Working on Digital Wellness

27 days in the United States

November 1, 2018

It's been almost a month since I was at home in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of October my family and I took a multi-state trip back to the US. The impetus of the visit began with an invitation from the Rochester Institute of Technology for me to come and speak at their Young Professionals in Higher Education Conference. Getting back to the US for work is easy, but we decided to turn this visit into a nearly month long adventure.

Coordinating a family trip with visits to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Florida, and Iowa represented an enormous logistical challenge filled with planes, trains, and automobiles. And, including work trips within the visit for both myself and my wife added even more layers of travel. We had a lot of fun, attempted to sleep more, and enjoyed plenty of conversations with friends and family. In short, we unplugged quite a bit from our usual plugged in lifestyle. It's almost like an auto-tuning process where circumstance dictates digital connectedness rather than the ever-present notification or urge to check what's happening via our always-on devices.

Digital wellness is something that can be challenging. In the past I've tried disconnecting from social media for a week. The all or nothing approach to being digital connected was a fascinating experience. However, due to the requirements of my job, I'm more often connected than not. Creating content, curating resources, and engaging with a variety of people via digital channels takes a lot of time.

Finding the perfect 'digital balance' as a means of achieving a sense of digital wellness is probably an unreachable goal. My usual take on digital wellness is more nuanced in that I'm always trying to be aware of priorities as a guide for whether or not I actually 'need' to be 'on digital.'

Being a consultant means that I don't have the usual 'out-of-office' announcement for when I'm away from my desk. My work happens regardless of where I am in the world. Emails come in and requests for work are either answered or they stack up in a virtual mountain of messages. Whilst typing this post, I'm keenly aware that I have at least 30 emails that are important to keeping myself self-employed. Knowing which ones to immediately answer and which ones can sit on the shelf for a bit is more of feeling than any structured system. I genuinely appreciate email as a great way to manage communication, but even I can get a bit overwhelmed with it at times.

The other digital pool where I spend an inordinate amount of time is Twitter. Being off of Twitter for nearly a month is actually fairly easy. I retweeted a lot of my older posts and while I did write a couple of blog posts, I focused on sharing them and not doing much more than that.

One of the best parts about our trip, and how it relates to digital wellness, are the almost abysmal broadband connectivity options where I grew up in Iowa. You can connect to the web, but it's slow. That slowness creates subtle amounts of frustration that causes devices to be ignored and sunshine to be adored.

Why connect and engage when the experience of being disconnected becomes so enjoyable that the urge to tap, click, or swipe is just a distant whisper. I'm all for being online and getting digital...but the constant journey that is life requires a mushy, grey area filled with sometimes being online and always being present.

Digital wellness is less about the act of disconnecting and more about the simplicity of understanding that you are in control of your digital destiny.


The feature image for this post is from my parent's property. It's such a bucolic place.


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