As I fumbled around with my laptop, desperately trying to remember my login password and get a decent internet connection in a fog of travel exhaustion, an unusual air of anxiety set in. I had a time sensitive matter to tend to and not only was I locked out of my database, but the internet kept going out. It was nearly midnight local Thailand time, I was in the middle of nowhere and I was powerless -literally. I am not a typically anxious person, but not having internet access makes me overwhelmingly uneasy because my business and livelihood depends on it. And I’m not alone -a large majority of us require an internet connection for work and personal matters. “Unplug!”and “digital detox!” are the guilt-ridden catch phrases being thrown around these days, but the reality is a “digital detox” is a luxury -a privilege- that many leaders, business owners, or anyone who needs to stay connected to sustain their lives can not afford.
A “digital detox” is a luxury -a privilege- that many leaders, business owners, or anyone who needs to stay connected to sustain their lives can not afford.
The fact is, some of us can’t just tell our boss that we’re peacing out for 2 weeks and that we’ll be M.I.A. Anyone who runs a business knows that while you technically make your own hours, it’s a 24/7 job. Some of us actually can’t ignore our emails for a weekend or a week. Can you imagine Oprah or Barack Obama or even a single mother who needs to provide for her family being like, “Oh sorry, can’t, I’m on digital detox!” Nope.
Some of us simply can’t unplug completely. Things need to get done and the world doesn’t stop because we’ve decided that our iPhone is the devil for the day. Clients have urgent requests, copy needs to be edited, and the most stressful; websites get hacked! Even engaging on social media is now a integral part of many businesses. Not having access to reconcile these matters can be quite stressful. After all, it IS your livelihood, and to have that threatened is more stressful than staying plugged in. If you think about it, in actuality, staying connected can make life easier. If you know you’re staying on top of your responsibilities, you can fully relax and have peace of mind, instead of having your “to-do” list hanging over your head.
Full relaxation to me is getting things done and out of the way.
Call me crazy, but I like making sure all my obligations are out of the way so I can chill out and move on with the rest of my day. Knowing I have work, bills to pay or other matters that need to be taken care of makes it much harder for me to relax. In other words, full relaxation to me is getting things done and out of the way –not disconnecting and essentially procrastinating and willingly becoming ignorant to my responsibilities while causing myself unnecessary stress. Now, this is not to say you should be checking your phone constantly during dinner! I am against that. There are absolutely times you should put your phone away, but fully shutting down your digital life when you have responsibilities is a silly thing to do and may actually cause you more stress.
So, we have to ask ourselves the question: what is the point of doing something if it’s potentially going to make us more stressed? Is there some superiority to claiming that we’re not reliant on technology? If so, that statement isn’t true for anyone in the developed world. If you use electricity and own a cell phone, you are reliant on technology. The bottom line is, there is nothing wrong with staying connected, it’s just about balance. It’s a matter of knowing what situations call for putting your phone away.
In closing, let’s stop shaming our need for technology. Let’s stop giving each other the side-eye for needing to pull out our phones. It’s really great that you’re able to go to a retreat and meditate for 10 days and disconnect from the world. I think that’s lovely for people who have the extra time and flexibility, but to unplug is a privilege and a luxury that many business owners, leaders, and financially struggling people simply can’t afford. So, let’s do away with the judge-y undertones and superiority complex of the “digital detox” movement. Let’s all be a little more understanding and conscious that the reality of this modern world is that many people have to stay connected.
Unless someone wants to come over and do my work for me and pay my bills, I suggest not suggesting I drop my responsibilities in the name of a digital detox. Staying connected is part of my well-being and livelihood. It makes my life exponentially better by allowing me to have a media business that gives me freedom to do work I love and travel the world. The key is knowing how to balance your life, take breaks, workout, meditate, and when to shut it down. Ridding myself of technology is not a requirement for me to stay healthy and balanced. I’m sure many hardworking people probably feel the same way.
While a digital detox has plenty of great benefits and may be healthy and necessary for people who are addicted to the internet or who are suffering as result of their digital connection, it’s certainly not necessary for everyone. Unless you have a bonafide online addiction, the internet is not the enemy. Not balancing your life is. So, let’s stop blaming technology.