Have you ever sat solo in a bustling New York City restaurant, swiveling a glass of red, observing the uncomfortable assortment of dates and family dinners around you? I have. And I always observe the same things. Zombie parents, furrowed brows peeking over steaming bowls of soup to catch a glimpse of intrusive, fluorescent screens. Businessmen in hypnotic trances, hunched painfully in their iPhones. Awkward dates managing their anxieties with apologetic but none-too-sorry grabs for incoming emails.
For a hub of human activity, it all feels quite impersonal, and painfully disconnected. Of course, my own phone is currently burning a hole in my pocket, where I've buried it on a mission to sit stoically with myself and recoup my energies from an intense work day.
Constant digital connectivity is actually contributing to our feelings of loneliness, social isolation and depression by lowering our IRL interactions. While we consult with our devices to find our dates, buy our groceries and plan our vacations, we are isolating ourselves more than ever. Maybe it's time we acknowledged that this is a broken model of basic human functionality.
Seventeen percent of consumers made reducing screen time one of their top five priorities in 2018. And 55 percent of vacationers say they want to disconnect from technology during their travels.
According to the American Psychological Association, 53 percent of Americans work on the weekend, 52 percent work outside of designated work hours, and 54 percent work when home sick. That means outside the confines of our contracts, we are still somehow enslaved to an endless work shift that has eliminated natural breaks and blurs any personal time and space.
The devices we are glued to have multiples layers of metrification and alerts that are both distracting and appealing. We have them sewn into our clothes, strapped around our heads, arms and hands, and positioned them at every twist and turn in our homes. They send rewarding dopamine surges through our brains, building up habitual behavior and causing us to compulsively check our phones. They provide us with virtually unlimited supplies of social stimuli, and therefore, we are expected to be on at all times, too. Choice overload and constant connectivity are slowly draining us of our ability to think and bond without interference.
Technology is a neutral, albeit powerful tool. I am not here to slander it, but I am here to say you have permission to power off. Your mind, body and soul desperately need that disconnection to stay happy, healthy and productive.
We were not created the way phones were, able to exert energy and stay lit up for weeks at a time with an occasional charge. We were created as complex, feeling, creating, human beings and we need space, time and quiet to recharge.
When was the last time you took your shoes off and sat in the grass? Or touched real-world dirt with your touchscreen-adept fingers? When was the last time you had dinner with your S.O. and both of your phones were powered off? Meaning no mindless scrolls through social media feeds in the lull before the drink menus arrive or extended bathroom breaks for flipping through emails. When was your phone completely shut down?
I aim to do it every week for 25 hours. You read that right—25 hours.
I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home, and celebrating Shabbat on Saturdays has been ingrained in my DNA since I was a little frizzy-haired kid eating kosher bags of lemon candies on a cracked cement stoop.
"What do you do, though?!" I get asked this all the time. Well, I'll tell you.
I sleep in. Sometimes, it lasts for an impressive 15 hours. I join in incredible community meals with dozens of friends and neighbors for wine, loaves of delicious challah bread, interesting potluck dishes and deep philosophical conversations that happen in real time. We play games. We sing. We take long walks in the sun, wind and rain. We don't bring our phones.
Saturdays have become the day that restores balance for the week. It is the intentional pause from technology that allows me to reconnect with myself and listen to what my mind, body and soul really need. I know I can't stay on all the time. And that's OK. The first step is to acknowledge this:
1) You have permission to power off, unapologetically, and reset in order to power back on even stronger.
2) You have permission to institute boundaries that maintain personal wellness. Disconnecting from the constant hum of virtual connection, you reassert your own unique power to develop yourself and create unfiltered, meaningful moments with others.
If we cannot do it for ourselves, how can we expect it from our family, friends, colleagues and employees? You are free to disconnect from technology's dictations in order to rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself, a Higher Power, nature, positive vibes, love, serenity and joy. Who knows, you may even feel more connected than ever before.