I wish I could tell you that my four-day internet break over Thanksgiving was a mountaintop moment, but it truth, there was nothing earth shattering. However, I have a few takeaways from four full days and five nights without social media, email, or internet. I turned off my smart phone for most of it, something I have not done in years. Do you remember when we used to turn off our cell phones at night? In the beginning, “car phones” stayed in the car. That feels like an eternity ago. For what it is worth, here is what I learned on break.
Social media has had a profound impact on my life. As I was off the grid, I realized, that without social media, the only ideas I would hear would come from the people I see on a regular basis. Those are fantastic, intelligent, and interesting people, but we have an awful lot in common. The diversity of thought I am exposed to on social media, is very different from what I hear on the ground. I am grateful that I have instantaneous access to conversation with intelligent people all over the globe. They have a different lens from which to view the world. Sure, there have been books for a few hundred years, newspapers, radio, and television. But social media enabled direct conversation without filter. I suppose the invention of the printing press kicked off this trend. I am grateful to be alive in the moment when the world entered the age of instant communication. Despite its flaws, social media is a massive leap forward for humanity. We will work through the kinks, we always do.
The urge to grab my phone lasted for days. I confirmed that I am an addict. My smart phone is a beautiful tiny computer in my pocket that I yearned for every 15 minutes. During any down time, I found myself reaching for the phone that wasn’t there. I am attempting new boundaries for myself. For example, no checking at red lights (terrible, I know!) and putting my phone away between the time I get home in the evening and when my son goes to bed. The phone is my most used piece of technology and the most versatile, but I don’t want to be one of those people meandering out in the world staring at her screen. The next time you sit down in a restaurant, take a look around at the patrons. So many are looking at their phones.
Email needs a makeover. Email has become a mix of junk marketing material sprinkled with important conversations. I received zero client emails over the break. This is a testament to the way we have built a client service model centered on financial plans. We anticipate cash needs before they arise, so there are few surprises withdrawal requests. Clients understand our investment philosophy, and we take discretion. Busy clients don’t always have time for phone calls during business hours, so the email allows them to take care of open items on their own time. More than 90% of my email is useless, even with promotional filters and consistent unsubscribing. The time wasted scrolling through and deleting email is a major inefficiency.
Phone calls deserve more credit. We rely so much on texting, tweeting, and instagramming, that we’ve lost touch with a powerful communication tool, the phone conversation. Yes, it sounds antiquated, but hearing someone’s voice is superior to reading their text. Since I joined RWM in June, I bought my first headset. I cannot believe I ever let my phone touch my face. No wonder I didn’t like to talk on it. With the headset, I find myself making calls during times that I was not productive prior like when walking between my car and the office.
Even though I did not have any epiphanies or breakthrough moments over the break, and I intend to keep the annual tradition alive. I hope next time I have more time to think and read. There’s a part of me that has always longed for Walden Pond.