Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On unplugging

One of my New Year's resolutions (which I forgot to mention in my NYE post) is to spend more time "unplugged". By unplugged, I mean relatively long stretches of not being on the internet - to just absorb life.

Nowadays, everyone has smart phones with all our email accounts and social media in one place.  Incredibly convenient, yes. But overload? Kinda!! Even if you open your mobile to check the time, you will get bombarded with this notification and that notification, until suddenly you are on your mobile/iPad/computer for hours on end. The world has become just too fast-paced. There are constant updates, and everyone wants to be in the know

I mostly use my phone for it's most beloved feature - the camera - to take pictures of Miss Maya. Then, I can edit the pictures and upload them, without having to transfer it to the main computer. And, as every mum knows - having everything in one place can be a total time saver! And as parents - time-savers make our lives easier!

As a photography student - it is natural for me to document everyday life and capture moments. I am quite comfortable doing that - and I use it more as an art form - as a way of showing how I see the world. My father used to take endless pictures of me - and it's so fun to look back at them. And my grandparents also loved photography - and their photos are my most beloved keepsakes. 

But...anything that involves instant gratification goes hand in hand with addiction. I can't even go to a bank nowadays without seeing the teller - who is ON THE JOB - checking his Facebook. WTF?!?!?! Really...?!?! Or all those people at romantic restaurants, sitting at their phones the entire time. It has become quite robotic. It is a digital VORTEX!

Of course I love being online - connecting with others, and staying up to date with all my news stories...but I've been thinking lately that it's just as important to unplug, too. To take the time to oneself to enjoy the undigital life. To absorb the natural world with true focus.

In my photography courses, we talked about this concept a lot - especially in documentary photography. Sometimes moments are just too sacred to whip out a camera and document it. My Native American professor, Zig Jackson - once said this about wanting to photograph a Native American pooja, but felt it would be intrusive to do so. And then, he just enjoyed it, and let the moment pass. He always said that as a photographer, it is hard to know what moments are too sacred. It is like a sixth sense.

I've also been thinking about this a lot because Maya loves to watch her cartoons, like Dora the Explorer. She could probably watch it for hours, which will definitely come in handy on a long flight - but not so much for every day. I want her to use her imagination, to role-play, to learn, and to play outside and "get some fresh air" (as we Canadians say) I have to monitor her screen time - because it IS addictive. Then I realized, if I need to monitor her screen time - then I also need to monitor my own. Of course, I only noticed it about her first and not me! Isn't that so true about parenting, though? You notice things about yourself, in your children, first...

I recently experimented with this during the New Year - before my inlaws left and all the way through our anniversary vacation to Seattle, AND even when I got back. I just wanted to enjoy, without any distractions at all. I basically went on vacation mode, checking my email only once in a while, just to make sure nobody had died or the house didn't get burnt down! And when we got back from vacation, I wanted to calmly concentrate on fully balancing my responsibilities (without any help, again) so I don't get too overwhelmed and land my ass in the hospital again or screw up my immune system (total wake up call!)

Of course, I wish my dad would do it too. My parents are currently on vacation in Venice and my dad is sending five emails per day. Asking if the roof is leaking. Asking if we got back already from Seattle. Asking if we did this and that. Like, HELLOOOO!! Aren't you supposed to be on vacation?!?!?! did it feel to unplug? Damn good! I felt more calm, I slept better, I felt more grateful, I felt more in the moment....and no disasters happened - the digital life was fully on pause until my return. It was freakin' fantastic! And I feel so refreshed after doing it. It was kind of like a cleanse!

Going forward, I'm going to do this more often in my daily life and set limits of moderation. Like reserving special time to check my phone at a certain time of day and limit my use - literally with a timer, if I have to! And especially on vacations - completely unplug. And actually use my Canon camera, for a change!

Recently, I saw this study online that was done by this teenage girl (teenage genius!!) who correlated the amount of screen time with sleep, mood, and stress levels. This girl's study went on to win scholarships and awards. Click HERE to read her interesting study. It was brilliant and her findings were so true...

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Dear readers, in what way do you unplug from the digital world and what benefits do you see from doing so? Do you think it is addictive how convenient the online world is?



  1. Alex, thank you for sharing your life experiences with everyone. Your family is wonderful and loving. Maya is just the sweetest little girl, and you have a great family. I look forward everyday to see what new stories are on line! I know, we now depend too much on the computer, phone etc. We all need to turn our devices off and spend time with our family. When you get to my age, your family is all deceased and all I think about is all the good times we had as a family. I too am an only child and my parents were my, "best friends". We all went on vacations together and my parents even had a motorhome when I was growing up. They traveled to every state in the U.S. They even went Alaska with a caravan of people who takes their motorhome and tours, which was a month long. They also took several trips to Canada and just loved everyone of them. I find myself looking at trip photos even today. So happy for you and your husband, glad you are feeling beter. I dated an indian man who is very sweet, he asked me to marry him but my parents totally threw a fit! Life was very difficult because they just would not allow me to date him. He ended up marrying another woman. I married another man and we have been married for 25 years. Life goes by too quickly and I still love my Indian fellow. I can only imagine how it was for you get finally get along with your sweet MIL. You can now, "look out on the clearing" and feel good inside with her. What a blessing. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for reading :)
      Yes, I agree, we can have endless photo albums but the memories are the ones that matter, and stay with us the longest.
      I love road trips! It sounds like a blast! Unforgettable memories...
      We did one across the Southern U.S. from Savannah to San Francisco, with my hubby and dad - it was so much fun! We literally ate Mexican every single night because that was the only thing vegetarian for hubby! Hahahahaha!!!
      I would like to do more road trips. maybe when Maya is a little older and we can play counting cars games and such.
      Yes, "the clearing" is right..... :)

  2. Limiting my screen time too, you can end up being sucked in silly with technology, that is insane. Most evening I am off the computer and read a book! though now with my iPad doubling as a kindle that might mean more screen time! but that's conscious time, not mindless time killing screen time. I try to stick to what I need to do online and then shut it down and be done.

    1. I can relate! There is something with screen-time that just makes you feel awake and not sleepy!
      I have started immediately shutting everything off after baby goes to bed, so I can cozy up with a good book. Feels great to read again, and it relaxes me! :)

  3. I think it is great idea to remain unplugged for a while from this social networking trap and spend some good time in real world with real people

  4. Alexandra, I teach online and even for traditional, face to face classes, there is a lot of online interaction, so I feel like I literally live online. I realized things had gone too far when I was on vacation last year and got calls from students about a fight a team was having. Talk about stressing out and ruining my own mood. This year I've decided that even though it means less money for a month or two (I get paid per class), I will NOT work during vacation. I've said no to classes for the month of February and am going to be on airplane mode for the duration of my family's vacation. The only thing that phone will be used for is to take photos of my daughter as she meets her favorite characters at Disneyland.

  5. Oh no - how awful! That really sucks that it ruined your vacation! Ugh...
    The "airplane mode" thing is a fantastic idea. I'm going to try that too, since I love my phone's camera, but I hate all the notifications!


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