I recently had one of my decade-long dreams come true!!!
As a world traveler with a constant case of wanderlust, I’ve been blessed to visit over 30 countries so far! For years, whenever someone asked me, “Leslie, if someone gave you a free ticket ANYWHERE in the world, where would you go?” without hesitation, I would enthusiastically respond “ISTANBUL!”
So to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I spent the last two weeks of 2013 traveling through Turkey, and I proudly checked Istanbul off my “most wanted” list! While I certainly took my fair-share of travel photos, I also had ample time away for my laptop, smart phone, and social media channels.
Instead of instantly uploading photos to Facebook and Instagram at each of the fantastic locations we visited, without immediate access to the online world, I was forced to wait. While this was a common practice up until the last decade, in our constantly connected lives it often becomes more of an inconvenience or annoyance (if we let it!).
However, I was having such an incredible time exploring and sharing the experience with someone I love that I didn’t even miss being temporarily disconnected! And as a result, I got to experience life firsthand instead of through the screen of one of my many electronic devices.
Sadly, this type of “firsthand experience” is becoming rarer and rarer as we expect immediate access to information and have grown accustomed to using our favorite apps and devices daily.
But can being so connected actually disconnect us?
Last August, the phrase “digital detox” was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online.
In a nutshell, the idea is to disconnect from your digital devices so you can reconnect with your environment, relationships, and yourself.
One of the leaders in this movement is an organization called Digital Detox™ who shares some alarming current technology facts:
- The average American spends 8-12 hours a day staring at a screen, dedicating over 30% of leisure time to internet use.
- Over 60% admit to being addicted to the internet and 50% of people prefer to communicate with friends digitally, rather than in person.
- One out of ten Americans report depression, while heavy internet users are 2.5 times more likely to be depressed.
Wow! Not only are these facts shocking, they’re disheartening.
Over the last year, this trend of unplugging to recharge has inspired thousands of over-stimulated individuals to ditch their devices in favor of genuine connection. In fact, the tech-free practice has become so popular that Fodor’s Travel even has a page dedicated to the best hotels around the world designed for digital detoxing!
While I wasn’t completely away from technology during my travels through Turkey, I experienced a rare period of life where I didn’t feel glued to a screen for a majority of my day. This left me free to explore, play, eat, adventure, daydream, sleep, and reboot. And even though international traveling can be draining, I came back feeling renewed and connected!
So what was my secret?
Was simply temporarily unplugging enough? Not quite…
It was the freedom that came from not feeling obligated to share what I was eating, where I was visiting, or who I was with every moment with my online community. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my tribe and value social media A LOT! I just also appreciate times I can run away and have an adventure without always being plugged in.
In my business and my personal life, I’m a champion for helping others become more present, focused, and engaged. My deepest desire is that you live a meaningful life making intentional choices that honor your values – whether you use technology or not! Leadership is all about authentic connection. And while this can, and does, happen online, authentic connection begins when individuals develop face-to-face relationships over time that are built on trust.
So as you analyze your relationship with the technology you choose to use, ask yourself:
- How is this device serving me? Consider the purpose and benefits of each gadget you use.
- In what ways does this device help me focus and be productive? Be clear and specific here.
- At what point do I feel drained or distracted when I’m using this device? Call a “technology time-out” at certain points of your day to reboot your energy and refocus your time.
Based on your responses, consider what ways a digital detox might serve you this year. Whether it’s turning off your iPhone and computer at a certain time each evening or setting aside a day once a week without electronics, I encourage you to try something new for one week and notice the difference it makes.
Feel lighter? Have more focus? Learn something new? I’d love to hear how you digital detox goes.
Start the year off right by choosing to connect in responsible, intentional ways that serve you and those you love. Happy detoxing!
PS) Still not convinced? Click here to watch a short commercial that is one of my favorite reminders of why unplugging is necessary sometimes!