couple rules for myself to limit my monotonous screen time; No phones in the bedroom (even for an alarm clock), and no phone use from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, this is family time and should be spent reconnecting after a day’s work, preparing a family meal, playing, and winding down for the night. It is a far cry from total avoidance, but for a few hours each day the distraction is out of sight - out of mind, and the truth is, I don’t miss it when it’s gone.
I crave that feeling I have when I’m unplugged in nature, entranced and absorbed in my surroundings, and having meaningful thought provoking conversations. I long for the feeling of embracing the moment, not worrying about what anyone else, anywhere else is thinking or doing. Each time I feel myself slipping I try to imagine sitting on the beach after a long day of hiking, staring out at the sunset and feeling complete and utter wholeness, and then I try to harness a little bit of that sensation and bring it home to the here and now.
"There’s no Wi-Fi in the Forest, But I Promise You’ll Find a Better Connection" - Unknown