Living Offline: 5 Ways to Start the Journey

Big Tech Begs Better Boundaries...

Digital Baggage

Radio, Television, Computers, Video Games, and now the phone in your pocket… Society has struggled to find safe and reasonable boundaries at the forefront of each new media innovation since the pen. In the early ‘90s, anyone that watched TV for more than 4 hours a day would have been considered a real couch potato, now Americans spend over 10 hours a day interacting with a screen -- and the problems that behavior is creating are undeniable. The overuse of technology disrupts sleep, increases anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, reduces productivity and disrupts relationships.

In response to growing awareness of these challenges, the concept of living offline and engaging in tech detox is growing and spawning new communities committed to reconnection with real life social networks. Millennials, who once lived and breathed social media, are deactivating their social media profiles altogether, shutting down their Tinders, Bumbles, and OKCupids, and heading out into the real world to be with real people in real space. Those who are still active online experience social media in a different way: a quick scroll through Facebook timelines shows a huge decrease daily updates and an increase in advertising - after all, Facebook is really a business to business company - i.e. they’re selling attention that users are willingly giving away for free; but that story’s for a different post.

The re-emergence of the tech detox movement hasn’t gone unnoticed by the tech giants themselves. In 2018, Apple introduced Screen Time - a feature enabling users to set a limit to their screen usage for various apps, and schedule downtime away from their screens.

With this increased desire to re-start living offline and re-incorporate our real life surroundings into our field of vision, we explore some simple ways you can start having less screen time, more green time!

1. Use a watch and an analog alarm clock

Waking up to the sound of your phone, snoozing your alarm on your all makes you more likely to start your day scrolling, rather than properly waking up and starting your day.. Waking up the old fashioned way can prevent you from putting your phone in your hand first thing in the morning. This way, you can have your coffee, do your morning rituals, and THEN go about checking your messages on YOUR time.

Our devices have become the time-tellers in our lives and it’s a leaky boundary. Every time you look at the clock on your phone, you’re opening yourself to any other alerts and sneaky attention grabbing tactics that are nearly impossible to ignore. Think about it: It’s your desire to “just check what time it is” up against unlimited budgets dedicated to engineers and social psychologists tasked with capturing your attention.

In 2019, Deloitte reported that Americans check their smartphones an average of 52 times a day. How much of this is even voluntary? A classic wristwatch will reduce the need to check your phone and reduce the distractions it brings.

2. Consider a device-free commute

That small window of downtime between the office and home can be a real golden opening for calm. Look out the window and find a tree, read a book, close your eyes and notice your breath! The emails you’re answering on your ride home can probably wait until tomorrow. Notice if you’re breathing right now. Are you? Did you just take a deep breath? 10:1 you did.

3. Cultivate Conversation

Whether you’re out for decadent dining, having take out pizza, or enjoying a home cooked meal, revive the art of conversation at your dinner table with a device fast. We all know that person who doesn’t get off their phone at dinner; don’t be that person! Make it fun by introducing penalties for diners who look at their phones (you get to buy dessert!), or have a ‘phone jail’ box in the middle of the table.

4. Embrace a tech-free bedroom

Our devices emit a blue light which negatively impacts your body’s natural ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin helps moderate your awake/sleep cycle, and reduced levels of melatonin in your body makes it harder to both fall and stay asleep. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone and sleep soundly! If you can’t manage that or want to ease in, consider a 30 minute screen break before bed. Whatever you decide you can do, reducing exposure to that blue light will net positive for restful sleep.

5. Cap your screen time

You don’t eat unlimited burritos, you stop after one pint of Ben and Jerry’s, and you eventually hung up the phone even if the hangup was preceded by repeated choruses of “No, you hang up first…” Why not create some boundaries with your smartphone?

In addition to Apple devices having Screen Time to offer a reasonable frame on your usage, there are tons of apps out there to do the same across all your technology. Ginger Wednesday is a big advocate of Moment - an app designed to bring mindfulness around the way you interact with your phone.

Even just turning off notifications can help you check your device on your own terms. You can check your messages when it will serve you to do so… not because the phone in your pocket is telling you to do so.

Gradually take back control of your attention by scheduling limits on your daily screen time and you will feel the mental and physical benefits.

Just activating these strategies will draw attention to your habits. It’s not about never using your phone again, it’s just about relating to your tech in a conscious way!

Camp Wonderful is about connecting to ourselves, each other, and our environment and we believe a great way to get a taste of this is to leave technology behind! We'll safely store your phones, computers, mp3 players, and TI-82 graphing calculators. With these things outside of arm's reach, we can better focus on real talk, real thought, real music, and real math (just kidding, we can make a giant abacus for that).

Julie McCullagh