The Art of Unplugging

BY CASSANDRA YOST

On any given weekday, I’m the sort of person who wakes up to an alarm set on my iPhone.  Picking it up, I unlock its distracting power to woo me.  Electronics enthrall us with the promise of fresh news, friendly limericks, photos of cuddly critters, and all types of games, videos, rants, and flashy snippets.  This is the life we lead now:  the plugged-in life. 


I’ll admit that in some ways, I’m guilty of much of those things.  But on the weekends, I set myself free.


A few years back we all became hooked.  Our online lives suddenly became more than the random visit to MySpace or Blogger.  We started buying the newest model of phone or computer as soon as they went on sale.  People became passionate about either Apple or Droid, and these passions only continue to grow.  More and more, people count on their phones for much of their livelihood: creating the perfect playlist to their lives, finding directions to wherever they’re going, keeping track of how many calories they’re consuming, maintaining some sort of connection to what used to be real life friendships, measuring their worth in steps walked per day.  I’ll admit that in some ways, I’m guilty of much of those things.  But on the weekends, I set myself free.

Cassandra Yost at Olmsted Point in Yosemite National Park

Cassandra Yost at Olmsted Point in Yosemite National Park

It sounds odd to have to force myself to disconnect from my phone, but in doing so, I allow myself to maintain face-to-face relationships, have spur of the moment outings, and have an all-around unplanned, unplugged life.  Being the control freak that I am, this took some getting used to.  Little by little I weaned myself from picking up my phone at first buzz.  Of course, there’s no way I’m setting an alarm on the weekends unless I’ve planned an early morning excursion, so the first step in disconnecting was to learn to wake with the sun.  Working a 9-5 job, this was pretty easy for me since the sun rises around 7am just about every day. 


When I unplug, I can breathe easier knowing that life is going on and that everything will be there for me to catch up on when I’m ready. 


The second thing I did was let people know that I intend to unplug on the weekends.  By doing this, we can plan any sort of hanging out beforehand and edit these plans by phone call only.  I allow myself to text as well, because for many people it’s just easier, and less awkward or nerve-wracking than a phone call to say they’re swinging by.  As long as I don’t find myself picking up my phone out of habit to check Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, I call it an unplugged day.

There are many benefits from disconnecting for even such a short amount of time.  Your eyes get a break from the harsh, digital light of a screen, your brain gets a break from all the noise it has to filter out during a normal day of perusing the internets, and you get this sense of calm that grounds you to the real world.  This is the same sort of calm I feel in the middle of a great yoga session, or deep into a hike in the woods.  When I unplug, I can breathe easier knowing that life is going on and that everything will be there for me to catch up on when I’m ready. 


There’s such a strong sense of power that comes from having this much knowledge at our fingertips.  It’s powerful, but it’s also exhausting. 


Before the digital age, people didn’t have the ability to find the news when they wanted it.  They had to tune in at specific times in order to get any news at all.  We now have the ability to find the news we want, when we want it.  There’s such a strong sense of power that comes from having this much knowledge at our fingertips.  It’s powerful, but it’s also exhausting. 

I’m not sure when I began unplugging on the weekends, but I’m grateful that past-me had the foresight to do so.  Life becomes simple, it becomes important, it slows down, and it allows you to see that all that stuff online can wait, because what really matters is sitting right next to you on the couch.