DIGITAL DETACHMENT: These are paradoxical times we live in. As we continue to drift farther and farther apart from people who matter to us, we keep getting more and more ensnared in all the non-human entanglements of today’s world. While we have no time to catch up for a cup of coffee with our closest friends, our friend list on Facebook and Twitter keeps increasing! Indeed, we are well into the digital age, and while man has always wanted to be the master of his Universe, he increasingly finds himself a slave of his gadgets.
So how do we deal with this overload – of information, of e-mail notifications, or calendar reminders, of WhatsApp group messages, of smses …… the list is endless. I am in no way against the digital revolution! On the contrary, I am quite a gadget and technology freak myself. I think all the tools that technology provides go a long way in helping us lead a fulfilling life, provided we know how to utilize them!
And therein lies the catch. It is so easy to get hooked to all our digital extensions, that without our realizing it, we become slaves to them, rather than remaining their masters. The challenge is in continuing to retain our power, our free will and now allow ourselves to be driven by technology. So every time your phone beeps to tell you that there is a WhatsApp message, or a new mail notification, you don’t need to drop whatever it is that you are doing and attend to it. Most of us, by now, have already become slaves of technology. So how do we reverse this pattern? How do we go about reclaiming our power from these innocent looking devices? Here are a few steps that will help you do so:
Go for a Digital Detox: This is the latest buzz-word. In simple words, digital detox means taking a complete break from technology. How do we do it? There are many ways. Go for a holiday with your family, and leave all your gadgets behind, including your mobile phone. Especially your mobile phone! Go for a 10-day Vipassana meditation, or a naturopathy course, where the pre-requisite is no gadgets. Go for a trek in the Himalayas, where there is no network. Whatever you opt for, the idea is to practice self-discipline and stay away, physically and mentally, from your devices.
Build a System of Responding to Messages: Set up a system that works best for you. So for instance, tell yourself that you will look at messages on your phone only every one hour, you will respond to mails every morning and evening, rather than every time a mail pops into your mailbox, or you will access Facebook only once every two days. Whatever works best for you. Don’t make drastic changes, go slow. The idea, again, to build in self-discipline and teach your mind the art of delaying gratification.
Practice Breathwork: One of the best ways to to disconnect and reconnect to yourself is to engage in some kind of breathwork. You can choose whatever works best for you – yoga, meditation, brahma vidya, art of living kriya, vipassana, mindfulness – there are many breathwork techniques and practices, you can choose what suits you or appeals to you the most. While ideally, you should do this at a set time in the day, if your schedule does not permit that, no worries. Do it whenever and wherever you can – in the lift, in the car or train, while waiting for a meeting to commence, while standing in a queue. All those times which you use fingering your phone needlessly, practice breathwork in those times. It will give you a quick-fix of alertness and quietude.
Get out of Virtual Life, and Get into Real Life! Connect to your friends in real time, not on Facebook. Spend more time with your family and less on your phone or computer. Instead of sending a happy birthday message to a relative, pick up that phone and actually talk to the person. See the difference it makes in your relationships, and in the amount of satisfaction you derive from your human interactions rather than focusing only on virtual interactions.
Remember, Technology is to Help you Connect, not Disconnect from Others: At every opportunity, remind yourself, and others, that technology was created to help you connect better and more efficiently to other human beings. Whether it was the phone, the e-mail, or any of the social media platforms, they were to help you make connections and join the missing dots. NOT to distance yourself from people that matter the most to you.
Slow Down! Relax. Every day does not, and I repeat, does not, have to be a race against time. It doesn’t matter what high profile job you are into, what responsibilities you have at home or at work, learn to set your own pace. Sure, there will be emergency situations that call for quick action. But for the most part, learn to stay in control. Stay in charge. Everything does not have to be solved right here, right now. There is a time and place for everything, and as long as you move along with the flow of life, things unfold beautifully. This one is the most difficult and the most challenging of all, yet, if you learn to do it, you will be amazed at how much it sets you free.
Have a Screen-Free Weekend at Home: Plan a weekend at home with kids where all of you go screen-free. That means no phones, no computers, no I-pads or tablets, and no TV. Initially, you will feel stuck as you slowly realize how much of your entertainment is screen-dependent. But slowly, you will come to realize that there are so many fun things you can do together as a family – play board games, play carom or dumb charades, just talk to each other, rest and relax, go to the beach, or simply laze around.
The more you start doing these things, the more you will be able to handle the avalanche of digital data and information that keeps coming your way 24/7. Instead of getting overwhelmed by this digital overload, you will be able to allow yourself to focus on things that really matter. So go ahead, make a beginning, and get yourself out of this paradox of connecting virtually and disconnecting in reality.