Put down the phone and step away slowly.

I’m not quite old. But I’m not young, either.

I’m old enough to remember the excitement when our family got an extended phone cord, so I could have a private conversation in the coat closet.

However, I’m also young enough to be able to claim that I have three laptops, two tablets, and a smartphone. These technology tools that today’s digital natives for granted help me manage more of my business, personal life, and home every year.

I never went on a road trip with my family and had the luxury of watching movies from start to finish. Today, though, I don’t fly without writing an article, catching up on email and managing my business from takeoff to touchdown.

The timing of my entrance into this world means I understand the value of spending time away from the digital world. And I know how to survive the real world.

I, also, love – even rely on – being on the grid.

My life is increasingly digital.

I find myself more and more on the grid year after year. Being online allows me freedom and flexibility in the way I make money, the way I travel, and the way I enjoy my life.

It’s set me free from the mundane and offers entrance into worlds of thoughts and ideas that I don’t always see IRL.

I assume if you’re reading this article on this blog that I wrote on my laptop, you relate to at least some of what I’m saying.

You probably know exactly what it’s like to have an online presence, even if it means that your ability to survive the real world is a little hampered.

I also don’t get bothered by seeing people with their faces in their phones. I assume that most of them are like me and building something.

But I also know it’s possible to get too carried away. There is a real solid world out there, and we all need to be connected to it.

It’s important that we all manage our digital lives and not let our digital lives manage us. So, here’s what my household does to fight the robots from taking over before their time.

Embrace everyone, not everything.

All electronic devices are not equal. I wholeheartedly love my electronics, but some of them aren’t worth the time, money or hassle. Take, for example, ereaders.

I tried to buy into them. In fact, I bought two even though I saw the limitations of my first ereader quickly. Ereaders were all the rage for readers. My husband got me one of the first, and the first time I flew I was told that I had to put my ereader away until the plane took off.

For the ten to 50 minutes until we were safely in the air, as a reader, I was bored. I was once stuck on a tarmac for what seemed like hours and couldn’t read or go to the bathroom.

(Editor’s note: you can use ereaders during takeoff and landing today. In fact, I love my Kindle Paperwhite. Don’t leave home without it — especially when I fly. A full library in the palm of my hand; I can read whatever I’m in the mood for without weighing myself down with several tomes.)

As time passed, I realized that I missed my tangible books with their bent edges, scuffed covers, and bookmarks that always fall out of place. I missed the option of highlighting and taking notes in the books I bought for learning. I missed the ease of sharing a book I loved.

I know there are digital solutions for all the voids from my short-lived ereading days, but there’s something to be said for the tactile, tangible, and rudimentary.

I don’t want to make Jeff Bezos poor. I’m just suggesting that you pick and choose what digital devices you let into your life and which you don’t. They don’t all provide more value than what you have or had.

Enjoy the art of the start and a happy ending.

A while ago, my husband and I started to turn off and disconnect at 8:30 pm. The blue light, the surround sound, and all the flashing are too stimulating to the brain. In fact, studies suggest that you should turn off your devices at least an hour before bed so you can fall asleep at a decent hour and rejuvenate for the next day.

We have the Blue Light Filter for all our devices, but we still feel more ready for bed at bedtime when we turn everything off. It’s the perfect way to unwind and relax.

We’ve, also, found that what there is to read online or on social media is less relaxing than most books — yes, old school books — that we read. In fact, you’re likely to find something on social media that gets your heart rate going and your blood boiling. That’s not a recipe for a peaceful night’s sleep.

Recently, we’ve imposed the limitation of not turning on our devices until we’ve completed our morning meditation, journaling, and exercise. So far, we like it.

Before this new policy, we found ourselves turning our phones on first thing in the morning and letting Facebook or email decide how our day started. We didn’t like that. We now turn on our phones or laptops at about 7 am. Ironically, we don’t get any less done than when we turned our phones on as soon as we woke.

In fact, we are a little more productive because we’ve started the day focused and happy.

Get human2human.

