My Social Experiment

We recently passed another Labor Day Weekend.  It marked the end of the summer of 2015, and the beginning of a new school year for my kids.  My work life this summer has been more than a bit challenging over the past few months, with a lot of change occurring around me — new leadership, relationships changing, and the like. Part of the fallout of all the change is an increase in the number of distinct threads of activity thrust upon me and my leadership team, all requiring a certain level of effort to address.

For those that know me would say I am a devoted user of technology.  I have one of almost everything in computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices.  I also enjoy the use of social media, actively using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  I’m in a Social Media Advocacy group at work to support the company’s efforts to increase business impact of social media tools at the corporate level.  I really enjoy this stuff, and all that it brings to enhance our lives.

Yes, I am fully connected.  Sometimes to a fault.  I get feedback (most of the time justified) from my family about my use when I should be more present.  It has happened at work, and, for the record, I am not the only one.

I wondered what might happen if I took a full holiday from my iPhone?  Would I become anxious or upset, almost like a drug addict?  Would my work suffer because I wasn’t paying attention over a long weekend to those that chose to work?  What would I see if I paid a little more attention to what’s going on around me?

I decided to do it.  Friday night I turned off my iPhone, placed it in the bedside table and left it there until Tuesday morning.  The world did not end.  I didn’t break into a cold sweat.  Social media continued and didn’t really notice I was absent. The work emails were there and it really didn’t matter whether or not I responded before.  It was a nice weekend because I let myself see the world around me through my own eyes, not tainted in any way by what was going on.

The biggest thing I noticed was that I lived with my head up.  The iPhone, even when in my pocket, draws my head downward.  Downward to look at it, downward to even sense it’s presence on my person or in the car.  For three days, there was no downward force drawing me away from my world.  I saw my world more fully, whether it was to be present with my family, or just to enjoy watching people as I went about my business.

I’m still a huge fan of my iPhone, and will continue to be.  However, I will be less afraid going forward of turning it off when it doesn’t really need to be on, and enjoy seeing life for myself.  I am going to be asking myself the question more often – does the iPhone really need to be on right now?

At the end of all this, it’s really about the fact the smartphone has arguably destroyed the boundary between personal and professional life.  Maybe shutting these devices off a little more often will help me reclaim some of my own personal life.  We’ll see what happens.

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Published by

bhackerson

I am a software lab manager in the Corporate Research Lab at 3M in St. Paul.

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