Me Unplugged

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There used to be this show called MTV Unplugged, on, you guessed it, MTV. Back when it was more of a music television channel. Totally dating myself here.

I haven’t watched it in years so for all I know MTV is back to playing lots of music videos. Anyhow, the show highlighted musicians playing their hits acoustically (aka without electronics for you EDMers).

I recently heard that they’ve brought it back. At least for Australia MTV.

I got really excited about this. I didn’t have a ton of access to TV growing up but for the brief stint that MTV was in my house, this was one of my favorite shows. I love music in general but there’s always been something about acoustic that really speaks to me. And my X-men-like hearing.

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My mind wandered from this news to reflect on how as the TV show disappeared so did unplugging in general. Music became more electronic. Work became more electronic. Socializing became more electronic. Electronics became more electronic.

It’s rare to be anywhere these days (at least in the developed world) without immediate access to electronics. As I type this I’m within 10 feet of two laptops, two cell phones, and a desktop. Not all mine but still they’re here.

I’ve always been a bit behind the electronic crazes. I loved the heck out of my flip phone, only getting a smart phone many years after everyone else (Only because a 4-year-old destroyed it.). I’m currently typing on an 8-year-old laptop the bf frequently pleads with me to replace. Which given the battery life and some other funky stuff going on he might be right.

I’m just so ride or die with my possessions. And I hate filling up landfills needlessly. Still, even with some resistance to the latest technology, I find myself connected to it far more than I ever used to be.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand it makes doing a lot of things significantly easier. On the other hand I straddle the line of e-addiction at times, needlessly checking email and social media or getting sucked into articles that have no positive impact on my life.

At times I’ve justified it, knowing I don’t get sucked in as deeply as others but really it doesn’t matter how I compare if it’s causing me any distress. When I spend too much time on electronics or use them mindlessly, I feel the same anxiety, sadness, and disconnection from others that everyone experiences.

That’s why I have to remind myself to be mindful of my electronic use. When I recognize that it’s a problem, I consciously unplug depending on what I need at that time. It isn’t always easy (Especially when I have work to do that requires some sort of technology.) but it’s necessary so here’s how I make it happen:

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I take breaks.

It might be an hour (or more or less) during the workday. I also set aside analogue evenings with no electronics in sight. Just a game of chess, some records, a good book, writing by hand, wine, and/or a bath. Sometimes I take day long sabbaticals. Sorry, anyone who tries to reach me on those days. Sometimes the break is for the entire weekend or longer depending on access to Internet, phone signals,and self-control.

I exercise.

I rarely use electronics when I exercise. Some exceptions are if I need to measure a run for training purposes or sometimes I take my cell phone or digital camera for photos on a hike. But otherwise, no electronics. I never run with headphones in. That’s my time to unwind into the quiet. I can’t surf with electronics (at least not the ones I own). I remove and silence them when doing yoga. And I often do what really scares some of my loved ones, I don’t take my phone into the woods.

Them: “What if a bear eats you?”

Me: “What, are you going to be able to get there in time to save me because I had my cell phone?”

I don’t really have a good argument for “What if you get lost?” But so far I haven’t gotten lost.

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I go to nature.

As I alluded to in the suggestions above, the most surefire way to unplug is to go somewhere you can’t get any sort of signal. Out into the ocean. The top of a mountain. My parents’ home in Michigan.

We’re running out of places where you can’t get a signal but they do still exist. There’s something so refreshing about not being able to use electronics even if you wanted to. It’s the most liberating experience to spend days or weeks without access to the outside world. It forces you to fully be mindful in the present moment.

The funny thing is, I never miss the electronics. I don’t miss out on anything important in the world. I don’t lose work. I don’t lose anything.

I only gain. I gain peace of mind. Perspective. Satisfaction. Joy. Creative solutions. Deeper connections. To myself. To others. To something greater.

I don’t want to disconnect completely. I think there are many benefits to using electronics as well. But finding that sweet spot between it being helpful and it being harmful is key and mindfully unplugging can help immensely with that.

How does electronic use affect you? And how do you unplug if you choose to do so?