Friday, April 28, 2017

Unplug or Prioritize? How I Handle Technoise



Technoise is all around us.  From the three to seven types of social media that each average person has, to the fact that you can shop for almost anything on Amazon now, this is the Computer Age, and the Internet dominates our lives.  It is the century of the smartphone and tablet, when you can carry your entire social life and work/student life in your pocket.  Between Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, your friends and family can stay updated on every second of your life... almost literally.  Children of ten have smartphones and children of 6 have Kindles.  New technology comes out every year; just the other day I saw news that two separate companies are attempting to make Star Trek tricorders a reality.  *nerd cheering*

This has created a very different society from that of our parents and grandparents, and even from when some of us were younger.  (Those of you born in the late 80s - early 90s know what I'm talking about.)  With all of this technoise hovering in a cloud wherever we are, it can be a challenge to remain grounded and in tune with other people and with ourselves.  The Unplug Mentality says that the only way to return to a simpler lifestyle and reconnect with people and ourselves is to get away from it all by completely disconnecting from devices/the internet for a time.

I'd like to offer an alternative perspective.

You don't have to completely disconnect in order to take a break.  Often prioritizing will accomplish the same thing.  Set limits and then stick to them.  Make reasonable goals.  Reward yourself if you meet your goals and deprive yourself of something if you don't reach them because of procrastination.  Life happens and often schedules go awry because of circumstances out of our control.  But procrastination and distraction are things we can control.  If you were looking forward to reading a new book but spent 20 minutes surfing the web for no reason, then don't allow yourself to read the book until the next day, or take 20 minutes out of your usual reading time.

I'm an introvert.  I need my private time.  I need time away from everyone except for a tiny handful of people.  (Literally.  I can count them on the fingers of one hand.)  Yet much of my life right now uses my computer and/or the internet.  I've had to evolve coping methods and set limits to try to achieve a balance, because otherwise I'm worn out all the time and summoning energy when I need it is hard.

At times, I go several days without answering messages because I can only handle so much people time in one day and Facebook/gmail chatting with people drains me almost as much as face-to-face interaction.  (Exceptions: my best friends or if a message preview indicates that someone is having a rough day and needs me.)  I'm trying to stay off Facebook one day a week (usually Sunday), though I'll still use gmail chat if I need to communicate with a close friend.  Some nights I stay offline for an extra half an hour after supper and just read.  Some mornings I take an extra half hour or an hour to be around my family before logging online.  On Saturdays I don't usually go online until noon.  I've been working on logging off of Facebook between 9 and 9:30 every night and unless I'm expecting an important message, need to check on someone, or I'm highly energized after my shower, I don't go back on until the next morning.  I use that time to exercise, read, write, watch an episode of a TV show/drama, or plan schedules. 

I'm a high-focus person.  I can concentrate through almost anything, but like most people, the less distractions I have, the better I work.  If I'm working on a blog post for my writing blog, I won't answer messages from anyone except my best friends.  If I'm editing, critiquing, or writing, I often work in bursts of 20-30 minutes of focus and then 5-10 minutes of checking social media or reading blogs.  On the rare times when I have to absolutely focus on only one thing, I mute all my email and social media browser tabs and ignore my phone... but rarely for longer than one hour at a time.  People need breaks to keep them fresh.  (Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm extremely bad at taking breaks but I'm trying to learn.)

As regards my writing, I often set word limits, particularly during NaNo or an intense push on a project.  I won't log onto Facebook in the mornings until I have 1000 words written.  (This doesn't take as long as you might think, about 30-45 minutes when I'm in the groove).

One of my best friends has chosen to stay off Facebook all day on Sundays.  She'll still access Instagram, Tumblr, email, and sometimes Pinterest, but she stays off Facebook.  This gives her a break from people in general and allows her to relax.  During the week, the two of us often 'work together' where we'll go for half an hour just quietly working on our own projects with the occasional comment.  This allows us to spend time together and accomplish things at the same time.

Face-to-face (or chat-to-chat) interaction is important.  For some people it's less of a necessity than for others.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it's a good idea to set limits for yourself.  Sometimes, you do just need to take a whole day or two off.  I've done that before, too, though in general I prefer not to. 

I'm a long way from feeling truly balanced, but this is a strategy that has me on the right road.  I hope you found it helpful, and if you didn't, then I hope you do find something that works for you.

This is not a reflection on anyone or an attack on anyone else's perspective.  I understand that many people feel like their break has to be unplugging or going offline for a week or even a weekend at a time.  I'm merely presenting an alternative perspective.  (Not alternative facts, though, I'll leave that to Ms. Conway.)


Best wishes to you in discovering your balance of technoise and communication vs. peace and harmony!

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