As with disconnecting from the digital world and connecting with nature, humans benefit greatly from social interaction. Let’s face it, we’re not that much evolved from our cave brothers and sisters.

Regular human to human interaction has been shown to help people live longer, maintain and improve people’s physical health, maintain and improve cognitive skills, and reduce the risk or effects of dementia.

Meet a friend for coffee. Walk with your special someone around your dream neighborhood. Go to a ballgame with your best friends. Hang out with, talk with, and enjoy other people without being more concerned about what’s happening on your phone than what’s happening around you.

Put the phone away and put the people standing in front of you first.

While human-to-human contact is best, you can also connect with those far and away by making an old-school phone call or using Skype or FaceTime. Don’t settle for a quick text that you can then ignore.

Seeing someone’s face on video, or hearing their voice over the phone, will lift your spirits, help maintain or improve your mental and physical states, and keep you connected with loved ones beyond the character limits that often come with electronic text.

Master the art of doing nothing.

You know what people don’t know how to do anymore? Nothing!

We’re over-stimulated, multitasking zombies who occasionally need a break from everything. We often worry about how to survive the real world — the time spent in a grocery line or commuting on the train — without the aid of our devices. But the truth is that you could probably use a little time without them.

Stare out your living room window or sitting on your front porch alone and without any distractions. Time yourself to see how long it takes you to get antsy. If you can’t go a few minutes without feeling anxious, you need to do nothing more often.

There is great value in downtime. These days, we complain if there isn’t something entertaining right in front of us all the time. We don’t need to be constantly entertained. Let your brain get in some relaxing.

Go outside naked.

I knew this was the point you’d want to read most, which I why I put it at the end.

Don’t strip down to your birthday suit and log a run around the block like you’re to your neighborhood what Mark Roberts was to the PyeongChang Olympics. My point is to go outside and experience nature without a single digital device.

Trust me! You’ll get to the park and home again in one piece without Google Maps. You don’t need Spotify to walk down the street. Rather, listen to the soundtrack of your life — it’s the one playing in your head. You’ll hear it if you listen.

Studies suggest that being in and naturally experiencing nature will improve your mood and lower your blood pressure, your heart rate, muscle tension, and stress. Some studies even suggest it reduces your chance dying earlier.

That’s worth a walk in the woods and off the grid.

Being disconnected will give you the opportunity to hear the birds chirp and the leaves rustle. You’ll more attentively experience the sun, snow, and rain.

You’ll hear silence, and silence is truly golden.

You’ll also have the chance to connect better with yourself and your thoughts. A walk outside in nature, even a walk down the block, is a great form of meditation.

Survive the real world without devices.

These are a few of my recommendations to help you stay connected with your natural self and the environment. Digital is good but a little less digital won’t hurt you. In fact, striking the balance between digital and living IRL will probably help you a ton.

When you start paying attention to how often you’re connected, you’ll start to see the value in disconnecting sometimes as well.

When you start managing your digital work, you’ll feel, be, and do better in the real world — and we need the real world to be a whole lot better than it is today.

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Warning: this post is a little heavy.

At the time that I’m writing this post, I (like millions of other Americans) have just learned that, yet again, there has been another horrifying school shooting. And, as this is only the second month in 2018.

It was all over social media. It is still all over social media as people debate the causes and solutions — often without doing more than screaming talking points and increasing the negativity in the world.

I find myself wondering how many times we will be alerted to this type of news throughout the year and how many times we’ll go through this cycle.

In fact, by the end of 2017, I found myself dreading the news, social media, and any form of media whose sole purpose was to inform me about what was going on in the world.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to know. And, sometimes, you don’t need to know. By October 2017, I began formulating a plan to take a social media break. One free from the constant notifications, angry comments, scary news, and political fighting. And, in December I managed to stay off of social media for a month.

I was damn glad. It was the most peaceful month of the entire last year.

Wonder how I did it?

First, I had to acknowledge that constantly being “in the loop” was driving me crazy and stressing me out.

On top of that, the stress began affecting my ability to live my life happily. Once I owned the fact that I needed time to not care about anyone but me and that I wasn’t being selfish, the social media break was easy to do.

