“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” — Annie Dillard
The desire to be seen is nothing new. We come into this world with a need for belonging. What’s new is the means in which we are getting that need met.
It’s documented that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Partly for utility, but mostly out of habit. The reason being that the brain rewards us with powerful endorphins whenever we feel seen and loved.
Thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram we can receive our daily dose of warm fuzzies throughout the day. This is a good thing. The problem is the medium that brings us together has the potential to pull us apart.
A growing body of research suggests technology is hijacking our attention and compromising our ability to connect. Countless studies prove that we are in the middle of a “narcissism epidemic.” People are devoting a significant amount of time and energy into cultivating their social persona at the expense of investing in meaningful, real-time connection.
I get this is a complicated issue that we’re just understanding and I respect that there are multiple perspectives based on individual needs. Still, I worry. We live in an age of distraction that is quickly becoming the norm of our existence.
The body wasn’t designed for the abstractions of our electronic age. It hungers for moments of oneness. This is not a slam against social media. It just that these new forms of communication can’t fulfill our body’s craving for connection. Love requires us to be physically and emotionally present, which can only happen when we slow down.
But slowing down becomes a tall order when society baits us to speed through the day. Feeling pressured to accomplish, we multitask just to stay afloat. People are increasingly touching base through emails, texts and tweets that don’t require speaking — let alone seeing one another.
It’s as if our worth is determined by the sum total of our to-do lists, instead of the five closest people to us. It’s crazy-making. The minimalist lifestyle is an antidote to the cult of chaotic living. Instead of rushing to keep up with unrealistic expectations, we slow down in order to be fully present.
Like most people, I also struggle with slowing down. The following four strategies have helped me to unplug in order to focus on what truly matters:
1. Prioritize connection.
I never thought the day would come when I’d be scheduling a lunch date with a friend a month in advance, but that’s the reality of life. The key is quality one-on-one time with no distractions. That’s why I make it point to schedule time with friends and family. It’s all too easy to let the days slip by and before you know it, those days turn into weeks. By setting the intention to prioritize connection, I’m guaranteed quality time with those I love.
2. Go analog.
This one is a no-brainer. Once a week, try taking a digital sabbatical. Pick a doable day with minimal obligations and put a limit on the net. Set yourself up for success by starting small. Invite curiosity by seeing it as an experiment. Notice the impulse to distract. Sit with it. Better yet, pick up a notebook and journal or take a walk with your thoughts.
3. Rewind time.
For those of you old enough to remember life before devices, takes some time to reflect on what you did before the technology took over your life. What did you do for fun? How did you spend your days? When I was kid my mom and I would go “visiting.” Once a week we’d hop in the car and head over to a friend of the family’s. There was no agenda, other than hanging out. No snacks, no TV, no games. We’d just sit and talk. Today, the idea of visiting feels nostalgic — like a forgotten luxury of a time gone by.
4. Write letters.
Remember the joy of getting a letter in the mail? I do and still have a box of treasured favorites. Writing letters helps clarify thoughts. It’s a gift for both the giver and the receiver. I revived the lost art of lettering when my son was born. Six years later, I’m still writing to him. Every time I drop one in the mail, I wonder what kind of person he’ll be when he reads them. You never know what this precious life has in store for us. By taking the time to write letters, I’m able to appreciate this truth and, for a moment, savor a snapshot of life.