Disconnecting in a connected world

happy friends dancing

Books. Movies. Television. Music. People. The invention of smartphones and tablets has made all of these things accessible with one swipe of a finger, allowing for much of society to be more connected than any other point in history.

The ability to look up videos, find clips from your favorite television shows and even settle the tiniest of debates with a simple Google search on your cellphone has proved to be a major advantage of having the world at your fingertips.

Sometimes, though, it can be a blessing to find ways to stay connected to our roots instead of continually pouring everything we have into disconnecting from them. Progress is great, but sometimes remembering how we got here and touching our past is even greater.

A vast landscape of virtual escape and accessibility can sometimes overwhelm a person. That’s why taking the time to disconnect once in awhile from this increasingly technologically connected world can be a good thing.

The smartphone / tablet

This is where technology begins and ends for many people. They are constantly keeping up with the yearly (sometimes semi-annually) release of updated technology. These people might often jump between brands, allegiance and money be damned. In the end, these people can often be left unfulfilled and, even worse, find themselves searching for ways to relieve themselves of debt.

Should you give up the cell phone altogether? Probably not, as the jump to a landline phone might be a brave one to take. The smartphone has become such a crutch to many of us that we feel we can’t live without it.

The smartphone has become such a natural thing to constantly check that many of us cannot make it through a film at a movie theater without looking at it. Meals can’t be eaten without checking the cell phone multiple times.

It’s reached a point where some businesses are offering free food just to see if sitting down for a meal in a public place can be had without looking at the phone for what are essentially menial reasons.

Take a break. Keep the phone away. People managed in the past without checking their phone every five minutes. Become one of those people by unplugging and living a life phone free for a few hours each day. (And don’t count being asleep as phone free. While true, try it during the hours you’re awake as well.)

Dating apps

If a stranger were to go through my phone, they’d probably be startled by this fact (especially considering I’m a bachelor in his 30’s): I don’t have one single dating app installed on my phone. No Tinder. No OK Cupid. Not even a Zoosk.

Am I saying I prefer the days when you walk into hotel, search for the conference room that welcomes you with a banner that reads “Speed dating: Bringing couples together three minutes at a time” and hope for the best?

No, I’m pretty sure that only works in movies. I am suggesting to take the time to meet people the old-fashioned way.

By that, I don’t mean hopping into a Yahoo chat room and asking “A/S/L?” I’m talking about going out into the world, whether it be at a bar, grocery store, or a coffee shop, and striking up a conversation. Sometimes it pays off to take that risk and meet people in person before using a photo and brief bio to take that lesser leap.

If people stray away from meeting someone else in public, it can one day be imagined that couples might not have these romantic, cute, or humorous stories of how and when they first met. We will be a world in which the question of how you met your significant other will not even need to be asked. The conversation will simply go like this:

“How’d you meet your significant other?”

“I swiped right.”

TV / Movies

This one can be a bit more difficult. There are some many different avenues in which to experience the television shows and movies that are being made. Many of the best shows are streaming on Netflix and Hulu and the movies we tend to see them in the theater or wait until they are streaming.

One can step away from the streaming by picking up a DVD (or BluRay) once in awhile. No need to huddle around a tablet, the screen inches from your face. My parents once told me I’d go blind from sitting too close to the television. Does that edict still apply to kids (and adults) today with tablets constant near the their face?

If you feel really daring, you can dust off that VCR and unearth those forgotten about VHS tapes you may still inevitably have in box buried in a closet. Rewinding a tape or, even worse, trying to adjust the monitor tracking, will most likely remind you how far we’ve come and how lucky we are to have streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

From time to time, it’s possible to take it step further by turning off the smartphone, tablet or television and reading a book.


E-books are great. They provide authors an opportunity to showcase their work, especially those that may not have the connections to meet the right people in the publishing world. Having a virtual library at your fingertips saves time and in many cases, money.

Going to a local bookstore (yes, they still exist), sifting through the collections and years of books, is a great way to reconnect with an old way of thinking. The musty smell of the book store, similar to the stale tobacco odor of your Grandpa’s house, evokes memories of a simpler time.

Even ordering books online or going to your local library are good ways to stay connected to a world minus technology. To me, there is nothing better than holding an old book in my hands, thinking of how many people have entered the world of the book before me.

Technology has moved society forward with so many aspects of life. Old ways, whether it be watching a movie, reading a book, or even finding a date, still work. This not a way to hinder progress; it’s simply to keep in touch with our past.

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About the Author: James Watt

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