I think that at my 24 years of age, even if I’m busy with college or work, I spend at least 50% of my day -and night- on social media or my phone. I’m busy with not only those things, but also my 6 (!!!) email accounts and the 7 messaging applications that I have on my iPhone, among maaaany other distractions. If not on my phone, I have them on my iPad or computer. The point is, I’m always, always, connected. I love social media.
On the morning of December 31st, I had a little incident and my phone was stolen. Since the process in any of the Salvadoran cellphone companies is not the fastest, I went a month without a phone.
Everything was fine at first; it was even relaxing to not have to check my phone every 2 seconds for a message, tweet or “like” on instagram. A few days later, my mom gave me an ancient device of the 1900s so that I could “stay connected”. This little phone did not have an internet plan and I could only send text messages or make/receive calls. I call this cute little device “chicharrita”, or little cricket in english. Having this thing forced me to make the effort to call my friends and family when needed, and not to communicate digitally like I’m used to.
I think we all know that technology and social media can move you further apart from people instead of closer. Every day we depend more and more on our phones, and increasingly move away from the most primitive and effective way of communication: face-to-face conversation. We text instead of having a real conversation with someone and we miss so many little details of life by being glued to our phones.
Being “in-communicated” for all of January made me reassess the relationships in my life. It reminded me of those who made the effort to talk to me and those friends and family who think they’re in my life just because I got a comment on Facebook. It reminded me how nice it is to enjoy the company of my mom on a Sunday without having to check or answer messages every 30 seconds. It was that Sunday with my mom that I understood the unspoken rule in my house of no cellphones in the dinner table. I never had problems with that rule, but I didn’t like it either. It’s such a pleasure to have a real conversation. You learn so much with the facial expressions that we often miss by glancing sideways at our phone for half the time.
My advice? Everything in moderation. If you’re using your phone for work, set some limits. For example, no calls or emails on a Sunday or after 10pm on weeknights. Spend more time with your family. Make an effort to CALL that friend and not just send a message via whatsapp. I won’t lie or exaggerate and say that I spent 10 hours a day with my family and friends, or that I wasn’t on social media in January. But no lie, it was one of the most quiet, peaceful months I’ve had. My brain was disconnected and I had time to read a lot more than usual, and even see a couple of (entire) series that I hadn’t had time for in months. Like House of Cards (!!!!). PS, have you guys seen season two?!
Finally, another small suggestion. When I go out to dinner with friends between classes or after a long day, we have established the rule that we all have put our cellphones in the center of the table in a stack. We can’t touch or check our phones unless the call or message is from our parents or a real emergency. If someone breaks the rule, he or she has to pay the entire bill. Believe me, we’ve done it. It works like a charm in groups of friends. This allows us to have better conversations and quality time with people that you’re already making the time to see anyway.
I invite you to try these tips. You’ll be happier and more relaxed. A detox, however unintentional it was, served me well and is not bad from time to time.