Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Family Forte: Five Ways to Unplug from Technology

by: Topher Wiles

Technology detox.  Have you ever heard of it?  Neither have I.  It was an unexpected yet welcome gift last week when friends invited us to Lincoln State Park in Indiana to enjoy tent camping.  The weather was clear, the mornings brisk, and the break therapeutic for my family and my soul.  Let me explain how it helped with a tech detox.

As a church minister over the years I’ve seen ministry communications shift drastically.  As a youth minister in 2002 I had an office landline for calls during regular business hours  with email for less pressing needs.  My Nokia cell phone had 180 minutes of talk time per month during peak hours and a whopping limit of 50 text messages per month.  Fast forward to 2020 where my landline is of little use, emails are a hassle, and unlimited data plus text messages reign supreme.  No longer do people expect to call me between 9-5pm in the office; my cell phone is a mobile office where most people regularly text me (and expect a reply) between 5am and 11pm. 

Throughout the day my cell phone stays on vibrate in my pocket and probably buzzes at least once per minute with social media notifications, new emails, text messages, FB messenger requests, snapchat replies, and the occasional phone call or voicemail.  Sadly, I’ve developed the habit of grabbing my phone to check messages even when it hasn’t vibrated, sometimes during family times or first thing in the morning when I wake up.  I’m showing the signs of being addicted to my technology. From we learn that 13% of Americans struggle with serious technology addiction and 84% of cell phone users say they can’t live without their phones for a single day. 

Camping at a park that had no cell phone service was a blessing in disguise.  After the initial drive through the park revealing zero signal for the next four days, I put my phone in airplane mode and for the first time in at least a year, I went the whole day without a cellphone in my pocket.  On occasion I noticed my hand compulsively drifting to my pocket to check updates but was relieved when I couldn’t access my phone.  The emotional and physical results were wonderful.

A photo with the Swartzentrubers is the
only photo I took on this camping trip!

Every time my children asked me to play frisbee, I played.  Whenever they wanted to go on a bike ride, we hopped on those two-wheelers together. Whenever my wife wanted to cozy up in the tent to stay warm, she didn’t have to compete with my cell phone for my attention.  My family received my undivided attention and I enjoyed a low stress detox time.  Going camping was a benefit for me, but how do we unplug from technological dependency without taking vacation time off work?  Here’s five tips I’ve gathered from across the internet and from friends.

  • Leave Work At Work – When your cellphone is your mobile office, it’s hard to set boundaries on work.  When you’ve finished your work for the day at 5pm (or any time you set), put up an auto-away message that states, “Thank you for your email. I’m away from my desk, and I look forward to responding to your message upon my return.” Then, forward your calls to voicemail. Facebook Pages also have an instant-reply option. By eliminating the temptation to check your emails and messages after work, you’re helping yourself unplug from technology and the job.
  • Schedule Downtime - Create a specific time each day that you will completely power down. Leave your phone in another room, close your laptop, and turn off the television. It’s time to go old school. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Page through some cookbooks and find a dinner recipe. Play a board game with your spouse or children. Go for a walk and listen to the sounds around you.  I highly recommend the hour after dinner to be a tech-free time.
  • Create A Technology Bedtime - Establish a time that you’ll unplug from technology for the day. This might differ from day to day, or you might have a strict 9:00 p.m. technology bedtime each night. Either approach is great. The important thing is actually sticking to that bedtime. Whether this means putting your phone on “do not disturb,” physically turning off your computer, or putting all electronics in a different room is completely up to you. Find a strategy that works, and go for it!
  • Create a Tech-Free Zone - Establish a tech-free zone somewhere in your house — like a tech-free bedroom, living room, or kitchen table.  The point is this: whatever place you choose, stick to it. A tech-free zone means no phone, no tablet, no laptop. Ever. Period. You'll be surprised how quickly this space becomes your go-to relaxation haven where no distractions are welcome. 
  • Replace the Habit - If the first thing you do in the morning is check your social media, or it's the last thing you do before bed, it’s time for an intervention. You could replace scrolling through social media with reading a book or going for a walk around your neighborhood. You could kick your late-night email habit by doing some gentle stretching or Bible reading (with a paper Bible).  Or, if you must use technology to wind down, use it in a more productive way like to plan your schedule, reflect on the day in a digital journal, write a to-do list, or listen to a calming podcast. Start and end your day with something positive!

If you are like me, feeling like a slave to your technology, take a bit of time for rest and respite by setting appropriate boundaries for a tech detox.  You and your family will be glad you did.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: fret not because of him that prospers in his way, because of the man that brings mischievous devices to pass.” – Psalm 37:7 

The word “forte” comes from the latin word “fortis” meaning strength.  Our weekly Family Forte article in The Expositor is the effort of family at Central Church of Christ to give your family the love, care, and attention it needs to become a stronger version of itself.  If we can help you in any way, please contact us at Central Church of Christ through email,, or through our website,