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Unplugging from Technology

One of the things that I really enjoy about BARCC is how we check in with each other to make sure that we are practicing proper boundaries outside of the office.  For instance, when I sent an e-mail to a co-worker at 11pm on Tuesday she commented on how I should not be working at that hour when she responded the following morning.  She's probably right but I also have been exercising poorer-than-usual boundaries between work and home the past few week.  However, I do justify these poor boundaries with the reason that I am leaving for a vacation (read: wedding/honeymoon) this afternoon and won't be back in the office until Oct 1 so there is a lot to accomplish.

This afternoon, two co-workers checked in with me to make sure that I was going to turn off the e-mail from my phone while I was away and travelling.  I assured them that I was taking it a step further and actually completely deleting both my personal and work e-mails from my phone so that I couldn't even be tempted to check e-mails while I was away.  I recognize that one of the main issues I struggle with is turning things off when I leave the office.  It is just so simple to send a quick e-mail or response rather than wait until the next day.  However it is so important to set these boundaries for the purpose of self-care and to ensure that work life does not become 24-7.

I am not the only one who struggles with managing online vs. offline time.  Ever since the creation of Facebook, smartphones, and remote desktops, there have been countless articles about how it is increasingly difficult to separate these two worlds and to encourage people to leave the office at the office.  However, the younger generations aren’t used to this separation of worlds and are very acclimated to having a strong online presence at all hours of the day and night both in a personal and professional way.  So much of our world has shifted to the technology we use and therefore it can be more difficult to avoid certain things when we’re already connected and logged in. 

Many of my Facebook friends have recently posted about how they are going on a Facebook or social media fast for 2 weeks or 30 days.  Unplugging can be an excellent form of self-care and a great time for people to reflect on how they can have better strategies for when they do log back in.

For me, Facebook and Twitter are as much a news source as they are ways to keep in touch with friends.  I am linked to countless feminist media and organization pages and am able to keep a pulse on the news and actions around the globe through these pages rather than going to individual sites or digging through pages of newspapers to find the issues that I truly care about.  In fact, many times the stories and issues I care about aren’t even represented in mainstream media sources.  The downside about this is that I when I do feel overly-stressed from work, news, life, etc logging into Facebook and seeing more new stories about sexual violence or discrimination can cause even more anxiety. 

So what are some strategies that we can use in order to ensure that we are practicing appropriate self-care and boundaries with technology? 

I have asked people to hold me accountable when I do send those e-mails at inappropriate times or if I am at the office too late.  My partner is fantastic at doing that when I am at home.  And, as already mentioned, BARCC co-workers are really great about doing that in the office.

Schedule a specific amount of time to be on things like Facebook or Twitter or the myriad of other sites when at home.  Once the time is up so is the time online.  This can also encourage you to stay focused rather than be distracted by 1,001 videos or pictures of cats.  I had a friend who would unplug her laptop and she would only get the amount of time it took for her laptop to die.  Now with the tablets and newer laptops, that might still be 5 hours so perhaps a different strategy may be needed.

Leave your phone at home.  Gasp! (I know, I struggle with this one ALL the time). But since I know I practice poor boundaries about checking e-mail, articles, and posts I will intentionally leave my phone at home if I am going out for dinner or a similar activity.  Alternatively put your phone on silent and put it away so that you cannot see if anything comes in. 

Remind yourself that you are able to check things at a later time and that everything doesn’t need a response within 5 minutes. 

Changing habits can take some time and building these self-care strategies can be tough.  These are just a few short strategies that could work but of course everyone is different and therefore we’d love to hear your tips, strategies, and challenges in the comments!

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Posted by stacey

Stacey formerly served BARCC as the coordinator for Community Awareness and Outreach. Prior to BARCC, she worked for the Navy as a sexual assault response coordinator and volunteered for the DC Rape Crisis Center. She got involved with anti-rape work during college and has enjoyed doing both direct services and educational work.

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