Post Updated on December 9, 2020
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott
Have you been doomscrolling at night, feeling overwhelmed by the news and everything that’s going on in the world? Even if it’s not that deep for you, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of endless scrolling due to boredom or procrastination.
Many of us are craving a way back into simpler times when technology didn’t rule our lives. The only problem is that unplugging might leave you feeling disconnected. Especially right now when many of us can’t see our friends and family, wanting to go offline might make you feel like an outsider.
The truth is that we all need healthy time away from social media and the internet. Ultimately, we need to figure out what we want to plug into instead. In this post, I’m sharing tips for how to unplug without feeling isolated or left out.
The Effects of Staying Plugged In
Plugging in affects your mindset
The internet can inspire you, help you make connections, and allow you to document your life to look back on someday. But it can also mess with your mindset and make you forget what real life looks like.
Being plugged in all the time has given us all a weird sense of reality. People now seem to post things for the sake of keeping up with an algorithm, rather than sharing what’s actually happening in their lives.
I often feel pressured to share my own life on social media, yet I struggle with this because I’m quite a private person. Sometimes I wonder if people from high school have forgotten about who I am because I’m never posting on social media. But then I think, ‘Who really cares?’ I’m not here to impress anybody.
I’m part of the generation that knows what things were like before social media, yet I’ve also grown up with it being a big part of my life. I remember having to wait until I got home from school so I could check Myspace and re-arrange my top 8. There was no way to check things on my phone back then. Distractions from social media didn’t even exist, and it didn’t have the same effect as it does now on my mindset.
Plugging in keeps you charged
Staying plugged in might be a way to keep ourselves charged in some way. We feel charged when we get likes from others, when we’re in on the latest drama, and when we learn new information. But is that the kind of charge we really need?
Being online all the time puts us at risk of living our entire lives through screens. You might think you’re close to other people (especially influencers and celebrities) because you follow their daily lives, but you don’t really know them. This can make you forget about what’s actually happening beyond the screens.
Though I’m conflicted in my thoughts on social media and the internet, I am certain that being mindful of the way you use them is the best way to approach things.
How To Unplug When You Need A Break
Awareness is key to making changes. If you can find healthy boundaries and set intentions with the time you spend online, you can make sure you don’t lose a sense of yourself. Here are my favorite tips and examples of ways to unplug:
1. Address your mindset
Wanting to unplug can make you feel like an outsider. When your friends are always on social media and don’t seem to notice their addiction to it, you might feel weird for not being as into it.
You might also start to create stories in your mind because you’re not as active on social media as others are. For example, I’m usually the last to respond in a group chat because I don’t have notifications on my phone.
Sometimes I worry my friends are going to think I don’t want to talk to them. This is a story I create in my mind. Can you imagine if my friends of ten years stopped talking to me because I was late to respond in the group chat? If they did, they weren’t my friends to begin with.
Some things to think about:
- What are you afraid of missing out on if you unplug?
- Do you fear that people will forget about you?
- Do you worry you’ll offend other people because you didn’t react to the meme you sent them?
- Will people not want to work with you because you didn’t respond to their DM?
Notice when these fears creep up. Question whether it’s part of a story you’re creating in your mind. When you realize these fears aren’t warranted, you can begin to let go of them.
Related Post: 5 Daily Habits For A Healthy Mindset
2. Set boundaries & intentions
Most of us can’t unplug from the world completely (and we don’t really want to). In that sense, it’s better to focus on being intentional with how you use technology, rather than trying to remove it from your life.
Here are some things to think about:
- What do you use different apps for? Is Facebook for connecting with family? YouTube for entertainment? Pinterest for inspiration?
- What do you WANT to use different apps for? If you can create separation between platforms, you can better avoid endless scrolling when you’re bored or frustrated. For example, if you’re in need of a mood-booster, you’ll know to go to TikTok instead of aimlessly scrolling through Facebook.
Curate your following list
The people you follow and listen to WILL have an impact on your mindset. The best way to be intentional with this is to curate your following list.
Here’s an exercise: Make a list right now of people you enjoy following. Do this from memory, without actually going on social media. You’re going to forget people and that’s okay. The ones that you remember are the ones to keep on your feed. Mute everyone else who’s not on that list.
Stop seeking out your triggers
As humans, we love drama. Sometimes we seek out drama to feel better about ourselves, and other times it’s to feel intense emotions (good or bad).
You probably know what your triggers are. To have a healthier relationship with social media, it’s important to be aware of your triggers and stop yourself before you seek them out.
For example, I gravitate towards the comment section of videos, especially when I know they’re going to be triggering. Instead of automatically going to the comment section, I’m learning to watch the video without reading the comments.
Also, stop visiting the profiles of people who you know are going to trigger you. That includes your ex and public figures you disagree with.
3. Create an unplugging system
The tricky thing about technology is that it’s created to be convenient and distracting. In order to unplug, you have to make it inconvenient to access apps and platforms.
Here are some ideas help you unplug:
- Delete social media apps on the weekend (Venetia La Manna does this with her #Offline48 challenge)
- Go offline one day a week (Tiffany Shlain talks about this in her book 24/6 which I wrote about here)
- Have someone else change your social media passwords until Friday (James Clear recommends this in his book Atomic Habits)
- Move social media apps to the last page on your phone screen
- Log out of all social media on your computer
- Put your phone in another room while you’re watching TV
- Turn off notifications for social media apps (I personally do this)
Of course, one of the hardest things about unplugging is setting expectations with other people. Let them know your boundaries. People may think it’s odd, but you might inspire them with your actions if they see it’s working for you.
Tell people that your phone is on ‘do not disturb’ mode, but they can call you if it’s a level 8 emergency. Tell them you’re taking Sundays to be offline and you won’t be checking emails. If you own a business and clients tend to DM you, set the expectation for them to email you instead of messaging you.
Setting these expectations will help everyone involved avoid miscommunication and unnecessary panic.
Plug into what matters
If we’re going to unplug, it’s important to plug into something that matters. When you unplug, you’re giving yourself permission to focus on the things you actually want to focus on.
Think about what you could do with the time you gain from not spending so much time online. You might choose to plug into your relationships, hobbies, health, self-care, etc.
“Unplugging is an act of separating ourselves from what doesn’t align with our values and our heart-centered desires.”Caroline Makepeace from yTravel Blog
My question to you: What do you want to plug into?
I hope this post has encouraged you to make unplugging part of your regular life. The way you use technology is ultimately going to determine your relationship with it. Most importantly, think about what you want to plug into so you have a reason to stay accountable.
Leave a comment below! What are your tips for unplugging?