I went on a wonderful camping trip this weekend. Though I was very excited to spend time with nature and catch up with my best friend, I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about heading into the woods and leaving my cell signal and wifi behind. What if I miss an email from a potential landlord? What if my friends get impromptu tickets to a concert? What if the entire city of Toronto gets destroyed by a meteor and I won’t find out until I see the massive crater on the horizon?
To my surprise, being away from my phone and laptop actually made me feel more relaxed, not anxious. Over the camping trip I realized just how attached to my phone I am, and that the constant cycle of checking facebook then checking instagram then checking email then checking this and checking that has left me more tuned out of life than connected with it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a supporter of the whole “electronics are ruining our generation” argument. I love social media, my phone and the internet. I can’t imagine a world where I’m not connected with people all over the globe. But leaving the Internet alone for a few days taught me some interesting things about myself, about how I view the world and most importantly, the things I sometimes miss.
Lesson 1: Being away from the Internet helps me sleep better. The first thing I noticed about being away from my phone and laptop is how much better I slept. Most nights, unwinding before bed can easily turn into scrolling down tumblr for two hours past when I had planned to sleep. Without my phone around, I was able to go to sleep when I needed to and slept better without it buzzing beside my head. I dare you to leave your phone in another room when you go to sleep tonight, if you don’t sleep better, you may at the very least go to sleep earlier.
Lesson 2: Close instagram. Unplugging made me truly embrace my surroundings. Without the pressure of taking the perfect photo, picking the best filter and sharing my trip with my closest 200 followers, I was able to snap a few quick pictures with my camera and then completely enjoy the nature around me. There’s something magical about experiencing something for yourself and not for the people you’re friends with on social media.
Lesson 3: Text less, talk more. I pride myself in my ability to text without looking. If I’m out for coffee with a friend I can quickly text my mom without zoning out from the conversation. However, I realized this week that when I do that I actually am distracted, even if I’m not looking, I’m still not paying as much attention as I probably should. There was a newfound depth to my conversations that doesn’t usually happen when my phone is around.
Lesson 4: It’s okay to get lost. I love Google maps. If it weren’t for the Old Goog I doubt I’d ever get anywhere on time. But after passing the no signal bubble, the data service on my phone disappeared into the void and we were forced to do it the old-fashioned way, with maps. Yes, the amount of paper and folding and “wait a second I was holding it upside down” is less than ideal. But when you afford yourself the time to get lost, getting lost becomes a lot of fun. Next time I have to go somewhere new in the city, I’m going to try doing it without the help of Google maps. Sure I might be late or I might get horribly lost, but in a city as big and wondrous as Toronto I’m sure to stumble upon something amazing.
Lesson 5: Focus on yourself. Let’s be real, scrolling down Facebook can lead to major FOMO. I’ve spent the past few months looking at my Facebook friends’ photos of beaches and concerts and worrying that I’m not doing enough with my summer. Not being able to check Facebook made me realize how much time I’ve wasted comparing myself to others, and how much more fun I can have when I just focus on what I’m doing instead of what others are doing.
Lesson 6: Get outside! Reblogging pictures of trees to my tumblr only gets me so far. And none of those pictures have come close to the beauty of sunlight streaming through the trees on the roof of my tent.
Lesson 7: The last and probably most important lesson: The world will always be there when you come back.