We’ve all been there. You are enjoying an evening out with friends, and the person across from you seems more interested in their phone than the conversation around them.
As a college-level Sociology instructor, I face this every day. I struggle to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging. I’m constantly telling my students that they need to be “in the present.” What is somewhat surprising to me, is that I’m also seeing a backlash against the digital world.
More and more people are saying they want to “disconnect,” and with good reason. New research indicates that people who are riddled with distractions tend to have more anxiety. Research released last week backs up previous findings that people cannot multi-task — our brain is simply not capable of doing two things at once. Instead, multi-tasking leads to more mistakes, less abstract thought and requires more time to complete tasks.
What’s more, the digital era has led to an increasing sense of social isolation. Our digital tools like iPods and smart phones provide ways for people to avoid conversations with strangers. Social networking allows individuals to keep in contact with friends who are not nearby. We think that these things are enhancing our lives, but they are also isolating us. Studies released over the last 5 years have shown that we are lonelier than ever before, even with 500 Facebook friends.
How do we disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other?
For starters, your phone, computer, iPods and laptop can all be powered down. Those emails and messages aren’t going anywhere; you can catch up with them later. Psychologists recommend no “screen time” an hour before bed and within the first hour of waking. Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, it will also help you sleep better.
When you are out with friends and family, be out with friends and family. Put that phone away. Spend time having conversations with the people you are with. They took time out of their busy lives to spend time with you. Focus on being in the moment.
Finally, connect with your community. Our society has changed; many people are putting off marriage until later in life, if at all. Married couples are putting off having children. Many adults move to new cities to pursue career opportunities. All of these contribute to a culture where adults are working, and not much else.
Voluntary associations are a great way to connect with your community and those around you. They can provide anything from leadership skills and networking, to a social life. Here are some ways to connect to your local community.
- Join a community organization. For me, that was joining the Royal Oak Jaycees. The organization, for young professionals ages 21-40, provides opportunities for developing leadership skills through community service. For more on the Royal Oak Jaycees, follow the link below:
Royal Oak is also home to many other organizations including the Kiwanis Club, Elks Club, American Legion, and Moms Club. For a complete list of Royal Oak clubs and organizations, follow this link:
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to serve your community while serving others. Plus, it always looks good on a résumé. The Miracle League in Southfield is looking for buddies to help their physically disabled youth play baseball. The Royal Oak Animal Shelter is always in need of volunteers. If puppies and kittens aren’t your thing, there are many other organizations looking for help. You can find many of them online at:
- Join a recreation league. What better way to meet people than by playing your favorite sport? The South Oakland YMCA hosts several league sports and classes for both adults and kids.
Come Play Detroit has a wide variety of leagues including bowling, volleyball, dodge ball and flag football. They even have kickball for people like me, the athletically challenged. http://www.comeplaydetroit.com/
- Find a new faith community. Churches provide opportunities for individuals to connect with each other in a supportive environment. For more on Royal Oak churches, click the link below.
So maybe we can’t disconnect entirely. But, perhaps, by connecting online we can start to connect offline. And, at the very least, learn to disconnect … sometimes. Even more, we can begin to reconnect.