Permission To Disconnect

August 23, 2018

With the end of our short Minnesota summer drawing near, now is a great time to remember that it’s important for us all to take time to unplug and disconnect from our electronic devices every once in a while.

This past week, I spent an extended weekend with my entire immediate family at our cabin in northern Minnesota. This included eight adults, four children and seven dogs. We do our annual family cabin weekend every year in August. It is a weekend filled with the beautiful chaos of family life. It includes lots of swimming, boating, skiing and tubing, eating, drinking, competitive — but friendly — horseshoe and bags tournaments, bonfires, more eating and even more swimming. You know what it doesn’t include? Devices. No TVs, no computers, no tablets and no phones. For four days we choose to press that power-off button and live in the moment. Every year during this time, I am reminded how incredibly important it is to take time to unplug, turn off those devices, soak up some sun and breathe in the fresh air. To completely disconnect from the digital world.

The biggest highlight this year was getting to watch my nephew (9) and one of my nieces (7) get up on skis for the first time ever and ski two laps around the lake. I must admit, I did have my phone in my hand. But I wasn’t using it to share that moment live on social media. I wasn’t reading the latest article in Ad Week or checking my email to see what was happening while I was out. Instead, my phone was used to record that once in a lifetime moment. I captured the moment for them to watch themselves ski and to hear the excitement from everyone on shore and in the boat cheering them on. I captured the moment so they could share it with their children. The whole experience gave me goosebumps. They both had learned to ski on the same skis that their mother and father had learned on. They were taught how to ski by their moms and dads, held balanced in the water by their aunts and uncles, and cheered on by their grandparents. All of whom opted to unplug, be in the moment and to be fully engaged in life happening right in front of them. It was such an exciting time for all of us. Another generation of our family learning and enjoying something that two generations who were there with them at that moment have enjoyed for so long.

And yet it makes me wonder how many people might have missed this moment because they were using their devices for scrolling and not filming. Check out these statistics below and you’ll get a sense of how dependent people are on technology.

According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans now own a cell phone ­— 77 percent of which are smart phones.

84 percent of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device.

67 percent of cell phone users find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. In addition, many people check their phone just only because someone they are with is checking their phone too.

53 percent of cell phone users say their phones make it harder to give people your undivided attention.

57 percent of cell phone users say their phones make it harder for them to focus on a specific task.

Most of us working in the advertising/PR/marketing industry find ourselves living an always-on lifestyle. We are constantly reading articles from industry publications, learning about new technologies and techniques, and looking for what’s trending. Our flexible work schedules give us the ability to work anywhere at any time. So now more than ever it’s important to take the time to power off and recharge. We need that unplugged time in order to refresh our creativity, truly connect personally with the people in our lives, give our undivided attention to those who seek it and for our general well-being.

I’m so happy I get work at a place that supports and respects your time to unplug and power off. To have a team of people who get what it means to recharge and help you disconnect. In fact, Fast Horse encourages the unplugged time. It’s understood that in order to be better at what we do, we need that time. Whether it’s personal time off or time off together as an agency. The latter is evident with our recent Farm Day outing, an annual Fast Horse tradition I got to experience for the first time this year — see Peepshow posts from Alli and Maggie. There are also plans in the works for an offsite unplug and get-creative day for the entire agency. This agency gets it and understands the importance of unplugging to refresh and recharge so we can all be the best we can be while we are here at work.

Ask yourself, do you find yourself reaching for your phone out of necessity or out of habit? Can you go an hour without picking up your phone or computer to check to see if you’ve missed out on something? If your answer is no, you might just be missing out on something more important that the latest celebrity post on Twitter. Life is happening right in front of you. Unplug for a bit and enjoy it. Give yourself permission to disconnect and live in the moment. I promise the world won’t collapse.