Unplugged Sundays: What A Break From Technology Is Teaching Me
“He doesn’t have his phone on him. He’s unplugged today,” she says to a friend at church with a smile.
I look over at her and smile. I shrug my shoulders and say, “Yep”. She looks back and her grin gets bigger. Then I reach to hold her hand.
Not long after, we leave church and head out for a day full of errands, coffee, and conversation.
And that’s how a typical Sunday goes for me and Jessica now that I’m following my “unplugged one day each week” rule (see my Making 24 Extraordinary post).
It’s been two weeks since I started my unplugged challenge, and I must say it has felt great to dedicate one day each week to things other than technology.
It’s pretty simple actually. All I do is leave my iPhone plugged in and at home when I leave for the day. I used to bring my iPad to church to use the Bible Gateway app, but now that stays at home too. Do I still accidentally reach for where my phone should be at times to look for directions or to find the answer to a question? Yep, and it feels pretty silly that the action is so habitual for me. Is it stressful not having my phone with me? Not really, to be honest.
After two Sundays of not being dependent on technology, here are some things I’m learning and observing:
1. Sundays are more deliberately planned. Our Sundays are full of adventures. In the past two Sundays, we’ve visited new coffee shops, explored new areas in the cities, read new books together. We’ve planned where we want to go and who we want to see. And I do it without my phone (even if it means I don’t get to Instagram every cool place we see or impressive latte I get!). I will say, however, that I’m still figuring this one out. Yesterday I saw my brother Jon in the morning before church and told him to text me later if he wanted to spend some time with us. It wasn’t until later that Jess asked, “Does he know you don’t have your phone on you today?” Oops!
2. I’m more focused on what I’m doing. I don’t have one eye constantly on my phone anymore, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while I’m drinking coffee with Jessica. I notice the world around me more. Frequent buzzes from my email or Twitter feed don’t distract me when I’m trying to talk to people, explore the world around me, or accomplish tasks.
3. I give more attention to the people I’m listening to. It’s a blessing to have so many wonderful, caring people in my life. I’d like to be better at giving them my full attention when I’m around them, or when we’re talking. Sundays are helping me do that. When I’m unplugged, there isn’t anything to distract me. I give people my full attention. My eyes are on them (instead of my phone), and I’m actually listening (instead of saying, “…hm?” every other sentence).
4. I think more before I speak. My mind is clear to develop thoughtful responses. Since I’m being a better listener, I’m also able to be a better responder.
5. Jessica really loves Sundays now (and so do I). Since starting the unplugged challenge, she’s more than once told me how great she thinks it is. We’re used to spending our Sundays together, and now that I’m completely unplugged, we enjoy the time we spend together even more. I think we can both tell that it’s bringing us closer together, which is fantastic. Although the unplugged challenge was something I wanted to try to do for a number of reasons, I definitely had Jessica and our relationship in mind. I’m blessed to be with an incredibly caring, fun, adventurous, intelligent, and inspiring woman, and if I can do anything to keep strengthening my relationship with her—like something as simple as not having my phone on me for one day a week—I’m going to do it!
6. I’m more focused on God, and I pray more. I surprised myself on the first Sunday of my unplugged challenge when we sat down to eat lunch at a restaurant, and, before picking up my fork, I asked Jessica, “Can we pray?” I’m embarrassed to say that this question hasn’t always popped into my head during times when I’ve had my phone with me. Sometimes I’m lazily scrolling through news stories while we wait for our food. Or I’m looking up directions for the next place we’re heading to after our meal. But this challenge is making me more aware of that problem, and now I can confidently say that I’m working on it. Not using my iPad as my Bible on Sunday makes finding verses a little slower, but it also makes me listen more. If I think I can’t look up all the verses our pastor is referring to, I’ll just write them down to find later and focus on listening to what our pastor is actually saying about them. Picking Sunday as my unplugged day wasn’t random. It was a deliberate way to ensure that I’m 100% focused on Christ every Sunday, with the hopes that that dedication will slowly trickle into every other day of the week as well.
7. I’m more social. But not in the way that you’re probably thinking (Facebook, Twitter, etc). No. I mean I’m actually more social. I’m more willing to talk to people I don’t know, and have more in-depth conversations with people I do know. I’m not sacrificing the level of my social engagement in the real world for social engagement in the digital world.
8. I’m not as stressed. It’s pretty difficult to get stressed about bad internet service or delayed Google directions when I don’t have access to either on Sundays! I also don’t have to see work email previews or industry-related news stories pop up on my phone screen.
9. I read more books. Another one of my goals from my Making 24 Extraordinary post is to read three books per month. Sundays are good days to read! I’m usually leaving my house early in the morning for the day, but I don’t leave without one or two books in my hands now. There are a lot more opportunities to get some reading in when I don’t have my phone to take up all my time. Instead of reaching for my iPhone the second a conversation ends or there’s some downtime in my day, I reach for a book.
10. I think more about what hobbies I want to take up. I’ve been wanting to try doing some woodworking projects for a long time, and now I’m finally moving forward on a few. This past Sunday I bought most of the materials I need in order to handcraft this. I’m excited to give it a go!
I used to be pretty dependent on having my phone with me at all times, but now that I’ve been experimenting with not having it one day a week, it really isn’t that important to me anymore. I care much more about the relationships I have with my friends, my family, my girlfriend, and Christ. That’s what life is supposed to be about. I still want to use my phone and technology as a tool to communicate and stay connected with good friends and family who I don’t get to see everyday, but I don’t want to depend on it or use it as a way to fill dead time. I think finding that balance and being more aware of how I use technology is extremely important, and it’s something I’m going to continue to work on each day of my life.