How to Disconnect from the Digital World

Picture of two plugs being unplugged

Opening Thoughts

As a computer science grad student and as someone who deals with the tech all day long, I wanted to write this post because it’s something that has been on my mind for the longest time. As is titled, I wanted to share with you how to disconnect from the digital world and how to stop being sucked into your laptop, phone, computer, or what have you.

Also don’t think that I don’t see the irony in that this is an online guide telling you how to disconnect from the internet.

I think that we as a society have become too attached to the digital world and it has come with some consequences. I do want to also state that I overall view the digital age as a net positive for society, but we can’t ignore the negatives. So without further ado, here is some strangers self imposed guide on how to unplug from the digital world.

The Problems With Always Being Online

To keep this short I’m just going to make a list of problems and maybe you’ll agree with my list. I’m not saying I’m right, these are just my observations.

  • Being plugged in makes you forget to look up and see the world for what it really is
  • It’s very easy to get distracted and waste precious time all because you went on a YouTube binge or just mindlessly scrolled social media
  • Echo Chambers. Everywhere.
  • You don’t give your brain a rest from constant information stimulation
  • We use the internet to escape our problems rather than confront what’s really bothering us

That’s my list so far, perhaps you have more to add or maybe there’s some things that don’t belong.

The Problem with Being Plugged In and Never Looking Up to See the World

The world is a really beautiful place. I personally live by the beach and everyday – especially now that it’s summer – go out and walk on the boardwalk while leaving my phone at home. I only take my keys and just go for a walk and enjoy the hot sun on my back, the cool ocean breeze, and the peaceful trance of the waves. My walks usually last for an hour or so, but in that hour, I’m completely disconnected. No one can contact me, and I forget about all of my notifications. In short I escape from the world. On my walks I always notice the same exact trend. I see everyone on their phones or listening to music. Everyone is isolating themselves and in a sense trying to live in their own bubble. I personally understand why some people would do this. It’s a nice way to escape and attempt to be alone.

However, you’re not truly alone with your thoughts. If you’re listening to music off of Apple Play or Spotify, you’re just distracting yourself. If you’re browsing through social media you’re distracting yourself. If you’re texting or talking, you’re still plugged in and not truly alone with yourself and your thoughts.

Another issue arises when I’m having breakfast. I’ll instantly reach for my laptop and start browsing YouTube, looking for a video to watch while I eat my food, totally ignoring the delicious flavors of the fresh food that I just made for myself.

Some of the most beautiful and amazing things in the world are the simplest things in life and we completely ignore them because we’re always plugged in just mindlessly scrolling through our numerous feeds, trying to find our next dopamine hit.

Easy to Get Distracted

This is a huge one for me. Literally as I’m typing this, I have my phone next to me and am constantly monitoring any notifications that I get. I always find that whenever I am trying to focus in on one task and get work done, the second I feel any sense of boredom, I immediately open up reddit, YouTube, or Google to look up things that just pop up in my head. The next thing I know instead of spending an hour on an assignment, I spend an hour watching YouTube videos about Fallout New Vegas.

This is also semi-related to the problem above, but another problem is that people don’t 100% focus in on their conversations with others. Often times I noticed that people will be conversing with each other all while browsing on their computers or phones without fully paying attention to who they’re talking to. In short, I noticed that any moment people have free, they instantly seek to plug in to distract themselves from reality and to just escape into the digital world.

Echo Chambers. Everywhere.

This should go without saying, but the internet has become filled with Echo Chambers. Most notably found on Twitter and Facebook, but it’s now on any social media platform. YouTube is guilty of this as well. Once you start interacting with the platforms and find something that you agree with or enjoy, the platforms’ algorithms and recommender systems begin to shove that same content or anything similar to you constantly. Flooding you with topics that only you supposedly want to see and never showing you something that you might somewhat disagree with.

To be quite honest with you, what angers me the most about this problem is that it’s so easy to fall into and that social media companies profit off of this. Not only that, they’re destroying how society functions because people are always plugged in thinking that the digital reality is the real world, when the real world is no where near the digital.

I’ve noticed this problem with YouTube especially as of late because it’s my biggest addiction. My page is filled with only content that I’ve liked and viewed in the past. However, one day in order to try to break my addiction to YouTube, I signed out of my Google account. What happened next was I was transported to a world of YouTube I’ve never seen before. I was suddenly getting recommended videos of Fortnite game plays, hip hop videos, movie trailers, and numerous topics I’ve rarely seen. In short I’ve escaped the allegorical cave.

No Rest for Your Brain

It’s not healthy to be plugged in 24/7. We all need a rest from the digital world. I remember back when I had Instagram, I was so addicted to the platform that I would literally lose sleep because I would mindlessly scroll through my discover feed. I’d lay in bed at around 11 PM and wouldn’t fall asleep until 1-2 AM. Already because of being plugged in I was hurting my own brain through not getting enough sleep.

I also want to state that it’s not healthy to constantly have information streamed towards us. As I’ve said previously we ignore the simple pleasures in life because we’ve become hard wired to seek dopamine from the internet. I’ve found that people are usually much less happy because they’re constantly searching for something to amuse or entertain them. Perhaps this is the same argument as watching too much TV can rot your brain. I think that we have a society filled with digital zombies sometimes.

Digital Escapism

I genuinely believe that most people in our society use the internet as a means to escape the mundane parts of reality. I even find myself doing the same exact thing! I’ll get into my elevator and as soon as I press the floor I need to go to, I’ll reach for my phone to distract me from this 40 second elevator ride. Everyone around us uses the internet and their devices to just escape from their reality, never confronting their own issues or problems. It’s easy to ignore any of your problems in life when you’re always plugged in and distracted. Giving yourself artificial pleasure instead of facing your problems head on and looking for ways to resolve them.

