Today I would like to respond to something many of my clients assume about my habits when working with me, especially when I am in the flow – enjoying the excitement of digital opportunities for their brands and for their fantastic innovations. I often hear them say with a smile: “do you ever switch off?”. Or sometimes I sense their disbelief when I mention as a side note that my weekends are spent mostly offline without the access to the Internet.
I am also very aware that in this new, still only emerging, industry of digital wellbeing, the idea of detox, unplugging or digital minimalism can be deemed as the goal of good digital habits.
I would like to demystify and strongly oppose that view. I find it impossible to completely switch off or to strive to stay offline all the time in 2020. I also think that’s not the point of digital wellbeing – a balanced, integrated approach to both offline and online worlds is the key here. All aspects of our reality – whether it is online or offline realities and perceptions – are interlinked. When I switch off the Internet and go to my allotment at the weekend, I work thinking about my business ideas or a comment a friend made on a social network. Sometimes when I sit in front of the screen, I think about gardening. When I finish my gardening session, I sit down and take a few photos to later share on the allotment’s Instagram account, share tips with fellow allotmenteers and build stronger human connections. I do it all with or without a screen. Connected, or unplugged. My presence is active in both realities.
Let me quote the founder of cyberpsychology, John R. Suler, as a reminder of how this process of healthy psychological integration (the process leading to good mental health) works:
“Implicit in the integration principle is the idea that we must find the balance between online and offline living. In our modern times, very few people, if anyone, can completely avoid connectedness to the digital realm. It is also obvious that constant immersion in the cyberspace does not do anyone good. To effectively integrate offline and online living means weighing the pros and cons of being online and offline. It means understanding when we benefit from looking into our screens and when we benefit from turning our devices and our Internet connectedness off.”
When we separate the offline from online so drastically and almost mechanically still, we take away all the credit from ourselves. We are thinking, feeling human beings. We can decide on how to relate to both realms and manage complex tasks effectively. Our thoughts, feelings and actions don’t depend on a type of reality but on our very own choices.
So when I say I switch off at the weekend I do not think about screens of Internet specifically. I switch off from active, structured, weekday work. I rest. I go outside or stay inside and read. I shift from my work time to my weekend time. However, I move smoothly between online and offline realities.
I do understand the assumption though – we have been talking about the online presence as if it was a distant reality “out there” for over 50 years now. I think it is time to stop.
So if you want to integrate both online and offline, think about your hobby (or a pet, if you have one) and explore how your presence can exist both online and offline and move between those realms smoother in support of that passion. Write about your personal take on the boundaries between the online and offline – but be critical.
- Where do you feel more like yourself?
- Where do you feel in more flow?
- Is it possible to thrive in both realms and enjoy your hobby?
- Is it easy to find a clear cut between both worlds?
- Where do you enjoy your hobby, learn more about it, connect with similarly minded people and share your small failures and successes too?
- How can you find the right balance instead of switching off entirely?
Let me know if this exploration helps to shift the core assumption. I would love to hear more about your forms of integration and balance between the online and offline world.