It’s a fact of life that technology now plays a role in nearly every part of our day. We check the weather before deciding what to wear, we message people to let them know we’re running late, and we use apps to order food, check our route before driving somewhere, or hail a rideshare to get where we’re going. While older generations remember a time before iOS updates and swiping left/right were a part of everyday life, many of us have spent the majority or entirety of our lives in the digital age.
In an era of selfies, social shares and an increasing moment-to-moment reliance on technology, how do we manage our digital addictions and stay connected with one another in real life?
A few approaches seem to work well for those craving more face-to-face interaction with the people around them. If you’re feeling the need to pry your significant other’s eyes away from their device from time to time so they can make eye contact with you instead, read on for some tips, tricks, and things to try.
Raise the Stakes
Once upon a time, eating together was a communal experience, an opportunity to break bread with fellow humans and share our thoughts and feelings about the day’s events. These days, lots of us can spend an entire meal not uttering a word to one another, instead choosing to stay glued to our screens while we eat. That’s why “phone stacking” is becoming more popular among those who want to break up the silent meal phenomenon.
It works like this: The next time you’re sharing a meal in a restaurant with your significant other, both of you put your phones face down in the middle of the table. The first one to touch a device before the check arrives has to pay for the entire meal. At home, you can repurpose the idea of a swear jar into a phone jar, where every time someone reaches for a phone, it costs them $5.
To up the ante even more, try it on a double date. The stakes get higher when four people have to make a choice between footing the bill or connecting with one another without digital aids to distract them. Is a quick glance at Twitter really worth that much?
There’s a good deal of bragging out there about the mythical “digital detox,” wherein people sing the praises of keeping their phone screens dark for days on end as they remain offline over a long weekend at home or off on a tropical vacation. But for some, a budget-friendly nuclear option is the only one that works. If you’re searching for a way to organically introduce a digital detox into your personal life without leaving the country (or losing your willpower one hour in), consider going off the grid for real. Start by planning a day trip or weekend camping excursion somewhere off the beaten path, and vow to keep your phones in your bags or glove compartment as much as possible.
Before you go offline, consult a one-stop treasure trove of information on natural getaways to help you decide where to go. Pick a national park and clear your schedule so you can make a visit happen. If there are deep woods, mountains, or a desert landscape where you’re going, even better. Do some research online (ironic, yes) to see how bad the cell reception is there. Is it terrible? Great! Pack your things and go. There’s nothing like going cold turkey to shock the system and remind yourself that a whole world exists beyond the reach of your thumbs. Once the initial tech cravings wear off, the serenity that follows might incentivize both of you to darken your screens more often.
Try This, Not That
We replace things in our lives all the time. When we finish our latest Netflix binge, we move on to a new show. If we get sick of the same snack we’ve been eating every afternoon for weeks, we find something new to get us over the 3 p.m. slump. There’s no reason we can’t introduce a few new things into the space between our digital lives and our real ones, either.
Spend some time thinking about what needs your digital dependencies are serving, and ask the same of the person you love. Do you like to get lost in long-form storytelling on your favorite websites? Don’t forget, books come in paper form and serve the same purpose. Are you obsessed with the latest commentary on what’s going on in the world? A weekly print subscription to The New Yorker can give you an even more intelligent daily dose if you parse each issue out across seven days. Does the time you spend scrolling through Instagram fill your days with inspiration and beauty, giving you creative ideas for how to dress, how to decorate your living room or what to make for dinner? Believe it or not, analog versions of those things exist, too, in the form of magazines, museums, and good old-fashioned visual art forms like painting, drawing and DIY projects.
If both of you are gamers, why not rediscover the joy of cards and board games one night a week? If one of you can’t break away from texting your friends all the time, why not set a weekly catch-up coffee date with them so you can spend the rest of your time being fully present with the other important people in your life? (Bonus points, by the way, if you play the phone stack challenge during those weekly meetups and take it seriously. Free coffee for life!)
The World Is Your Oyster
To take things a step further, arm yourselves with tools to help you connect and express yourselves (or just plain have fun) when you’re out in the world together on any given day. Get a “real” camera and a foldable map and spend a Saturday together, exploring your neighborhood–or anyplace you’d like–and documenting your adventures without sharing them online in real time. Take small notebooks with you everywhere and write each other random notes, then hide them for one another to find hours, days or weeks later. Better yet, sign up together for a free drawing class at a community center or try out for a competitive endeavor, whether it’s a neighborhood softball team or a skee-ball league at a local bar.
One final tip: Don’t just find cool things to do IRL, put them on your calendar and then flake. Actually go to them, and let your offline adventures grow so big and so frequent, no Instagram filter or Snapchat story could ever capture their glory.
Originally written by RootsRated for Kelty.
Featured image provided by Jonathan Denney