Ask Mr. Manners

Time to unplug

As the new year approaches, I am sure that many of us are starting to make a list of the resolutions to help reinvent ourselves. Gym memberships, diet plans, and finances are a few of the most common goals which quickly come to mind, but what if there was something even more important which is easier than sweating day after day? Unplug from your smartphone.

Now before you run off shouting Mr. Manners is talking blasphemy, take a moment to humor me.

 If you have ever accidentally “shared” a post that is offensive to a loved one, or vented about a boss and then held accountable at work the next day, you likely know that a few changes to our habits could help prevent these situations.

Many of us likely agree that technology adds a lot of ease, convenience, and happiness to our lives. Setting up boundaries is generally healthy and putting up a few of those guard rails when it comes to your screen time isn’t a bad idea, especially if you feel like your days consist of eating, sleeping, and screens. So, what are some of the benefits of unplugging on a regular basis?

There is a lot of research on the subject to let us know exactly what those benefits are, but it’s also important to remember that what is feasible for you might not work for others, and vice versa. And like all great compromises, we have to accept that fact. We all have our obligations and uses for technology. The key is finding which boundaries work so you find the balance that works best for your life.

Let’s start with a daily routine. Personally, I have found that unplugging after work can make a big difference in your quality of life, health, and happiness. Studies show that when people “unplug” from work-related tasks, such as checking email after hours, they’ve reported feeling fresh and better recharged when beginning work the next day. For anyone who has experienced burn-out at work, this isn’t too surprising. We can only do so much for so long before feeling exhausted. And constantly plugging into our screens doesn’t help matters.

Being woken up by funny tweets and random GIFs from your friends are likely doing nothing for your sleep pattern, much less your mood upon waking up in the morning. And if you’re waking up in the middle of the night to check work emails, that doesn’t suggest anything good because you aren’t giving your brain and body proper time to recharge.

Taking this one step further, additional research suggests that the blue light which is generated from our computers and phones also makes it difficult for our bodies to fall asleep, implying that we should disconnect before bed, rather than falling asleep while staring at our screens.

We now know that unplugging can increase our quality of life through reducing the exhaustion we feel from a lack of sleep and being overworked, but what are the other benefits which come from being unplugged? By engaging in unplugging from technology, your in-person communication and interpersonal relationships are strengthened because it encourages you to communicate outside  the screen- and text-based medium.

While technology makes communication super fast and convenient, it also removes body language, tone, and other things that help us understand one another and form bonds. We have all heard the phrase, “you know what I mean,” and by unplugging, we are taking a step back from having to constantly explain ourselves because we will be better knowing how to express ourselves.

In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to feel like we are constantly plugged in. Whether we’re checking our phones, refreshing our emails, or downloading a movie on our laptops, the reality often is that we’re surrounded by screens. But there are scientifically proven benefits from stepping away from technology — and sometimes, it’s useful to remind ourselves of those benefits. After all, when you’ remaking those resolutions it’s important to remember there is more to life than smartphones! 

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