Focus & Digital Balance

Blogging about Digital Detox, distraction management, unplugging and a healthy lifestyle in our hyperconnected world

6,293 Minutes and Twinkies: Time to Disconnect | Mikaela’s OFFTIME Story

MikaelaHuntMikaela Thorpe (37) is a Social Media ‘Butterfly’ who found out that there’s some things in life that you can’t experience through an email or a tweet.

Here’s Mikaela’s story:

Like most people I know, I have trouble stepping away from a screen.  It’s not intentional.  As a matter of fact, I’m not quite sure how I got to this point.

It feels like we’ve had the access we’ve had to online platforms since I was a kid, but that’s far from the truth.  There was no email when I was in high school.  Instant messaging was on a black and green screen when I arrived at the University of Missouri.  I remember going to the computer lab to message with my long-distance boyfriend at the time because it was free and better than spending the money on your calling card!

There was also a time, seven years later, when I was a house director at a sorority while also working in the TV news business.  I heard about this little program called Facebook.  I asked the women in the house questions about how they used it and they explained it was to share information with other students about coursework.

Little did I know what it would all turn into…

I now have two iPhones, an iPad, a Kindle Fire, and a laptop/tablet hybrid.  I am stuck between two technologically defined generations:  early adopters and late bloomers.  It’s good to be this 30-something in the middle because we “get” the technology and we probably aren’t attached to it.

At least we don’t think we are– until we put it to the test, which I’ve recently been doing.

Like many of you, I rely on the Internet each and every day to do work.  There are many hours I’m on a computer each day and I would have guessed, prior to now, I’m on my smartphone and tablets for less time.

Early this year I learned about a new app that was changing the way people use their devices, taking us away from the online addiction that we’ve fallen into like it’s a Twinkie box that we keep going back to again and again.  Junk food can be amazing.  You have to admit it’s really good to have a Twinkie, golden spongy goodness with delightful cream filling.  (If you’re not a Twinkie fan just substitute in your favorite guilty, sweet pleasure.) But we’re supposed to eat that stuff in moderation! Harsh reality:  we don’t gain weight from clicking the button on our home screens, maybe if we did we’d be more strategic about how much we’re online.

This app is called OFFTIME and it’s not available for iPhone users yet, but it’s in the “beta” stage for iOS and I’ve been part of the test group for the company.

It’s annoying to find out how much time I spend on my devices.  I don’t want to face it because the work that I do on my devices makes my life more productive, it helps me connect with people.  But with this app, I’m annoyed.  After I’m on my phone for ten minutes this app lets out this long fire-alarm-in-a-commercial building sound and it is VERY hard to step around it and ignore the tone.  It’s caught me a few times when I’ve been on the phone with people.  You really do have to shut it down.

Here’s just a glimpse of my experience in the last month with OFFTIME:

  • The hardest moment:  when I looked and saw I had been on my phone for 528 minutes in ONE DAY.  Admittedly, it was a day when I was sick in bed on vacation… but still.  ONE DAY.
  • Just a quick look at Tuesday’s score, I’ve used my phone 31 times that day.  290 minutes worth of doing whatever I do on there.  And I am not a gamer.  Nor am I a stalkerazzi– you’ll have to just believe me on that one.  This is me replying on social media, looking at articles on Flipboard, making my To Do lists, checking my email, calling people, texting a few more, and cooking from recipes.  Oh yeah, Periscope and Meerkat activities.  And if my son grabs my phone to try to play Flappy Bird it just adds fuel to the OFFTIME fire.
  • In the month of August (I’m shuddering to think about this) I’ve spent 6,293 minutes on my phone.
  • This isn’t even including the time I’ve logged on my laptop!

I am now taking some OFFTIME, as my smartphone suggests. The message reads simply this as it rests in Airplane Mode:

IMG_7374

Beyond my own little case study, Connect Ohio is challenging all of us to take a Day of Disconnect. While I don’t think I’ve fully disconnected ever, this OFFTIME app is my way to be more cognizant of how much I’m on my devices and to check myself when it goes over the top.  And now maybe, just maybe, I’m at a point where I can accept unplugging for a day.

The fact is this:  while this self-proclaimed Social Media Butterfly loves connecting online and relies on it for business and social purposes each and every day, I also know that there are some things in life that you can’t experience through an email or a tweet.  Face-to-face problem solving over coffee, phone calls with laughter as you try to conference everyone in, the smile when you walk into a meeting.

I hope to do a lot more of that this year while still utilizing the online world for all the great things it does offer.