Plus, social media can be distracting. It’s easy to sucked into a discussion. Before you know it, an hour has passed — and you’ve accomplished nothing to enrich your life. I could have spent much more time on my business and made more money without the time spent on social media.

Of course, my social media presence was a huge deal, so I needed to keep people in the loop.

I began prepping the people in my life who were used to communicating with me via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each day, I would post a message that would pique my friends’ interest. I kept these messages pretty cryptic so that they would engage with the post.

My friends began asking me questions about what was going on. Those questions gave me the opening to say “Hey-I’m taking a break soon from social media!”

Preparing my friends for this break was important because people take social media so seriously nowadays! You don’t want to unintentionally upset someone who reaches out to you but has no idea that you’re completely offline.

Leave a “bye Felicia” post.

Seriously, leave a post on your social media profiles letting people know that you are on a break. I literally left post letting telling my friends and followers the following:

  • What I was doing: “Taking a social media break” and how that break would affect the people that I typically connect with online.
  • I shared my “why.” This type of post is optional, but I found that by sharing my “why” other people would share that they were feeling the same way that I was and were thinking about taking a social media break too.
  • Share when you plan to return to social media. You’ll find that if you slip and get back on social and your friends notice, they will call you out on it!

Now that you’ve left notices and shared what’s going on, it’s time to take your break.

The logistics.

First, figure out which social media platforms you’re using. Because I run a blog, I am on basically all of the platforms. But you might only be on a few platforms that you use regularly. Identify those.

Next, get rid of the apps. I removed all of the apps from my cell phone. It was that simple. You might be surprised at how easy it is to avoid social media when it’s not staring you in the face on your phone. 

I also decided to stop watching the news. Interestingly, I actually found that to be a little more difficult than breaking up with social media.

Staying away from the news and constantly checking the headlines on my phone was a challenge. However, I didn’t miss the negativity involved with all that news.

What surprised me.

You’ve heard that  “ignorance is bliss.” I  100% agree.

The month of December was a blissful experience of being purposefully out of the loop. And, in just in case you’re wondering, if anything really crazy came up, people were sure to let me know what was going on.

My productivity shot through the roof, my anxiety levels went way down, and I existed in a state of complete calm.

By removing the anxious anticipation of waking up in the morning and wondering “What in the hell happened last night?” Each morning became something that I looked forward to.

And I also stopped checking my phone obsessively throughout the day. In fact, several social media related habits became apparent to me during my break. A few habits included: checking my social media right when I woke up, obsessively reading my feeds to see what was going on, and commenting constantly.

All of these things had been happening when I could have been working on something meaningful instead.

By the end of my experiment, I was surprised to discover how much I used to be involved with checking things on social media and in the news.

Would I do it again?

And, just in case you’re wondering, I am back on social media.

But I’ve become very attuned to how it makes me feel — and the minute it starts stressing me out, I’m taking a break.

The social media break was so enjoyable that I’ve actually scheduled breaks throughout the year and will take the entire month of December off again.

It made the holiday season so much more enjoyable.

You might be worried about what you’re missing by not being constantly connected. FOMO is real. But it doesn’t have to control your life.

In fact, once you go on break, you’ll realize that your FOMO isn’t really that bad after all.

Don’t worry about FOMO — embrace it.

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Who’s in charge? Your devices, or you? It’s time to show your technology who’s boss. Read More...

My name is John and I’m a tech junkie.

Sure, I rationalize my tech-addiction by telling myself that I can stop whenever I want. I tell others that, as a predominantly online entrepreneur, I must constantly be connected to be effective. The fact is, I get anxious when I’m not close to my phone or computer.

I tell others that, as a predominantly online entrepreneur, I must constantly be connected to be effective. The fact is, I get anxious when I’m not close to my phone or computer.

The fact is, I get anxious when I’m not close to my phone or computer.

Because I’m predominantly an online entrepreneur, my tech addiction is worse. It’s so easy to justify wasted hours online.

