Unplug. Drop out. It sounds like strange advice in our frantic, 24×7 world. But I advocate learning to detach, to slow down and take time to reflect, think, and enjoy.

Our technology operates round the clock. We are strongly encouraged to be online all the time. One of the most common fears today is FOMO (fear of missing out). If we’re not checking Facebook or newsfeeds or our email frequently we might be left behind. We might miss a viral trend. We fear if we do not respond to a message immediately our “friends” will leave us out and just talk among themselves.

Humans don’t operate on a round the clock cycle. Our technology that brings us so much information and entertainment also robs us of some things that are very important to our mental health: thought, reflection, relaxation. The human mind has to have time to think and assimilate. To have some down time to reorganize and regroup. Some time off the continuous treadmill. Downtime is also necessary to us physically, but I’m not talking about that side of things in this blog.

Since this is nominally about photography, I will use that as an example. One significant aspect of creativity is to be receptive to what is happening around us. To learn to clear our minds and actually see. We are less than receptive when we are on social media or thinking about our schedule or an email we need to send or the project we are behind on. Contrary to what some so called productivity experts tell us, our minds don’t multi-task. It is very inefficient to switch focus between different projects. Much better is to be fully engaged in one task at a time.

Because our society is pulling us in so many directions all the time, focusing on a single thing is something we have to relearn. And we can. Try this: Take a camera and one lens, turn off your phone, clear your head, and go out in your neighborhood or town and just take pictures of things you see. Actually see them for the first time. Don’t think of what you need to do afterwards. Don’t wonder about what people are saying on Facebook right now. Those things don’t exist. It will be weird at first. But try it. Practice until you can really unplug for a while and be 100% “there” for your images.

An “advanced” exercise to try is disconnecting while you’re in the car. I like to drive (actually drive, not sit in traffic). When I’m driving I always turn off the radio and I do not text or check the phone (I certainly hope you don’t ever text while driving- it is very dangerous). At first you will go crazy with boredom, because we are used to non-stop entertainment and distraction. But you learn to be alone in your mind. You re-learn how to think, to review things, to make connections between ideas. I have come to believe that drive time is much too valuable to waste with external distractions.

Unplug. Take time alone to think, to consider ideas, to make connections between ideas, to just let your mind wander. These are what humans have always done and it is an important skill we need to fight to relearn in our high tech age. Try it. You will feel strange at first, even guilty, but I believe it will have good long term benefit for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *