I’m at a point in my life where I hate being so connected all the time. I know, it’s ironic considering that I work in media, but perhaps that’s precisely why I feel such a strong urge to completely disconnect sometimes.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. For better or for worse, work group chats on WhatsApp has become the norm now, and it’s not uncommon for us to be fielding questions from colleagues after hours, and even while we’re on holiday.
And how many nights have you settled into bed, only to find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for the next half an hour or so, when you could have been trying to catch some quality sleep instead?
The last time I completely disconnected was at a four-day festival—and I actually enjoyed that time. And while I can’t switch my phone off completely when going about my day-to-day, I can give myself a little R&R by putting it on airplane mode for a certain amount of time every day.
So for two weeks, I put my plane on airplane mode at 9pm on weekdays, only turning it on again at 7am when I wake up. When it comes to weekends, I switched it off for a few select hours during my dedicated “me time”. Here’s how it went.
Not gonna lie—it was terrifying switching my phone to airplane mode for the first few nights. As an associate editor at a digital-first publication, I got heart palpitations just thinking about all the ‘what ifs’. What if there was an emergency and none of my colleagues could reach me?
Which… was exactly what happened, because Murphy’s Law is at work.
At 9.39pm on Wednesday, my colleague texted to inform me about a mistake that I had made, which needed immediate correction. But because I wasn’t responding, she had no choice but to sort it out herself. I got another text message from her at 9.41pm again, saying that it has been sorted out.
While it isn’t exactly catastrophic, I felt quite guilty about it. If the tables were turned, I would have been annoyed, and justifiably so. But in a professional setting, solving the problem at hand comes first, and as team members, we’re all expected to have each other’s back.
My colleague didn’t have a word with me about this incident, so I assumed that she didn’t mind it too much. After all, it’s not as if this is a regular occurrence.
By the second week, I had settled into a routine. I had been trying to go to bed before midnight in an attempt to get at least seven hours of sleep every day, and putting my phone on airplane mode really helped because a) I didn’t end up scrolling through Instagram mindlessly before bed and b) there wasn’t any notifications popping up on my phone to distract me from falling asleep.
One morning, I switched on my phone only to discover that someone had asked me out for Din Tai Fung at 11pm the night before. I don’t know how he got my contact details, but I’m glad I wasn’t awake to see this message.
Also, happy to report that I still have friends, even though I went MIA on them over the weekends. That said, I had rather uneventful weekends because I missed out on all the memes in the group chats. I got so bored during the second weekend that I actually finished reading a book.
Should you try it?
If you’re trying to cut down on your social media consumption and be more mindful of the present, then I’d say yes, you definitely should try this.
According to data from my Fitbit, by the second week, I had actually increased my average sleeping time by two hours. This actually helped to regulate my mood, and I found myself having fewer kopi siew dais and grumpy mornings.
Because I knew that I was going on airplane mode at scheduled timings, I also found myself seeking out conversations with my friends and my partner—I was legit texting everyone between 8pm and 9pm. Usually, I would text my partner regularly from the time I knock off work until I hit the sack, but during this time, we were both mindful about the fact that we had till 9pm only, which meant that we intentionally set aside this time to talk. Did it improve my relationships with people? Maaaaaaaaaybe. Either that or they’re too polite to tell me to shut up.
All of that said, I really hated that something work-related cropped up and I couldn’t respond to it on time. While switching my phone off helped to set some work-life boundaries, I feel like it could actually be detrimental to my career—especially if my co-workers have to constantly cover for me after office hours.
So while switching my phone off did make me happier overall, I feel like it’s not a sustainable practice for me in the long run. But hey, you might have a completely different experience from me. Give it a shot and I’d love to hear how it works out for you (feel free to slide into my DMs at @soapshong)!