Pressing the Pause Button: How to Break Free from the Chains of Modern Documentation

We’ve all seen it and done it. You’re at a show or something cool is about to happen and outcome the hundreds, maybe thousands, of smartphones ready to document every moment of it. This phenomenon has taken over the world and we are now spending more time watching things through a smartphone camera than actually enjoying the moment.

Our society has become one obsessed with celebrity status and documentation. Click To Tweet

Our society has become one obsessed with celebrity status and documentation. YouTube channels now consist of people documenting everything they do all day and while some are interesting, funning and fun, not every moment of our lives needs to be documented. Even recent movies, such as The Circle, have shown what lies ahead if we continue down this path of documentation.

I think it hit me when I was watching a great fireworks show this summer and I looked around (during a small break as I didn’t want to miss anything) and all I saw was phones all over the place recording. I wondered if I was a part of a small group at the show that was actually watching it live and not on a phone screen.

This wasn’t the first time I have witnessed this phenomenon and I have been a part of it myself. Sometimes, we think everything needs to be recorded, photographed and shared with the entire world, but it doesn’t need to be. I often wonder how we ever have anything to talk about since most of what we do has already been shared across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a dozen other outlets.

Pressing the Pause Button

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Sometimes, we need to press the pause button on technology. Click To Tweet

Sometimes, we need to press the pause button on technology. Taking a day away isn’t enough as it will just have you jonesing to get right back online and see what you’ve missed. We owe it to ourselves and our families to take a break from the picture taking, the video recording and the constant interaction through devices and social media.

When was the last time you went out to dinner and a phone didn’t come out for pictures every 15 minutes? Have you ever been to a family reunion (in the past 10 years) where phones weren’t constantly recording, snapping pictures and even being used as a way to keep boredom from setting in? We are way too connected and we need a break.

It’s time to press the pause button and rethink how we go about documenting our lives for everybody to see. Modern society has us feeling pressured to share everything we do and everything our kids do with our family, friends, social media acquaintances, people from high school we haven’t seen in a decade and even strangers. We are too quick to press record and let everything go directly to the world through social media.

I am not, by any means, saying you should never record anything or snap a picture, but think before that phone comes out of the pocket and starts documenting every experience you think you’re enjoying. Take a step back and realize, if you’re recording, you’re not really there fully, in the moment creating memories.

best-memories-in-life
Choose what you document and choose what you let be a memory shared by you and your family. Don’t document everything and take a break. Hit the pause button, put down the phone and enjoy life.

How to Take a Break from Technology

This isn’t a relationship where you will “just be friends” or one where you need to “breakup”. Instead, it’s taking a break to get back to living life and realizing technology rules our world right now and it’s not the proper master for any of us. You cannot have two masters, so if technology is ruling your life, it’s your god/idol/master.

You cannot have two masters, so if technology is ruling your life, it's your god/idol/master. Click To Tweet

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Just as money isn’t evil, but the love of money IS evil, Technology isn’t evil; the love of technology IS evil. If your life is dictated by what happened on social media, what you’ll share next or the sound coming from your smartphone, it’s time to press the pause button.

We must pull the plug before we can move forward. It starts with rethinking how you treat technology and the digital world. Do you spend hours on social media every single day? Are you neglecting other, far more important things because you just have to see what so-and-so did last weekend? Is social media your way of subconsciously bragging about what you did, where you went or what you accomplished?

Our society has taught us that being disconnected is not appealing. Click To Tweet

Our society has taught us that being disconnected is not appealing. It’s like talking to a group of five people and you’re the only one left out because you don’t watch Game of Thrones. If you’re not on Facebook (I am not and haven’t been for a few years now) or you don’t participate in SnapChat, society says you should feel left out. It’s screaming at you to join the crowd and be like everybody else.

I am not going to try to advocate for people to completely leave social media as I think there’s plenty of good to be found through Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and other sites. However, I am going to advocate for pressing the pause button, take a few days, maybe weeks, away from it and reconnecting with those around you.

Reclaim Your Life

“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver

You have one life and choosing to spend it in front of screens constantly, on social media and completely distracted isn’t going to make you feel very good when your life is nearly over. One day, I think we all wake up and look back realizing what needs to change. It could be your health that causes it or a teenager you have very little relationship with outside of social media. There are many things that might send you into a tailspin wondering how you got where you are.

Part or pressing the pause button is taking the time to realize email, text, social media and documenting every moment of a cool experience are simply not necessary. Do your remember when people used to share a photo album of their vacation with you after the film was developed? If you’re under 25, you probably don’t remember this.

It wasn’t an experience most looked forward to. Most of us really don’t care that much about seeing your vacation pictures, whether in an album or on your Facebook page. Maybe instead of sharing a hundred pictures from the one vacation you get each year, you could take that week off from technology.

photo-album

Imagine that! Take the family to somewhere fun, leave all the phones and computers and video games and iPods and tablets at home (except one phone for emergencies, which remains off and in the glove box or in a suitcase). What would that look like? Would you be too bored to enjoy the vacation or would you find fun things to do together as you bonded and actually created memories?

