In this age of being constantly connected, there’s a myth a lot of people believe: that you have to respond to every text, email, Insta message, FB comment, Gchat, tweet, tag, and 3,197 other messages that seep into your life within hours (if not minutes).
I get it. I feel oddly guilty when people message me on one of the million mediums out there and I don’t get back to them right away—especially if I post something fresh on Instagram or do a Facebook Live without getting back to the 14 people who are waiting to hear from me.
But hyper-accessibility isn’t just exhausting, it’s actually stealing from you. Yep. Stealing.
Here’s why—and what you can do to limit it:
It’s stealing your focus.
Ever noticed how phones are there for our convenience—for maps, making calls, getting a ride, paying bills, ordering food, etc.… but we tend to use them in the most reactive ways? Your cell phone number doesn’t guarantee immediate access to you. Remember that. Your devices are for your ease, not to make you a nonstop listening ear to a needy friend or the reliable go-to for that person who always needs help.
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Can you put your phone in another room or in a drawer when you’re working on a project? Can you spend 15 minutes doing you in the morning (breathing, meditating, some yoga stretches) before diving into your apps for updates? Setting yourself free of push notifications is a lifesaver too—the only alerts I receive on my phone are texts.
In recent months, I’ve instituted a 24-hour rule in my life: Unless something is super urgent, almost anyone can wait a day for me to respond. The extra bonus? You make better decisions with a little space. You’re way less likely to overschedule yourself—or end up resenting helping out with that bridal shower in New Jersey on the warmest Saturday of the summer.
It’s stealing your time with loved ones.
This one makes me the maddest. My husband sometimes has his face in his phone 18 hours a day (or at least it feels like that). It’s so… depressing sometimes. I feel like if aliens came to this planet, they’d think we’d all gone mad because we can’t go 20 minutes without checking our screens. When I’m checking updates on the regular, I even start to get that sick, This is so dumb, why-am-I-addicted-to-updates?!! downer feeling surge through me.
I have a full life, and I want to be most present for the people I love. So at dinner, phones are outta sight. When was the last time you tried this? Even on a walk, getting a coffee, or during a meeting? Remember that 1 in 10,000 alerts will be of an urgent nature (and many of them don’t even warrant a response). Yep, you’re not a bad person or too important if you simply don’t reply. Unless there’s a question or an RSVP, you can often just observe and swipe on. The people and things that you value most are more precious than a reply-all “thanks,” sending an emoji on a group text chain, or a comment on Snap.
It’s stealing your peace.
I used to have slight heart palpitations when I was managing three inboxes as a side hustler and felt I had to be all-systems-go. I was never really relaxed. Ever. There was always something to check. I’ve remedied this with auto-responders, getting some social media help, and simply letting myself off the hook for not getting back to everyone. It’s OK! Not everyone gets back to me, either, and I don’t take it personally.
You are not a human compendium of answers and solutions for other people. And living an intentional life means just that: being intentional. Life’s a tradeoff; there’s no getting around it. You’re a human being, not a human pleasing.
And if there’s something you should never trade—it’s your precious focus, time, and peace.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!