Why It’s Important to Occasionally Unplug

By Vivian El-Salawy on February 15, 2018

It is obvious that technology has paved the way for countless advancements. In many ways, it makes our lives so much easier on a daily basis, which is what makes it so difficult to unplug. There are applications that help you track your health, remind you to take your medication, track your exercise, remember meetings and reconnect with old friends and family from all around the world. That being said, there are a plethora of unhealthy habits that are the result of what many people identify to be the “invisible addiction”: smartphone addiction.

“Fully 46% of smartphone owners say their smartphone is something ‘they couldn’t live without’.” – Pew Research Center

This is why it’s important to occasionally unplug:

1. Compare and contrast

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This is a habit that I’ve developed myself, but often times through social media, you begin to develop the habit of comparing your life and your situations to those you see of others’ on social media. This is an incredibly unhealthy habit, as social media is rarely a realistic portrayal of people’s actual lives. Much less, a life of comparison is not a healthy life to be lived. Powering down actually helps people remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy and loneliness. Sometimes this roots in finance, body image, or just overall happiness of others.

2. Missing out on what’s in front of you

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This sounds corny, but with all of the time spent with your head down, staring at your phone, you’re really missing out on everything that’s going on around you. When is the last time you visited a local park to take your dog on a walk? What happened to having true, authentic, real conversation and experiences? Often times, so much attention is put toward what other people are doing, that your own life begins to slip through your fingers. Through unplugging, you could live a better quality of life in this aspect.

3. Battling FOMO

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FOMO, formally known as the “fear of missing out”, is a real thing that haunts many people on a daily basis. This ties in with the first point made in terms of comparison. With the time being spent on social media, we see the things that the people around us are up to. Maybe a couple people took a trip together to the beach you’ve always wanted to go to, or a relative’s post a picture of a delicious meal. By unplugging, you are separating yourself from the experiences that other people are having that you wish you could have and learning an appreciation for what’s in front of you. Being able to be content with your current situation and place is important for self-growth.

4. The less time is spent on your smartphone, the less you will find you need it

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Like any addiction, the less you give into it, the less you are tempted by it. I made the decision to delete my Snapchat fairly recently for a few reasons: I was mostly being pulled into it out of the pressure to keep my streaks with people, the new update was confusing, and Instagram already had a nearly identical feature with their stories on. I deleted all of these extra games and useless applications, cleared my phone of clutter, and since then, have been checking my phone so much less. I’ve turned off my notifications for many of my social media applications and have felt as though my days have become much more relaxed because of it.

5. More time in your day

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Studies show that mobile users can’t leave their phones alone for six minutes, and check up on it approximately 150 times a day. People even use their phone as a secondhand screen while watching television or on a computer. How many times have you resorted to looking at your phone to kill time at an office? Or as the first thing that you do when you wake up? With that time, so much can be done – you can accomplish a long-awaited goal of yours around the house, finally read that book you’ve been keeping on your shelf, or go on a new adventure. Even if it is time to be spent on your own – go out into the world, grab a coffee, and meet somebody new.

When unplugging, perhaps you can start with a certain type of unplugging – deleting an application (games or social media), turning off notifications, and so on. Or, you can choose a specific time of day to unplug. Some people turn their phones off at night, or charge their phones away from their bed so they aren’t tempted to check it right before bed or first thing in the morning. Perhaps you want to do something other than look at your phone for your lunch break, or on your way to your next class.

You can also choose to unplug on an extended break. The longest I have gone unplugged has typically been with hiking and camping trips, and it has honestly been such a relief. It teaches you a lot about yourself, your relationships with other people, and what’s healthy for you. When I came back onto social media after that week to a week and a half, my phone was overwhelmed with text messages, notifications on various social media platforms, and so on. I was overwhelmed as well.

This is not to say that social media is bad or that smartphones are a dangerous technology. In many ways, they are incredibly useful tools and have become a necessity in many American lives. However, it is important to pull yourself away from the virtual world every once in a while and reflect on your own life and experiences, as well as build new ones.

Vivian El-Salawy is a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in Editing, Writing, and Media with minors in Slavic (Russian) Studies and Communications. Alongside writing for Uloop News, WVFS Tallahassee 89.7 FM, and editing for the Good Life Community magazine, she is heavily involved with a Tau Beta Sigma, a national honorary sorority that promotes women in the band profession.

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