When I go to Twitter or Facebook to do my job, I can easily get sucked into the vortex of social media. A half hour passes before I realize I wasted a bunch of time seeing the awesome lives my friends, colleagues, and family memebrs curate for the world. The line between social media work and social media play is easily blurred.

I know I’m not alone.

Medical terms that were non-existent even five years ago are ubiquitous today. There’s tech neck, phantom vibration syndrome, smartphone stress, and cell phone sickness — just to name a few.

Many of us admit our addiction, but most don’t do anything about it. We often laugh it off.

How do you know if technology is running (and ruining) your life?

When you can’t do dinner without looking at your phone.

When TV trays first came into America’s stores in 1953 and Swanson took TV dinners to the masses a year later, no one predicted that nightly family dinners would become a thing of the past.

Gone are regular human interaction, conversation, and debate. Maybe this is why the arts of conversation and sane debate are lost.

If a meal without technology feels like a “last meal,” you may have a problem.

When you say, “You do it, too!”

A favorite argument of tech addicts is, “You do it, too!”

This is called infraction equivalence. While it may be true that the accuser is also the accused, the opposite is likely true. It’s easy for us to see the bad behavior in others and not in ourselves.

John 8675309 says, “First remove the computer out of your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the cell phone out of your brother’s eye.”

When you look at your phone before you look at your partner in the morning.

If you must satiate your tech fix before your caffeine fix, you may want to rethink your relation with information. A lot can happen in the world when you’re “lights-out,” but it’s not important enough to rob you of the few remaining intimate or quiet hours of your day.

When you call in sick because 15 seconds isn’t long enough to make better decisions.

Binge watching got even easier when streaming services began automatically starting the next episode of my favorite shows. Before I know it, it’ll be hours past my bedtime before I say it’s time for bed.

If you justify playing hooky from work the next day because the TV makes bad decisions for you, it’s time to disconnect and make adult decisions on your own.

When it doesn’t happen if you don’t post it.

The Information Age technically didn’t start until about 1990. The TMI Age started in 2004 with Facebook, followed then by Snapchat, Instagram and too many social networks for any sane person to keep up with.

If you can’t do or think something without posting it online, you could be part of the problem. Do yourself (and the world) a favor and just live some experiences and keep some thoughts to yourself.

When you haven’t talked to your friend in months, but you know everything about them.

Technology is bringing us both closer together and farther apart. If you know every detail of your friend’s life, but haven’t talked with or been with them in years, you’re missing out on a major part of the human experience. You know, those human-to-human experiences.

Call your friend instead of texting. Spend time with your friend face-to-face rather than over Facetime.

When you can’t go a day without taking a picture.

There was a time when every aspect of our lives wasn’t photographed and the world existed just fine. In fact, pictures were novelties and expensive. If you can’t live your life without looking through a lens, you’re missing what exists in the periphery.

We benefit more from being in the moment than merely photographing it.

When you miss bills, but don’t miss video game releases.

When technology becomes more important than your responsibilities, you may have a problem. If you know the release dates of your favorite game better than your children’s birthdays, or if you can list the name of reality stars but not our presidents, it’s time to put the joystick down.

Virtual reality is fun, but you know what’s also fun? Reality.

When you ask your partner to cut back on necessities, but you can’t cut back on NFL Ticket or Amazon Prime.

The above was about giving up responsibilities for the sake of technology. When you migrate from giving up responsibilities to giving up necessities, you’ve reached a whole new level of tech addiction. This is exacerbated when you ask others to sacrifice and don’t make equitable sacrifices for yourself.

Successful people do more of what adds value to their lives and less of what doesn’t. Technology does add value when used appropriately. But it can also devalue and ruin our lives if we let it take over.

Let technology be the tool rather than you.

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It’s the end of an era. Now you have to decide how to respond on social media. Read More...

Breaking up used to be so much simpler.

While the heartbreak never changes, the fallout of a nasty separation didn’t used to be so toxic. When relationships fell apart, it was entirely possible to move on without frequent reminders of what you once had.

Those days are loooooooooooong gone.

