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How to Unplug This Summer

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Photo by Ira Heuvelman-Dobrolyubova via Getty Images
Photo by Ira Heuvelman-Dobrolyubova via Getty Images

Now that the summer weather is here, and the great outdoor beckons, it is a terrific time to re-evaluate our relationship with technology. This blog is not going to follow the familiar pattern of the expert telling you why you should unplug, but rather, I am going to share my personal journey and hopefully this will illuminate a couple of ideas along the way.

I believe in honest conversations, and because of that I need to start this blog out with an admission of guilt. I am a person who is not tech savvy...but that is not the admission. My area of expertise is human relationships. I do consider myself to be a fairly intuitive person, however each time I approached technology as an intuitive endeavour I felt like I was failing. As a therapist I was horrified that I appeared to have low intuitive tech-abilities. Although embarrassing, that is still not my admission. I was initially reluctant to enter the technological world, but something has happened to me along the way. My admission is that my curiosity got the best of me, and despite my stumbling, I have come to like it. In fact, I like it a lot!

As a parent I was cautious about putting too much technology in the hands of my children -- my children were the last ones of their grade to get a gaming system, a cell phone and Facebook. I was so proud that we made it to the end of Grade 8 before my children had a phone. I am a parenting educator, and a child and family therapist, so I know the research around the danger of too much technology on the growing mind.

I did manage to hold the fort long enough that my children learned how to have a conversation with somebody face to face far before they learned how to text a conversation. Actually my teenagers appear to be handling their technology very well, and are able to self-regulate with a bit of guidance and limit setting on our part. Little did I know that I would become the one who was constantly checking my Facebook, thinking about my new post and spending many lost hours scrolling thought my newsfeed.

I am surprised how technology has come to play such a large role in my life, and how difficult it is for me to disengage from the lure of my electronic devices. If I am not on my phone, I am on my iPad. I have even managed to turn my old phone into an iPod filled with my favorite music, because I seem to need yet another device.

I spend hours on my computer, and am happily dreaming of the new improved lightweight computer I want to purchase next. Then there is social media...aah, the allure of social media! The constant flow of information, the pretty pictures and inspirational quotes. It is like a buffet of endless inspirations to choose from. I find myself constantly checking Facebook, Twitter, and yes...even LinkedIn. And then there is the camera on my phone. You just never know when the perfect picture might be a possibility, so I must take my phone/camera with me everywhere so I can capture the moment and share it on Facebook right away. And yes, now for the really embarrassing admission...I have even been known to take a selfie or two.

This might not be so embarrassing if I wasn't a professional therapist who commonly gives out advice to parents on how to manage electronics with their children. Yes, I have been humbled by my growing fascination with technology, and the increasing space it has been taking up in my own life. But as much as I would like to hide behind my expert platform on this subject, I need to be open and honest if I want to lead a conversation on this topic. In my MORE Philosophy, the O stands for Opportunity. Yes, this is my opportunity to come clean about my own growing dependence on technology, and share some of the strategies that I am using this summer to get away from the quick technology at my fingertips.

My Summer Unplugging Plan is:
1. Use self-discipline and limit my own use of technology. Set some time frames that allow me peace and quiet. Keep the phone off in the morning until I have finished my morning routines and turn my devices off once it is dark. We can still use our land line if needed.
2. Read a book outside, or in bed, rather than skimming through Facebook newsfeed or other electronic distractions.
3. Check in with my senses before jumping into technology. What am I seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing and tasting? Get in my body and ground myself before I venture into technological terrain.
4. Review my contact lists on social media and make sure I am connected with people who I truly am connected with. It is overwhelming when our newsfeed gets cluttered up with people we do not know. Are we truly interested in each other? Would we have a conversation in real life? If so, yes we can stay friends and contacts. If not, then it is time for us to let each other go.
5. Play outside or just go for a technology free walk. Pay attention to my mindful movements one step at a time. Breathe in the moment.

We experience our greatest joy when we are in the moment, and we are truly present in our lives. From a place of presence we can connect with ourselves and others. It is time to unplug from my technology and plug back into my actual life. So this summer I have a plan to dig in deeper, go outside, and stay present and reconnect with what is truly important. Good luck and, yes, I will still be checking in on my social media but within a reasonable time frame.

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