5 ways to be present in a digital world

“Could you pass the salt?”

“Uhh.. yeah sure.” My eyes flicker briefly off the screen in my left hand, while my right hand reaches around somewhere next to me, white sleeve grazing the the vinaigrette dressing my salad. Eyes still glued to the screen, I reached over to pass my friend the salt.

My reverie broke when I realized my hand was outstretched in front of me a minute later. I looked up, catching the exasperated sigh and mumble of “I’ll do it myself, don’t bother.”

I hastily tucked my phone into my back pocket, cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“Chimsom,” my friend chuckled. “You gotta get off of your phone sometimes.”


I’d like to say that the above situation doesn’t happen to me multiple times a day, but it does. Have I been accused of being on my phone too much? Often. Do I vehemently deny it? Of course.

But there are reasons I need my phone with me 24/7, right? There are the excuses: But I need it to keep updated with projects, I’m waiting for that important call, and then the more honest need to “just take a quick” scroll through the timeline, which can actually end up lasting a good 10 minutes. And, of course, there are a plethora of aspects for why I appreciate the digital world. I can use to connect with the most amazing individuals across the world whom I may not have had the chance to otherwise, engage in discussions of global topics, learn through online education forums. At the risk of sounding cliche, I really do have the world at my fingertips.

But why do we often find ourselves glued to our small blue-lit screens? What makes the virtual world so enticing?

For many of us, it may be FOMO (fear of missing out), a fear that the one moment we leave our feeds, the world’s greatest piece of news will drop and we’ll be the last to hear about it (tbt to me and Queen Bey’s Lemonade). The digital world can also be a chance for us to take a break from real life. The problem is that we can end up investing so much time into the lives of individuals that are not much more to us than faces on a screen and end up neglecting our own. We forget to invest in ourselves- and that can have detrimental effects for our growth, confidence and physical, mental, and emotional health.

Therefore, I’m challenging myself to a digital fast and inviting you along, too.

Why do one?

The ultimate goal of a digital fast is for you to disconnect from the online, picture-perfect world and reconnect with yourself and to re-identify yourself outside of social media. I recommend that you take some time every few months to evaluate your technology habits and determine if it may be time for you to take a digital break.

How to know if you need a digital fast:

  • Do you find yourself grabbing your phone habitually, rather than just when necessary?

  • Is your phone the first thing you think of and/or check in the mornings?

  • Do you find you often spend more time than expected using your phone checking social media and/or mindlessly browsing the web?

  • Do you often find yourself comparing your lives to those you see on your social media feeds?

  • Do you feel anxious if separated from your phone for even a few minutes?

5 ways to stay present during a digital fast

  • Mornings are a no-phone zone. Believe it or not, my phone is not the first thing I look at in the morning. I reserve mornings for intentions and goal settings. I meditate, talk to God, practice yoga, and then take time to form the intention for the day. Take 15 or so minutes in the mornings to just be- pray, write, think. Set your mindset for the day you want ahead before the world sets it for you. You’d be surprised with how much more intentionality and purpose you carry throughout the day.

  • Reach out to people for those vital connections. Yes, I understand phones are almost necessity for this particular task. Then once you make those plans, follow through and be highly mindful of the way you present yourself in the space. Pay attention to your speaker, your audience. Ask how people are doing- and then actually listen to the answer. I can be notorious for attempting to hold conversation with someone while discretely (or so I think) scrolling through my Instagram timeline simultaneously only to realize I’ve missed half the conversation.

  • Pick up a hobby/Remember your hobbies Use the extra time to do what makes you happy. Draw, dance, read, take a cooking class, have a bike ride with a friend, take a walk, join a fitness class, have a picnic- the possibilities are truly endless.

  • Journal. This involves getting in tune with your emotions- including those nitty-gritty hidden ones that we’d rather not have see the light. But, often, it's those same emotions that are holding us back from approaching the next levels in our lives. Ask the hard questions to yourself- the where’s, the why’s, the how’s, the “why-didn’t-I’s.” Reflect and heal. You don’t necessarily need a physical journal for this, the importance is simply to take time understanding your emotions. However, I do find that there is something quite powerful in writing things down.

  • Just Sit. The digital world has us believing that we have to be constantly doing something, that you have to constantly have your thumbs twiddling. But you have permission to be still, to be silently appreciative of the life around you, to just breathe.

Doing this is not as easy as it sounds, however, as our lives, even in moments when we

are alone, are inundated with background noise- music, TV, radio, etc. But I promise, taking the time to solidify your being and your space will reap benefits that extend beyond the time of your digital break.

After my own fasts, I find myself with a reestablished connection with my soul. My time away from media allows me to reaffirm and rearrange the priorities in my life. I am able to focus on myself, really and truly focus on myself, and impart more energy into the things that make me happy- my faith, my health, my relationships. Digital breaks above all renew my affirmation to myself. I grow more in love with Chimsom, feel more gratitude towards her, applaud her for where she has come, and be her biggest hype man for where she has the potential to go.

*originally published sep 2017

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