The Benefits of “Unplugging” from Social Media

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It was not a good day for me on the technological front. I texted “I’m up and ready for a quickie” to what I thought was my walking buddy before realizing I sent it to a business owner. Unfortunately, it was the same man that earlier in the week I sent, “I will give you my lust” instead of “list”. I am still waiting for a reply to my apologetic (more like groveling) text that I sent three hours ago.

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A group of young adults discover there is life beyond the small screen.

Missing the Touch in a High Tech World
Being a Boomer, I grew up in a time when my mother’s answer to every ailment was “Go outside and get some fresh air.” It was also necessary in those days to get off the couch to change one of the 13 available channels and thrilling to FINALLY get an extended phone cord that would reach into the broom closet so you could have a semi-private conversation. Neighbors talked over fences (read more about why this is so meaningful to me), photos were picked up from the store (many negatives were destroyed during the awkward teen years) and people looked up and around at the grand world surrounding them instead of into a little screen. Above all, it was perfectly acceptable not be available 24/7 via the endless list of social media venues.

Plugged In
New research suggests that spending too much time on social media can be detrimental to your well-being and may lead to increased stress, sleeping disorders, narcissistic tendencies, depression, and anxiety. Those between the ages of 15-19 spend an average of three hours a day on venues such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I often gaze in wonderment at the young adults visiting our home that are busy “socializing” via texting instead of enjoying the people and experiences happening beyond their screens. We adults have also gotten “stuck” in the web. The average American will spend one quarter of their work day browsing non-work related social media.

Hey, I’m guilty. As one of Facebook’s 800 million users, I check out my newsfeed before getting out of bed. I recently got on Instagram. Thankfully, I only use this venue with my daughters. I would throw countless people into therapy if they were to receive one of my “selfie” photo mishaps. I refrain from using Twitter. This is not an indication of my self-discipline mind you. It would be impossible for this woman who has been known to talk to a wrong number for 15 minutes to abbreviate her speech.

My big downfall is email. I just can’t help myself from checking in to see if I am missing an important message. This leads to a feeling of never being able to “turn off”. It is not uncommon for me to write an email, respond to a Facebook instant message, receive a text and answer the phone simultaneously. Many would call this multi-tasking. I will call it what it is—just plain nuts.

Time to Unplug
I once heard that we have more information available to us through our smart phones than the astronauts of Apollo 13 had at their disposal. We live in an amazing era of technology and information. I truly appreciate having knowledge right at my fingertips. That being said, when you feel as if your phone has become an extension of your anatomy or if you find yourself comparing your life to others (Although as someone who has written a fashion article while wearing moose boxers sans makeup—things are not always as they perfectly appear online), it may be time to take a tech break.

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Multi-generational activity is abundant while taking a break from technology.

Look Up
There is no Wi-Fi or cell phone coverage at my Canadian lake house. Annually, I take a group of my daughter’s friends north to unplug from technology and plug into nature. There is a noticeable withdrawal the first day without their phones but then something miraculous happens. Games are played, often invented, and creativity and imagination flourish. Of course, our scavenger hunt has changed to a “drink it or wear it” event but that is beside the point. Books are read, conversations are had, and a dozen “ing” verbs — hiking, kayaking, laughing, dancing, loon watching — are enjoyed. We enjoy “Il dolce di gente”— the sweetness of nothing.

The trick is trying to find a way to unplug in my everyday life — still a work in progress. I remember reading (Sorry, chemo brain, I can’t recall the source), that you can keep bees in a jar without a lid. They are so busy frantically buzzing that they neglect to look up toward freedom. I often think of this after spending a long day in front of “screens”. I unplug everything from coffee makers to our Apple TV and let some time elapse before plugging them back in when they aren’t functioning properly. I think we can benefit from this practice as well. Unplug, look up and in the words of my Mom, “Get outside and get some fresh air!”

Sign up for our Friends for Life newsletter to receive more stories by Mary Helen Darah, as well as healthy living advice and recipes.

MaryMary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. She has also been honored for her work and inspiration as a breast cancer survivor. 

“The Mother of Mayhem” has a continual source of material through interactions with daughters Lauren, Helena, and Maria; and international student, May Liu from China.

Mary Helen looks forward to writing and sharing the stories of members of our community who turn the ordinary into the extraordinary while delivering a dose of what she feels is the best medicine — laughter — in her monthly column, The Mother of Mayhem.

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