I was so inspired by an article I read in “Shape Magazine’s” May edition last night that, as soon as I got situated in my home office this morning, I had to share its reminders and insights. You’re probably thinking I’m going to blog about how to change poor exercise or eating behaviors, but this post is about another widespread behavior that could be equally, if not more, damaging to the health of individuals across the Globe — what I call “grid syndrome”, the need to always be “on the grid” or connected.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t read, thought, or taken action related to the ideas and concerns in the aforementioned article (“Get Phone Smart”) before. But, I’ve been giving a lot more thought recently to the impact of “grid syndrome”, and this may be the last “alert” I needed to put new healthy behaviors in place — consistently and permanently. I believe this “Shape” piece was one of the more comprehensive ones I’ve read on the constant-need-to-be-connected topic. It reminds readers of both the professional and personal impact of feeling the need to always be “plugged into” the outside world — whether it be with friends, family, or strangers — via the internet.
While I was a very early adopter of “LinkedIn” and “Twitter”, and a fairly early adopter of “FacebooK’ compared to many of my friends and family members, I have become both a bit leary and weary of all forms of social media. I don’t like the way I have to pay homage to/”feed” them all the time, and therefore, how they make me feel somewhat imprisoned. It’s a good thing to have a lot of friends, particularly in the world of social media, but what if work, family, health, and other needs, don’t allow you to read and respond to the hundreds of updates that friends and acquaintances post, particularly on “Facebook”? Are you a bad friend? Have you missed the one opportunity to learn about some really important occurrence in a family member’s or friend’s life? My thought and hope is “no” and “no”.
Let’s all ‘fess up. How many times a day do we feel the need or desire to post the smallest of thoughts or activities on social media for validation that it was a smart/good thought, or a heroic, important deed or action? How did we survive in the days prior to social media without validation from so many close and not-so-close acquaintances? Looking back on my internet-free days, I feel confident in saying that, for reinforcement related to less impactful thoughts or actions, we did a quick check-in with ourselves, and for the bigger life thoughts and actions, we reached out to friends and family members via phone or in-person for support or feedback. And, didn’t the self check-in build confidence in ourselves, and the family/friend check-ins build stronger relationships?
This past weekend, I visited Boston’s wonderful Museum of Fine Arts for the fabulous annual “Art in Bloom” event with several women I have known for thirty years now. During our lunch break to fuel up for more art and flower arrangement viewing and chit-chat, I posed a question I’d been pondering regarding “Facebook” — were people starting to be feel the way I was, and that I had heard people were feeling, i.e., burnt out on it? Two of my lunchmates chimed in immediately that “yes”, they were, and I think all of us present wouldn’t have traded our wonderful day together for hundreds of shared posts on “Facebook”. We are friends that hung out frequently in our early twenties, before major life changes like marriage, children, demanding jobs, moves, etc. lessened the frequency of get-togethers. It was the early-to-late-1980’s, when mobile phones were only for the very wealthy and the internet wasn’t even something we could possibly dream of or anticipate. But, somehow, and quite successfully, we made plans to meet up or travel together to the “Jukebox” in Boston, the former “Chevy’s” in Quincy, Duxbury Beach, cross-country skiing in New Hampshire, or a road trip to Falmouth, without e-mail, cell phones, Facebook, or texting! And part of the fun was calling one friend to ask if they were able to reach another friend — by phone or in-person, of course — to alert them of that evening’s or weekend’s plans. There was an excitement and energy to making all the arrangements that brought as much fun and camaraderie as participating in the activity itself.
It’s so fun to reminisce about a less complex and “freer” time, and that brings me back to the personal and professional impacts of “grid syndrome”. As they pointed out in the “Shape” article as well as many others I’ve read, doesn’t it truly take away from your enjoyment of a day visiting a local farm, traveling to the seashore, or watching a play-off game, if you are constantly thinking about what witty remark you’ll post, or if you feel the constant need to take photos to upload vs. just enjoying the event by yourself or with loved ones? I strongly believe that it does. And, what about the professional impact of always being plugged in? As the aforementioned article and other publications have pointed out, many individuals have found themselves more sleep-deprived and anxious as a result of feeling the need to be constantly “plugged-in”. The lure of reading that one last “Facebook” post, sending a status update, as well as the bright light of computer screens and cell phones keep us up or our minds racing later than would be ideal for functioning well in the morning.
While it would seem contradictory, stepping away from work e-mail at a reasonable hour, say no later than 8 p.m., will in the long run make you a better manager, employee, business owner, etc. Because, as the article explains, you’ll arrive at work more rested — leading to better performance, idea generation, and enthusiasm — attributes your employer or your clients are sure to value.
Because I am both a business owner and a marketing consultant, without a doubt, you will still find me tweeting and posting about marketing issues. And, you’ll still see me using all forms of social media to share what I believe to be information that helps others — whether it be a health and wellness tip, a link to support a charity, or some other information that keeps people safe and healthy — because this is what I believe is the true value of social media, and the internet, in general — to spread information that will help others.
In recent months, I’ve cut back my “personal” participation in “Facebook”. I still post regularly on my “business” “Facebook” page at allintheresults. I’ve always tended to go in spurts on the personal posting side anyhow. I wanted to see how much I would miss it and if I would feel less anxious if I stayed away from it. Not enough time has passed to draw a conclusion, so I plan to continue my experiment to lessen my exposure to “grid syndrome” triggers and see what the results are — very much in keeping with my love of research and analytic nature! I don’t consider myself a social media addict, but then again, that’s a common cry among addicts.
What I’m pledging here, and I ask my friends, family, and colleagues to hold me to this, and to strongly consider taking the De-grid Pledge:
- Unless a non-movable, tight work deadline requires it, I won’t use a computer, cell phone or other hand-held device for work-related purposes after 8 p.m.
- I won’t use a computer, cell phone or other hand-held device for personal/social interactions after 9 p.m, but preferably, will de-grid even earlier in the evening.
- I’ll be fully present and engaged in any social/fun activities with family or friends, and not think about what I’m going to post or share about it online.
- I’ll employ more “old-fashioned” means of staying updated with friends – calls to land lines, breakfast/lunch/coffee/walk get-togethers, cards, and letters, and spontaneous visits (with a quick call ahead of time, of course :)).
I’m hoping to generate some lively discussion on this topic, and that some of you will pledge to join me in my pledge. I’d love to hear what other components should be added to this pledge. And, I can’t wait to check in six months from now to see and learn who is sleeping better, is less stressed and anxious, and who’s enjoyed the wonderful daily activities of life as God meant them to be.