Q&A: Connectivity and mindfulness

Question: Do I have to go to a retreat to be mindful and stay away from all connectivity?

Answer: There are many people who go to retreats and do their best to stay away from all the connectivity of the modern world. For some this is great but others might not see the benefits that clearly.

In 2014 I was at a writing retreat in Greece for 14 days. This place had no Wi-Fi and your mobile phone only had signal for a few hours per day. It was a lovely Greek island, but the lack of connectivity made me frustrated. For me it’s important to decide when I want to connect or disconnect, I don’t want anyone else doing that for me.

In the next few years we are going to develop even more data, better phones and more videos and written messages. Social media is here to stay and there is too much information around us, especially online. This means that the challenge of finding a healthy balance of connectivity is only going to get bigger.

In the future there will be much more for us to choose from. Industrialisation has meant that more people have choices. This is reflected online and we have lots of choices as to what information to consume.

More choices mean that we have to say yes to certain things and no to others. We need to take control of our social media presence and get more time for ourselves and what we think is important. Being mindful of your choices can be a great benefit.

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I’ve spent hours checking my social media accounts and reading online articles. I love digital tools and I believe they are a gift. But I also have to manage my energy and time to make the most of both of them. If I’m tired, checking my social media accounts makes me feel dizzy.

You have to learn that it’s you and not your devices that control what you do with your time. A friend of mine is always on her mobile when we hang out and it’s very annoying for me and others as well, I guess. Do you want to be the friend who is always looking down at your phone? Or do you want to be the one who is a bit more curious about the people you are with? We all have a choice in how we communicate; we can be a good communicator or a lousy one.

Being better at time management and what you do on social media is not about stopping being online at all. No, it’s you taking control of your information consumption and your online relationships. Be mindful about what you do with your time online.

Tracking your activities online can be a good start. I’ve tried RescueTime for a while to see what I’m up to online. You get sent a report every week.

I also tried an app on my phone that tracked how many times I opened my phone every day and how much time I spent on it. I read in an article that some people open their phones 220 times per day. A bit much, I thought. My score was between 37 to 67 times in one day.

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You can also track how long you use your smartphone for with the Moment app. This kind of tool can be great to use for a while and gives an indication of what you spend time doing online.

If you have any questions about social media and connected life get in touch at sofie@sofiesandell.com

boy meditating