This past week, as part of a birthday gift to my boyfriend, he and I went camping with my dad and youngest brother. We spent two days and one night at the campground that my family has gone to my whole life. It is a location that I love, and I was extremely excited to share it with him. As part of camping, and being present to enjoy the experience, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb for 48 hours and had it properly off for 24. I have not been that disconnected from social media, or my phone in general, since middle school. And it felt amazing.
Normally, I am on my phone constantly. I could be watching a show or working on this blog. Even when I’m out to dinner at some point I will check my phone. Sometimes it is just to respond to a text or to upload a photo, other times I cannot even tell you why I feel the need to check but I do. I cannot remember the last time I even turned my phone off overnight; most likely sometime back in middle school, before I was as invested in being connected. Spending two full days completely disconnected felt wonderful. I got a lot of reading done, something that I have been trying to do more this year. And I got to enjoy the nature trail, the beach, and the environment in general without double checking to make sure that my phone was safe and nearby or checking on posts and messages frequently.
My boyfriend loves to be in the moment and, although I try, I am not as good at it as he is. In the back of my mind, I am thinking about whether I should be taking photos or posting to document the moment instead of simply living in it and enjoying it. But while I was out camping I did not think about that once. Instead, I enjoyed the experience. I got to show my boyfriend my favorite parts of this campground. We walked along the beach, saw a seal and an otter, watched the sunset, made s’mores, looked at the stars (for fifteen minutes before the clouds moved in), and enjoyed our time together.
I love that I can easily stay connected with my friends, that I can share photos and blog posts with the touch of a button, and that I can catch up on news all from one device that fits into my pocket. But using that device and those social media networks gets addicting and it is so easy to let them take over and control your life. Taking some time once in a while to unplug is crucial. I already try to set boundaries when it comes to emails; I check them in the morning and I am available to answer them between 8:30 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. I limit them to those hours because I am adamant about maintaining a work/life balance. But I am not as good at limiting my use of the things that I do for fun; primarily social media.
I came back from this camping trip refreshed. I actually did not want to turn my phone back on, believe it or not. My boyfriend even commented that he had never seen me take this much time away from my phone without wanting to check it. That pressure to be constantly connected; or to have that “Insta-worthy” life is very draining, and I loved having my phone off and not checking anything at all. I did not feel that pressure once during the camping. Instead, I was able to relax and enjoy the time I had.
This trip reminded me that I need to unplug more often. In order to do that, I am going to start to limit my screen time. Two hours a day max for social media during the week and a one-hour max for games. During the weekend, it is an hour and a half hour maximum, respectively. If I find that those time amounts offer more than I use, I will lower the limit. Also, I will not be on those apps between 9:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. I hope that by restricting the hours that I go on these apps and how much time I can spend on them, I will spend more time enjoying the moment, or at least doing productive things in my downtime like reading instead of scrolling. My goal is to not be on my phone much during the weekend; I want that time to unplug and recharge so that I am ready for the week ahead. I know I am not the only person who wants to limit her screen time and her social media use; what techniques do you use?