Sometimes, we are too busy taking pictures that we don’t even realize what’s going on in the moment. We want to have family reunions to reconnect with those people we love and don’t see that often, yet all we have is a collection of pictures and we cannot even remember what was being talked about or what we were really doing because we were not present in the moment enjoying it.

Take a Couple of Pictures and Move on

One of the best strategies I’ve heard (can’t remember where) is to take a couple of pictures at the beginning or end and stop after a few. The example I heard was for a group of 4 siblings that get together once a month for dinner. All but one of them leaves their phones in their vehicles. They have one phone and they take a picture after the meal of all of them together, which gets shared with the entire group. This allows the rest of the time to be devoted to catching up and real conversation.

We don't need 100 pictures of a random dinner with family members on a Friday night. Click To Tweet

This can be applied to vacations, family outings and many other things we do, which become heavily documented. We don’t need 100 pictures of a random dinner with family members on a Friday night. We don’t need a video of something cute your baby did. Sometimes, it’s okay, nay GREAT, to keep these things to ourselves and let them be intermediate family memories nobody else gets to enjoy.

Set Boundaries for Pictures & Videos

It all starts with proper boundaries. I am not a parent, so I won’t pretend to know how to set boundaries with kids, but parents are still in charge and can take phones, tablets and computers away at will. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a punishment. You can have the entire family give up their devices and just go do something cool for the day. If you’re really worried the digital world will forget about you, just post that you’ll be away for the day enjoying some much needed family time.

The boundaries really needing to be set are with ourselves, however. We need to become stricter with our own usage of pictures, videos and social media. By figuring out how to set boundaries for ourselves, we can start setting an example for others around us. Maybe you won’t be the one whipping out the phone when something cool happens and instead, you’ll have a memory you would have missed.

Everybody is different, so your relationship with technology will need more boundaries than mine. However, I can tell you a few of the things I have done to cut way back on my usage of technology.

  • I am not on Facebook – This was a personal choice for many reasons and not one many will make. However, you can limit your social media to two or three sites instead of 5 to 10.
  • I rarely turn on my phone’s ringer – Most of the time, my phone is on silent. I don’t need to know everything that is going on in everybody’s life, every moment of the day. I turn my ringer on when I am away from my wife, have a client calling me or in other times when it’s necessary.
  • I minimalized my phone apps – I don’t need to stay connected on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr or LinkedIn from my phone. Taking social media off my phone keeps me from reaching for it constantly to see what’s going on.
  • I don’t Open Things I am not Using – I work from home on my computer, so having multiple things open can be very distracting. Most days, I only have open what I need to do my work. This includes keeping my email closed, except when it’s time to check it.
  • I schedule times to check email – If I didn’t schedule times to check email during the work week, I’d be on it constantly and constantly distracted.
  • I leave my phone in our vehicle or at home – Often, when my wife and I are out doing something, my phone isn’t in my pocket. This helps me to be more present and keeps me from reaching for my phone if I start to feel bored.

Personally, I don’t believe in certain boundaries for myself. It was easier to quit Facebook for me than to limit my usage because one post can easily turn into far more than the 15 to 30 minutes allotted for social media. It can quickly become a time-sucking thing instead of something good.

There are several other great ways to start setting boundaries and breaking the chains of modern documentation and technology. Here are a few great articles that might help.

5 Simple Tips for Creating Boundaries on Social Media – By Chrystal Washington

I really like how she says, “No” is a full sentence. I have always struggled with saying no, but it needs to be said and it’s okay.

Setting Boundaries for Mobile Technology – By Dave Boehi

The first tip is the best. No devices at the dinner table, just makes sense to me.

Setting Boundaries for Family Tech Use – By Tracey Dowdy

The tip called “be careful what you post” is a perfect choice. It’s not just for children, however. Adults can use this advice, too.

I am certainly a work in progress, but I am starting to step away from the modern documentation society we are living in currently. I believe each and every one of us has a duty to put down the technology and start enjoying more real, true memories without distraction.

Creating Memories, not Videos

Some of my best memories didn’t include a picture or a video. I don’t need to see a picture to remember some of the best times of my life with my parents, my siblings, my niece, my nephews or my wife. Those great memories are etched in my brain because we weren’t trying to film them or take a million pictures. Instead, we were there, together enjoying an activity, having a great conversation, telling jokes and creating stories we have told over and over and will continue to tell.

My grandfather never embraced technology and I think I am more like him than I could have ever imagined. He never had a cell phone, computer or tablet. I bet he read close to 100,000 books in his life and he was always able to tell some great stories. In fact, when he told stories, you didn’t really need pictures or video because you could see it as he spoke. Some of my best conversations were with my grandfather and while I deeply miss him, I believe I have a duty to carry on his legacy and help it grow here on earth.

We all have a duty to carry on the legacy of those we love and many generations before us didn’t have what we have today. Stepping out of our modern world, ruled by technology gives us the opportunity to connect with the legacy left by past generations. Not only will this help us grow, but it will also allow us to reconnect with those we love and create lasting bonds and memories no picture or video will ever be able to do justice to.

Is there anything you’ve done to disconnect from technology? What worked and what didn’t? Leave our answers in the comments below.

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