I just returned from a week’s vacation, but nobody outside of my colleagues knew I was gone.
There were no posts on social media sharing images of my adventures. Nothing to see here. I wanted to step off the virtual merry-go-round of my online obsessions and the habit of checking my phone every few minutes like an addict with an itch, because that is what I’d become; addicted to information overload. And I knew it.
It’s an occupational hazard. I have to be in the know, even when I’d rather not know, if you know what I mean. It’s an important part of my job and I happen to like my job. But the addiction goes beyond work.
My mobile phone has become a physical appendage that goes everywhere I go. We sit together on the couch to watch television. We go for walks together and, of course, I bring the phone in case I need to call for help, or take a photo of the trail to prove I actually exercise (which I don’t habitually, hence the potential need for help).
I even take that device to the backyard, in case something important happens while I’m playing fetch with my dog, Scout. She does not like my phone because I often stop the game to respond to someone who isn’t waiting for me to throw the ball. She also does not like to be photographed for Instagram. Scout hates mobile phones as much as fake throws.
My fear of missing out has convinced me that I need the phone with me all the time. Someone might call. Someone might text. Someone might like that photo of Scout.
Somehow I have convinced myself I’m important. Like I’m needed all the time. Like if I don’t respond to a text, Tweet or Facebook comment or message, or respond to a What’s App or Instagram remark, I’m not being a good, responsible human.
I always reply. Fast. People get anxious now if I don’t reply immediately. I cannot ignore notifications and turning them off is not an option for me. Yes, it’s that bad. I have a serious problem. It’s an addiction. There, I admitted it.
Of course, I can rationalize my irrational habits. Connection is a good addiction, I will argue, (though nobody is actually arguing with me, because they are too busy looking at their own phones). I enjoy seeing my friends sharing their adventures and stories. I truly do.
But I couldn’t keep up with it all and somehow, convinced myself I had to. Ridiculous, but true. I had to break my habit. Go offline.
So I got out of town long enough to appreciate home. My gratitude for every beautiful scene I didn’t stop to photograph, post, tag and hashtag made me respect the gift of being present. I took it all in. That’s what my mental health needed and I honoured it because I actually am important to the people who are important to me. They deserve my full attention and I deserve theirs in real time.
I’m back to work, online and tuned in, but that break was enough for me to recharge and reflect on patterns that I need to change going forward. Not easy for an over-achieving communicator like me, but I am aware of the value of taking a break before you break.
I highly recommend it.