Putting space between ourselves and our devices

I’m not arguing for a device detox, but a more subtle set of frequent breaks to add space between our devices and our physical bodies.

I’m a big fan of the web and the devices that connect us to it. With all the challenges we’ve faced over the past year—a pandemic, an economic fallout, and disruptions to our social fabric—the web has allowed us to continue our work, meet with our friends, and share our opinions. While this connection has been beneficial, it’s good to sometimes put space between ourselves and our devices.

I often have to remind myself to step away from my computer or place my phone down. Sometimes it’s best to go for a walk, leaving both behind. There’s a park near our place that offers a 1.25 mile loop around an open field. Taking a trek around this loop helps bring clarity to my mind. It’s often where I come up with ideas that I set forth once I return home to my MacBook Pro.

There’s a technique call Pomodoro, which uses a timer to split our work into segments—typically 25 minutes in length, separated by breaks. The purpose of this technique is to improve work performance by requiring short breaks a few times each hour. This prevents burnout and helps our minds focus on the task at hand. There are apps available for time tracking that use the Pomodoro technique; I have used a few and find them helpful.

But it’s not just our work that often keeps us staring at screens. Social media, iMessage, email, news apps, and yes, even writing, all keep us locked to our devices. It’s a fact that we are dependent on our devices, and now more than ever. During the pandemic, I’m thankful to have this connection. I can only imagine what a shut-down would be like without modern technologies.

I’m not arguing for a device detox, but a more subtle set of frequent breaks to add space between our devices and our physical bodies. I believe that we can only fully appreciate the value of our web-enable devices if we at times add distance. We took a trip to Los Angeles in 2019 and I decided to leave my MacBook Pro behind. It forced me to somewhat disconnect from my work. I still had my iPhone with me, but not having my notebook at hand made me appreciate it more.

I believe we will soon begin moving away from the effects of the pandemic, though I am convinced that it has forever changed our reliance on our web-enabled devices, making us more dependent than ever. A future heavily reliant on Zoom, social media, FaceTime, and messaging, will require that we make space between ourselves and our devices in order to have mental clarity in our work and lives. It’s easy to overdo it; to sit for hours straight while looking at a screen. By adding space, we can ensure that we take time for ourselves, which is needed now more than ever.

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