REFLECTIONS FROM BURNING MAN – PART 2

How Technology Stops Us Having Real Connection

And what to do instead.

One of the most beautiful things about the location of the Burn is its location deep in the Nevada Desert. It’s a place with zero cell reception. In the modern world, just the thought of being disconnected freaks most people out. [Ever left your phone at home accidentally?] Imagine spending a week in a desert without any connection at all!

Actually, it’s not as terrible as it sounds. 

When you let go of the anxiety and get comfortable with the ‘forced’ separation from your phone, something incredible happens.

You feel more connected because you get to be present with real humans – in person. Without your phone creating a comfort blanket or an escape from the present, you have no choice but to embrace the moment. 

When someone speaks to you, you properly listen. There’s no longer a part of you distracted by FOMO and what’s happening in the digital world. You don’t lose your train of thought thanks to notifications and pings. You don’t become more obsessed with visuals on a screen rather than the reality in front of you. All these factors fuel heartfelt conversations that dramatically improve your life. 

It’s a beautiful thing… And one of the reasons coming out of the Burn is so hard. After experiencing a world of ‘connected disconnection’, it’s hard to reintegrate back. So this year, I was conscious to take my time before plugging back in. I intentionally spent two days in Lake Tahoe to decompress, which further enforced the importance of disconnecting from technology. 

Back in the ‘real world’, I observed some scary things. I noticed as soon as I had cell reception, I felt this gravitational pull towards my phone and laptop. It felt as if they were calling me. [Have you experienced this?]

The second I opened them, I observed some scary things. 

I noticed how I developed a big headache straight afterwards [I’ve observed this pattern in the past too]. I believe these tech devices have low vibrational energy, which causes our vibration to lower too – something that can negatively impact our health. We don’t usually observe this vibrational shift because we’re so accustomed to the way tech makes us feel. 

[It’s similar to the symptoms you feel when you quit caffeine and experience withdrawal symptoms.]

Time for more disconnection 

My time at the Burn has challenged me to review how I integrate technology into my life. 

Clearly, my phone and laptop aren’t going anywhere! This tech holds potential for a lot of good. For starters, I wouldn’t be sharing these insights with you now if I didn’t have these tools. 

But what’s clear is there is a dark side to this tech-driven age. Tech tools and digital media do pull us out of the NOW. They create distractions and cause us to direct a disproportionate amount of our time and energy into the digital world instead of the physical world. 

With this in mind, I’ve decided to be more intentional with how I use tech. I’m sharing these plans with you in case you’d like to try some of them for yourself.

Five ways to be more intentional with your use of technology

  1. Create the intention to be disconnected

I asked myself some tough questions when I got back from the Burn: 

  • Do you need to have your phone with you at all times, or can you leave it behind while you have coffee with friends or take a walk in the park? 
  • Is it essential that your phone is permanently on, or can you switch it off a couple of hours before bed? 
  • Do you need to look at your phone the instant you wake up, or can you hold off for an hour before diving in? 

I’ve found that time away from tech and digital media can give you the undistracted space to connect back in with yourself and the people close to you. It’s a chance to be fully in the now – free of the million and one things that usually compete for your attention. It’s a practice that also reduces stress and anxiety and helps you focus on what’s most important. 

This specific moment – the NOW. 

  1. Turn off notifications

I’ve become increasingly conscious NOT to become a slave to my phone. Notifications are a distraction that takes you out of the now. They interrupt conversation, disturb your chain of thought, and make your phone the most important thing in the world. 99% of the time, you don’t need to respond immediately. Most things can wait until YOU decide it’s the right time to respond.

This is why I’ve switched off all my notifications – it’s a practice I take to work. For example, whenever I have team meetings, I invite all the participants to switch off their notifications too. It means we can stay focused on our intentions – without getting side-tracked. 

A world free of notifications is a more intentional world. It’s a world where you get to choose where your attention and energy goes – not an electronic gadget! 

  1. Know your intentions

When you choose to spend time hooked up, decide your intentions in advance. 

If you ‘just take a look’, you can almost guarantee you’ll be pulled into the digital abyss – and who knows when or where you’ll emerge! So before you jump on, check-in with yourself. 

  • Are you going to post something?
  • Read a specific blog
  • Catch up with a particular person or a group. 
  • Listen to a podcast or watch a video. 

Place positive constraints around your digital behaviours, and you’ll get all the benefits of digital connection, without the downside. 

  1. Don’t substitute

Digital media sucks you into a world that isn’t real. While there are plenty of benefits to explore, connection through your phone is no substitute for the in-person version. Worst still, it provides a distraction that takes you out of the NOW by temporarily filling the ‘void’. 

Your phone will give you endless dopamine hits. It can make you feel connected and entertained. It can support your point of view and hook you up with like-minded people. But it will also feed your dramas and disempowering stories. Worst of all, it will also keep you from the moment where you have the most power. 

The NOW. 

Don’t fall into the trap of substituting digital media for real life. And beware of the voice that tells you this message isn’t for you! No one consciously intends to lose themselves online, but many people unintentionally do. 

Instead, make more time in your day for the NOW. These 21 practices will help you do this. 

  1. Take time out

In addition to an hour here and an evening here, consider disconnecting from your phone for more extended periods. [Like I did at the Burn]. 

Try a whole day or an entire weekend. 

If you need to be accessible, at a minimum, remove all your social apps.

Then see what happens in the disconnected space you create. 

Get connected 

To be clear, I love digital media. 

But like there is ‘good money’ and ‘bad money’, without positive constraints, digital media and tech can take over your life. They can pull you out of the now and have you live in a reality that isn’t ‘real’. 

If you manage your access and create a good relationship with your phone, you can enjoy all the benefits without the downside. I hope these five practices will help you in the same way they have me.

Disclaimer: All information contained within this article is of a general nature. Do not rely upon it when making financial decisions. Please consult a professional financial advisor or planner (like us!) before acting.