With the relatively recent rise of social media as a primary form of communication, the private has become public. Breakups are now events witnessed by everyone in your news feed, and any semblance of a dignified separation can be shattered by a single insensitive comment on Instagram.

So how can you move on without embarrassing yourself or your ex on the internet? How do you navigate the waters of breakup etiquette in this new digital landscape?

Avoid vaguebooking.

It’s tempting to spill your guts on social media after you’ve been dumped. Usually, that takes the form of an indirect, passive-aggressive message about loss, love, and life. But don’t think vagueness is fooling anyone. All your friends know who those Taylor Swift lyrics are referring to.

It will make you look desperate and pathetic if you publicize you broken heart all over the internet. Solution? Buy a journal and write in it every time you’re tempted to go public with those feelings.

Journal therapy can decrease anxiety, depression, and grief, so it can likely help you mend. Schedule a daily time to write down your thoughts, or keep a notebook around you when you’re tempted to write a melodramatic novel on Facebook.

Don’t delete your photos.

If you’ve spent enough time with someone, you likely have proof of your relationship all over Facebook. You may be tempted to remove all that evidence — especially if you’re angry about being dumped.

Don’t do that.

At some point, when you feel less bitter, you may want to look at those photos and even remember them fondly. No one stays a jilted lover forever, and you may be grateful for your past relationships when you see where they’ve led you.

Plus, deleting photos shows you’re not prepared to handle the breakup in a mature way. If you’ve tagged other people besides your ex in the photos, they may be bummed to find out their memories are gone too.

Abstain from social media altogether.

How to Handle Breakup on Social Media

Spending time on social media is not the answer any time you’re feeling emotional. Studies indicate that social media use can cause people to crave attention and seek it in unhealthy ways.

Try detaching from your phone and temporarily deleting your social apps. Seeing happy couples on Instagram might fuel jealousy. Finding out your ex has already moved on through Facebook is even worse.

You don’t have to give up your phone. You can use apps like Duolingo to brush up on your Spanish or Headspace to practice meditating. New habits will help you move on, and focusing on personal improvement can help you come out the other side a better person.

If you’re having trouble staying away, use extensions such as StayFocusd or Simple Blocker to limit how much time you can spend on social media. Other apps like BreakFree Cell Phone Addiction will send an alert when you’ve been on your phone too long.

Ignore your ex.

Everyone loves to Facebook and Instagram stalk, and there’s no better subject than a recent ex. When you start stalking, it can be impossible to stop. If your ex is active on social, you’ll likely find photos of them having fun, enjoying their new single status or, even worse, dating someone else.

I used to spend hours looking up ex-boyfriends on social after getting dumped. Trust me: I wish I could take back that time. I would have found out when they’d moved on anyway, and I could have been doing something healthy or productive instead.

Looking up your ex on social is an exercise in masochism. It won’t help you move on.

Looking up your ex on social is an exercise in masochism. It won't help you move on.Click To Tweet

Delete personal comments off your page.

Everyone has a nosy aunt who loves to comment on any and every event in their life. It may not even occur to her that when she posts, “Sorry to hear you and Adam broke up!” everyone — including Adam — can see it.

If you see comments like that, delete them and message that individual privately. They may not realize what they’re doing and assume it’s like sending you a personal email. Be polite, but firmly explain why it’s not appropriate to make those statements on a public forum.

We’re all trying to navigate the new media landscape the best we can, but it can be hard for some people to discern what’s appropriate and what’s not. Setting clear boundaries for what you allow for discussion publicly makes it easier for everyone involved.

If you’ve broken up with someone recently, how did you deal with it on social media?

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Your boss sees the photo of you partying too hard. Or she sees you rant about your job. You’re done. Read More...

The words you say, the pictures you post, and the memes you share have consequences.

Don’t be the guy or girl who gets fired or expelled for a stupid mistake you made on social media. You’ll just be next on the long list of people who didn’t realize that trouble awaits behind every ill-conceived post.

It is so easy for everything you do and say to be shared with the world. Forever. Permanently. There’s no going back to having private lives, now, so you just have to deal with it.