How to Unplug and Reconnect to the Real World

Honestly my advice is very simple and think that it is quite effective since I implemented these techniques and have noticed a substantial drop in the time that I am plugged in. Here’s my list of methods/habits on how to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect to the real world.

  • Leave your phone at home and go outside
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode or turn off data roaming and wifi
  • Log out of all your accounts
  • Become cognizant of your actions and habits
  • Delete all of your apps

Leave Your Phone at Home and Go Outside

Get out of your house and go for a walk with nothing but your house keys. You’d be surprised how at first you find yourself constantly reaching to your pockets to get your phone only to realize you left it home.

Like any addict, you’re going to be anxious and scared at first because you’ve officially taken the first step of cutting out your dopamine hit. But as you start walking outside and connect to the real world, you’ll instantly feel a sense of calmness and bliss. You will be alone with your thoughts and will get to experience the world without any distractions. Time will feel slower, you will feel as if though you’re not in a rush anymore, and you will just flow rather than feel like your struggling to keep your head above water. Your mind will start to feel relaxed and at ease. You’ll even realize your problems weren’t really that big of a deal or that they were never problems to begin with.

Leaving your phone at home and just being outside is the most effective way of just unplugging from the digital world. Go outside and give your mind, body, and soul the time it needs to just reconnect with the world. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Turn On Do Not Disturb or Turn Off Data Roaming and Wifi

By turning on “Do Not Disturb” or shutting off the connection to the internet on your devices, you essentially create a barrier between you and distractions. You force your brain to realize that it will no longer just be able to mindlessly connect to the digital world and become distracted. In essence you start creating barriers for your negative habits and start building bridges for positive ones. If you also constantly get notifications you are allowing yourself to be distracted by things that aren’t really that important yet you feel they are because you’ve been conditioned to feel that they are.

Build the barrier to the digital world. It’ll make it easier to unplug and get back to reality.

Log Out of All Your Accounts

Going back to the previous point of building barriers, this is another method I use to disconnect. I’m not going to lie, I struggle with my addiction to social media. The engineers that build these networks/sites/apps know they’re addicting and they purposely designed them to be so in order to exploit human weakness for profit.

So my method to combat this is by logging out of of my accounts every time I finish browsing the apps/sites and get rid of any ways to make logging in easier. I also only use incognito or private tabs so that my information/history never gets stored or saved so that it makes it more difficult to log in.

The logic behind this is like so. These companies purposely make it easy and seamless for you to log in and start browsing on their sites because they know that the more barriers to get in, the less likely you’ll have the patience to try to get in and will just leave. So that’s why they offer to save your information for “easier” log in time and to “never worry” about your log in information. It’s all a facade they use for you to just log right in and start using their service. It’s literally the same as how the casinos in Las Vegas built the city and their hotels so that you would HAVE to go through their casino floors in order to cross a given street.

Create the barrier to log in so that in the future you’ll condition yourself to not bother checking as often or ever at all because you can’t be bothered with logging into your accounts just to view some notifications that are meaningless.

Become Cognizant of Your Actions and Habits

I don’t mean to sound like AA but it is true, the first step in solving your problem is admitting that you have a problem and becoming conscious of it. Once you become conscious of just how often you are connected to the digital world. You’ll begin to make active steps in trying to disconnect from it. It becomes infinitely easier to focus on whatever tasks you want to get done or to just calm your mind once you consciously realize what your actions and habits are like so that you can make steps in changing and correcting them.

I’ll give you an example, one of my negative habits is that as soon as I wake up, if my laptop is right by my bed, I’ll pick it up and start looking at surf reports or my email while still laying in bed half asleep and scrolling through the internet. So what I do now once I wake up and see my laptop is I consciously tell myself that it’s a problem to pick it up and start surfing the web and that helps me with not connecting and just being present in the moment and proceed with my morning routine.

Delete All of Your Apps

Perhaps this bit of advice is more targeted towards social media, but it can be true for any app that you find yourself checking constantly. Literally just delete the apps. They’re built to push notifications for you to be addicted and to just be surfing on them for an unknown period of time. If you don’t want to part ways with the app, I suggest you just delete the app from your home screen and have it tucked away in a place that’s annoying to find it and get to it. In essence going back to building barriers to fight off your negative habits.

If you delete all of the apps on your device, what you end up with is just a paper weight and it makes it easier to just disconnect and not be connected to the digital world all day long.

The only social media app that I have on my phone now is just Facebook Messenger and even with that I’ve muted all notifications except for having messages pop up on my lock screen. It’s helped immensely with me not checking my phone constantly and I no longer know if I have a message unless I scroll all the way to where the app is hidden which even then that’s a pain in the ass for me, so I end up not checking if I got messages.

Ending Thoughts

That’s pretty much it for my thoughts on how to disconnect from the digital world. Hopefully you’ve made it this far and didn’t find it to be too boring or even obvious. I hope you got some use out of this article and will try to implement some of the methods that I’ve laid out in this post. I also know that this post may seem like it’s an all out attack on social media or smartphones, but it’s not. It just so happens that we are always connected to the internet via our phones and the most commonly visited websites are social media pages.

Please let me know what you guys think about this, I’m always happy to get positive or negative criticism. Go ahead and call me an idiot too if you’d like because hey any comment is better than nothing.

P.S. After implementing these steps, I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I no longer am as attached to my phone and there have been legit times where I forget to even take my phone because I just have become so detached to it. My phone is essentially a very expensive paperweight that I occasionally use to talk to people or take photos with.

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