I have been quiet in this space lately because I have been thinking about digital media, specifically my email, social media, texting and how my interactions with all of it have changed over the past three decades. It’s been on my mind since September but with the transition to Spring it has taken the forefront.
I remember my first email account. It was 1988 and I was provided with a college account as the Sports Information Director for a small liberal arts college. The email could only be used for internal communications across campus. It was helpful, the flow and speed of information amongst the college community felt effortless.
Fast forward to 1995 when I received an educators email through a local university. It opened up a world of communication. I could communicate with colleagues in other states and time zones. It let us tap into each other’s wisdom, insights, and ideas whenever it was convenient for each of us, regardless of time of day. Within several years our school system provided email accounts to all of the employees. By 2000 email was a part of every day life and routine. My daily world had changed. And, I liked it.
It was exciting. I like feeling connected to people far away. Being able to have the New York Times and BBC News at my fingertips makes keeping up with world events easier. I have access to libraries and museums around the world. And, so much music is available. Inspiration comes in the form of online essays, posts, pictures……..
When I reflect now, email was just the beginning. Email laid the path for the acceptance of all of the digital changes to come. Over time engaging with the internet and social media became regularized. As it all became more a part of my every day life it changed for me. It was emerging as an obligation. No longer a tool to enhance communication but rather a tether to expectations.
I have pondered and reflected on technology and digital media and the way I interact with it. I have learned that my tendency toward ritual and rhythm make it very easy for me to succumb to the pull of available technology. I realized I reach for my phone while waiting in lines, at red lights, on elevators, in carpool. All those little moments that occur throughout the day, where I could revel in the found time to think, breathe, notice, I fill with technology.
I know that when I am engaged with nature or creating I feel better. I sleep better. I learn better. I interact with people better. I think clearer. But my ritual, habit, dare I say addiction, to this technology interrupts my overall well-being.
I researched and read about technology’s impact on health and well-being. Just take sleep. We need 6-8 hours of deep, restful sleep, in order for our bodies to reset and recuperate from the day. While we sleep our bodies go to work repairing our cells, setting our circadian rhythm, balancing our hormones, making sure our systems are ready for the hard work of protecting our memory and immune system, and decreasing our risk of certain health conditions.
My work days are long – 6:30am – 4:30 pm and sometimes longer – and are often very stress-filled. When I feel over worked and over stressed my cortisol levels are high. When my cortisol levels are high while I sleep, my body can’t repair and actually sleep. “High evening cortisol makes you feel like you don’t need rest, at the time when you actually need it most. You can have trouble falling asleep or sleeping deeply. This depletes your adrenals, which heal at night. Depleting your adrenals can cause neurotransmitter levels to decline, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. The lack of sleep makes it harder to sleep because of stress and high cortisol, and it becomes an endless cycle” (https://www.saragottfriedmd.com/7-faqs-on-cortisol/).
Layer on top of that, the blue light of my devices. That light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that needs to rise for optimal sleep, and the light disrupts circadian cycles. So when I am checking my phone, “just one more time” before bed, I am making it even harder for my body to do its work.
And so, the Vernal Equinox and Supermoon emerged as an opportunity to reflect even deeper and to listen to my inner voice that has just been waiting to be heard. I am radically choosing my self and my family over the obligations of digital media. It’s time for me to adjust my interactions with digital media and to create new habits. Still in the digital world but not tethered to it. A digital detox. A digital cleanse. A digital sabbatical. A digital time-out. Whatever label fits.
Here are my goals:
1. Technology-free within an hour before bed time.
2. Technology-free within an hour of awakening in the morning.
3. Technology-free Sundays.
Time to relax. Play. Unwind. Notice. Be present. Interact. Be Bored. Create.