Remember when you thought Facebook was a safe place for you to just be yourself without parents, teachers, and bosses seeing what you’re up to? Well, social media sites are universal now. Everyone can see everything.

Even if you think your privacy settings prevent people from seeing what you’re up to, the real truth is that it doesn’t take much for anything you share in the strictest of confidence to be made public.

Here’s what happened to famous people who didn’t realize this. (Hint: they weren’t famous first.)

Craig Keefe, Justine Saccor, Ashley Payne

These folks became infamous after their incidents.

Craig Keefe

Craig Keefe was a nursing student at Central Lakes College in Minnesota when he used Facebook to make “private” derogatory comments about his classmates. The school nevertheless discovered the comments. Because that behavior violated the school’s code of professional conduct outlines in the student handbook, the student was expelled.

Keefe believed he had protection under the First Amendment to publish whatever he pleased as long as his comments didn’t slander anyone, but that was not upheld in court.

Justine Sacco

Justine Sacco made a bad decision when she, the lead public relations employee at an advertising company, posted a remark that could be considered racist on Twitter right before her airplane took off. Sacco may or may not have thought her “joke” was racist, but when her flight landed and internet service returned to her phone, she discovered she was fired for quipping about being safe from contracting AIDS in Africa because she was white.

As someone who worked in public relations, she should have known better. Good news for Justine. After only seven months of unemployment, she found another job in communications, working for the fantasy sports company facing legal troubles, FanDuel, according to Sacco’s LinkedIn profile.

Ashley Payne

Ashley Payne did nothing more than post a photo on Facebook holding a couple of drinks. Payne was a teacher, and even if she kept her profile private, a parent spotted the photograph, taken and posted several years prior, and informed the school’s administration.

She was asked to resign immediately, losing her job for a photograph that depicted nothing illegal. Even if she hadn’t touched alcohol since that photograph, because someone could find it, she had to face consequences.

You may think none of this is “fair.” Here’s what you can do.

Don’t use social media to complain about your job or school. If your boss hasn’t found you on Facebook yet, she will. And hiding posts from people isn’t the perfect solution because any vindictive “friend” can take a screenshot and make your post public.

Realize the public doesn’t have your “context.” If you joke about racism often, and your friends encourage you for some reason, don’t expect that anyone outside of your group will also consider your thoughts appealing. There are laws to protect employees from being fired for illegitimate reasons, but if your conduct in public reflects poorly on the company, you’ll quickly find yourself unemployed.

Remember you represent every group you’re a part of. When your actions become a news story, whether globally, nationally, or just within a group larger than your closest friends, you become a scapegoat for everything people don’t like.

If you’re a student at Yale making an insensitive comment about privilege, you now represent all Yale students to someone who’s not. You represent the Ivy League to anyone outside of that community. You also represent all college students to someone of a different age or life path. To someone outside the United States, you now represent all Americans.

You’re an adult. You’re allowed to do anything you want as long as it’s not illegal, and — presumably — it falls within your code of morals or ethics. It’s OK to go out and have some fun. But posting and snapping your drunk selfies is bound to come back and bite you in the ass eventually. Especially if it happens more than once.

You do you. But maybe just don’t post about it if you have any concern for future opportunities.

It’s worse when you’re a member of a minority, especially if you are part of a group that isn’t well understood by others. If your skin color is dark, every mistake you make is seen as a failing of all those who share that skin color. If your sexual orientation or identity is not normative, despite diversity within your group, your attitudes could come to represent the entire group for those on the outside.

Does it matter what other people think of you, even if they’re ignorant? Yes. Once your behavior hits the news, your identity from an external perspective will be reduced to any identifying group that you could represent, regardless of the depth of your character. And sometimes you need to be respected by those people as an individual, and a capable, responsible person.

Yes, these consequences can stifle free expression throughout society. The world has opened up, and what used to be private communication now has the potential to get you in trouble. If you freak out when your boss finds your Twitter account or when your students find the Facebook account you use with your middle name instead of your last name, you may want to change some of your online behavior.

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