Singaporeans are technologically savvy and we’re practically glued to our phones, tablets, and computers, whether for business or leisure. When the DC office wi-fi gave up on itself a few weeks ago, our entire team descended into chaos. We were unable to do research for our articles, our source of background music was gone, Shilin couldn’t watch her K-dramas during lunchtime, it was pure madness! Still, to throw everyone a curveball, I’m going to be advocating that we should be disconnecting ourselves from the internet every once in a while to encourage everyone to take a break from well… everything.
Here’s the thing. Last week, my mother went on a holiday. While this sounds totally normal, I’ve yet to add that she paid a lot of money to go on a holiday to make sure she was uncontactable by any device. She spent 5 days floating around on sea and came back glowing with happiness, more tanned than I’ve ever seen her. Being a normal, healthy young adult, I was understandably confused by her bliss at being so unreachable. Didn’t she want to send anyone pictures of her time there and share her experiences? Did she not feel the anxiety of having no friends to contact at any given moment?
My questions are indicative of a digital native brought up in the age of the internet. As someone born in the 90s, I still remember a childhood where mobile phones were still a privilege and not a necessity, but I also lived through the transition period to the internet-saturated society of the now. We are a generation more connected than ever, with friends spanning the globe who we can contact with a single tap. Yet, numerous studies show that millennials are more alone than ever. A viral article by Jean M. Twenge in The Atlantic highlighted how teenagers today are less likely to go out with friends, learn to drive or date AND are far more likely to feel lonely and get less sleep than before.
My (ahem) advanced age aside, I’m basically guilty of all those things. I’ve had ‘outings’ with friends where we simply sat for hours in a room playing with our phones, texting each other instead of speaking. I sleep with my phone on a charger next to me by the bed and it is the first and last thing I see every day. I buy physical books but always end up finishing them as e-books because I hate carrying them around. I celebrated when the newest phone models boasted water-resistance because they are now bathroom-friendly, which also means I can play music while I shower! I am officially an “Internet Addict”.
So as you can tell, I love my electronic devices. I love how much inspiration I can find online when I’m stuck in a rut, how I can call a friend anytime I’m feeling down, how I can learn how to do anything and everything, really, through a YouTube video. But I also hate how I’m never far from work, how exhausted and depressed I get when trying to keep up with the latest news, and how I can go to a concert and barely see anything past the glow of a million phone screens. I don’t know when we became so afraid of being alone with our thoughts without a buffer, but if you’re like me and don’t like how dependent you are on a piece of glass and metal combined, here are some app recommendations to give you the push you need to start unplugging.
Freedom (Mac, Windows, iOS) – Use this app to block all your social media websites! You just set which websites you want to block, how long each session lasts, and you’re ready to go! I really like how intuitive and easy to use their interface is.
Forest (iOS, Android) – I love how this app essentially turns an exercise in self-control into a game. This app records the amount of time you spend within the app, and the longer time you spend, the lusher your forest will be. Navigate away from the app and your trees will die. If you use the app enough, you can even earn credits that you can use to plant a real tree with Trees for the Future, a tree-planting organisation! Challenge yourself and grow a green oasis! (Andrea’s Edit: When I told Daph how I found this app super cute, she said I’d never be able to grow a forest and my trees will all just die… just like the plants in our office :/)
SelfControl (Mac) – This heavy-duty app for Mac can help you block websites for a designated amount of time. Be warned; not even restarting your computer or uninstalling the app from your computer will save you from your self-imposed exile, so use this one in times of great need (perhaps when you’re rushing to meet that important deadline?).
Obviously, for busy people who absolutely cannot be away from your devices because of work and other commitments, a gentler breakup from the internet would have to be your solution. A gradual, conscious uncoupling, if you will, in the famous words of Gwyneth Paltrow. It can start out as simply as just placing your phone in your bag instead of on the table when you’re out for dinner with friends, or charging it at an inconvenient corner of your home. Out of sight, out of mind, and you’ll be less tempted to run to it!
For those who are lucky enough to have a chance to take a complete break from the internet, I urge you to take it. As my mum can attest, you’ll find yourself enjoying the moment a lot more than you think. For the rest of us, you don’t have to go very far to enjoy seclusion from the internet. For now, even heading into the shower will suffice. At least, until the next iPhone comes out.
Unplug and Unwind,