Yes, I ventured into a space that many would fear going. I decided to go 24 hours without any devices. At first, it was off social media but then I opted to just not sit behind a computer at all. I took 24 hours off and I can tell you that I did not miss the devices at all. I was not even tempted to turn them on at all. I am here to tell you that I survived and not only survived but thrived!
Vancouver was hit hard by storms and there were massive power outages, I still had power so this was not because of the external circumstances like many had encountered. So where did this idea come from? Well, it goes back to teaching a class in organizational behaviour and our discussion on technology and how our lives are directed by them. I asked the class, “Who here will power down their phones at night?” Not surprisingly, most if not all say that they can’t turn their phones off. Why? Because they are afraid they might miss something. Then during final exams, I had to watch my class and I invigilated other classes to watch/supervise classes of students write their final exams. In big letters, it is written to turn off your cell phone and put them in their backpacks. I told the class three separate times to switch their phones off and to put them in their backpacks. Sure enough, either a phone goes off on their person or it vibrates in their backpack as their concerned friend continues to phone because they did not reply right away.
Sure, I can easily be occupied and consumed by the technology because of the commitments I hold but I feel that I have no issue just stepping away like I did the other day. For me, social media complements my persona but it is not my persona. I do realize that you can’t just walk away from commitments but I am sure that if someone really needed to reach me, there are ways to connect.
So what was it like to be without devices for 24 hours, well here is what I wound up doing:
• I worked out at the gym for an hour
• sewed a button on a shirt which I have not done in a long time and the shirt sat to the side until it was done
• read a Harvard Business Review article on leadership for a course I am teaching next week
• coloured with my son Ishaan and we talked about Starwars – colouring is therapeutic
• cleaned out my basement so that it is more organized. I shred documents and rearranged any piles so the space is more useable and functional
• read some of my grandmother’s letters that are almost 40 years old and they hold such significance because it is a glimpse and reminder of what my life was when I was in my teens
• read my journal from travels in India and about finding my roots and how much of a struggle that was which provided an appreciation for a story that I hold close
My realization is that I think our lives can be consumed by technology. Without dating my self, I grew up in a world without email, voice mail and internet. Those were simpler times where there was not the urgency that we hold today. Whether it is a phone, computer or tablet. We are inundated with information and distractions. I knew that for me, this would not have been a difficult challenge because I can walk away from distractions. Could I do this for a long period of time, for sure the answer is ‘no’ because I have many work commitments that I need to look after. You can not just walk away or ignore them because there are people who depend on you; however, you can take a break from the madness though and survive. Will food taste better or give you the confidence to jump from a plane?…probably not. What you will get is time that is always a precious commodity and be able to enjoy the gap with things you would like to do and actually acting on doing it. I think I will do a mental cleanse again some time in the future and live on the edge. How about you? Are you ready to power down?
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