It takes courage to live in the present when we are constantly tempted by the endless escape and connectivity of technology. But how do we cultivate such courage? As with developing any virtue, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to create an environment that is conducive to that virtue.
- Surround yourself with beauty. Try to make every space in your home beautiful. Oftentimes this means getting rid of things rather than buying new things. It may be as simple as lighting a candle, turning on music, and clearing countertops. Create a home your family wants to be present in.
- Take your phone apart. Our smartphones can do just about everything, which is a great excuse for always having them on hand. But we don’t need everything all the time. Keep your family’s phones plugged in at home by setting up a wall clock, a landline phone, books on the coffee table, and a central laptop for music and internet.
- Work when you work. We’re always connected, available, and checking email, but we’re also distracted by silly videos and status updates. The line between work and play has blurred, and we’re losing fulfillment in both. Redefine work with a clutter-free workspace and worktime, and eliminate distractions (i.e. apps) so we can actually be effective instead of constantly trying to be productive.
- Learn how to play again. We all know that mindless browsing is not true recreation. Our play should inspire our souls and truly deepen our connections to each other. In our home, we commit to having a real “Sabbath” day from work where we try to be deliberately recreational. At first it felt like work disconnecting from work emails, but now we look forward to Sunday drives, hikes, cooking, reading, cappuccinos, visiting family, etc. (It has also been the best way to ensure #3.)
- Share screens. Smartphones are isolating, even if both parties are okay with texting other people or browsing while having lunch together. A good, easy rule for me is to ask myself if I would physically excuse myself to handle something privately. If not, and the media is that interesting, I should share my screen so it becomes part of a shared, present experience.
- Be bored and be silent. Great wisdom and healing can be found in these two undesirable moods. Devote a specific time each day to silence. Allow natural lulls in your day. Resist the heroic urge to pull out your phone to solve the world’s problems in that millisecond you are waiting. A good rule my husband uses is to ask himself, “Would I seem neurotic pulling out a physical book in this scenario?” (When your companion uses the restroom at a restaurant: Yes; In a doctor’s waiting room: No.)
- Share moments out of the moment. We’ve all seen or been part of the group of bored friends at a party posing for a photo to share, in real-time, the great fun we’re supposedly having. And then the rest of the party is spent checking for likes and comments. A good rule for me has been to only take 1-2 pictures, and then put my phone away. Only share pictures after the event to people who care. Don’t make the act of capturing or sharing the moment be the focus of the moment.
- For what it’s worth, I’ve never met anyone who has seriously regretted deleting Instagram or Facebook.