Technology has been one of my BFFs ever since I discovered its power when I logged in to the LexisNexis research service as a first-year law student at Howard University School of Law in 1986. Fast forward three decades later, my relationship with technology has blossomed into a full-blown love affair in my digital communications career as a consultant and Chief Social Media Officer for a nonprofit organization. Most days are filled with tons of screen time reading and writing email and texts, creating content on social media, and completing my online mindfulness course work.
In all of my efforts, I do my best to use my training as a mindfulness teacher to practice self-care and use healthy boundaries in how much time I spend online. However, there are times when I become off-balance. That’s exactly what happened in January and February. I became one of the four out of five adults in the U.S. (86 percent) who constantly or often check their email, texts, and social media accounts according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2017 Stress in America: Coping with Change report.
In early March, I noticed my eyes were beginning to hurt from too much screen time. That realization caused me to look at the actual number of hours I spend using my smartphone, tablet, and laptop to access the Internet. I discovered that after I completed my eight-hour work day, I spent an average of three to four more hours online. That was too much for me. Thus, I decided to participate in the National Day of Unplugging, an annual 24-hour digital detox from technology that began at sundown on March 9 and ended at sundown on March 10. The Sabbath Manifesto, a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world, created the annual event to highlight the value of disconnecting from your digital devices and connecting with yourself, your loved ones, and your communities in real time.
Here’s how I spent National Day of Unplugging. I left my home of digital distractions in D.C. and spent the night with my parents in the suburbs of Odenton, Maryland. The only device I brought with me was my smartphone and it was turned off as soon as I entered their home. We spent the evening having great conversations about the latest episode of Scandal, basketball teams playing in March Madness tournaments, gospel music, and our weekly activities.
The next morning I woke up without my phone alarm. My dad and I headed to his gym for a morning workout. After my workout, I sat in the lounge area reading Mindful Magazine. When we returned home, we made breakfast and had a conversation about local and national news. Later in the day, my parents and I went to see Ava DuVernay’s new movie, ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ At dinner, we discussed what we liked about the movie. Later that evening, I returned to my bustling U Street neighborhood. As I walked slowly down the street from the metro station, I took in all of the sights and sounds. I noticed I wasn’t rushing. I felt more present to what was happening around me.
The biggest lessons I learned during National Day of Unplugging include: 1) I need more days filled with quiet time and quality time with my loved ones; 2) sleeping with my phone turned off or on mute in another room helps me rest better; and 3) using one day a week to disconnect from my digital devices helps me to be more present in my life.
Ananda Leeke is the CEO of Ananda Leeke Consulting, a firm that provides coaching and training in mindful living, creativity, and technology. Her tech memoir, “Digital Sisterhood,” is available on Amazon.