4 ways to focus on reality in a virtual world

When so much of your life is spent online, how do you stay focused on what is going on outside the computer screen? Here are some ways to focus on the present while living in a virtual world.

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  • Our everyday lives are far different today than they were even 10 years ago. Now, much of our lives are spent online. Paying bills, searching for real estate, journaling, updating our loved ones on our activities, and full-time jobs can be done 100% via a computer or mobile device. So, with all the screen-time we get, how do we focus on non-virtual reality? How do we stay focused on what is going on around us, outside of the computer? Here are some ideas.

  • 1. Take a break and disconnect.

  • A lot of people will go hours and hours online without getting up to eat, stretch, or go to the bathroom. Some people simply lose track of time. Others want to complete something fully before taking a break.

  • Don't do this.

  • Instead, if you're working online for example, set an alarm to go off at least every three hours. Get up. Take a walk outside without any electronics. Get yourself a snack. Stretch. Sit on your balcony. Drink some water. Just get away from the computer screen. Let your mind wander and think about non-virtual things like how you will spend your weekend, what you will give your mother for her birthday, or what fun things you can do with your kids when they are home from school. Make sure your break is at least 10 minutes.

  • 2. Connect with your friends off the computer.

  • It is easy to stay in touch with friends through social media, but when was the last time you visited a friend? Social media cannot compete with sitting in someone's house and having a face-to-face conversation. You get so much more out of seeing people, listening to them, and being able to laugh with them as you exchange stories, reminisce, and simply share your friendship. Take a look at your friend list and pick a few people to go visit in-person, call on the phone, or even send a nice little note to through the mail.

  • 3. Be aware of those around you.

  • One of the biggest downfalls to having electronic devices is the temptation to use them while in the presence of others. If you are sitting in the same room or riding in the car with someone, try starting a conversation instead of scrolling through your news feed. If you hear someone talking, drop your phone and give him or her your full attention. You have a real person with you, probably in need of a real conversation; don't lose sight of that.

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  • Another common occurrence for us parents is the temptation to bury our faces in our phones while our kids are playing on the playground. Just because our kids are not right beside us, does not mean they don't need our attention. Most kids want their parents to see them slide down the slide or climb up the jungle gym. While it may be okay to look at your phone every once in a while, don't forget where you are. Make sure you are paying attention to what your kids are doing, at the very least for their safety's sake.

  • 4. Don't be a serial poster.

  • We all have those friends who literally put online everything they are doing: every meal they eat, every exercise routine they do, and every smile their child makes. If you are one of these people, try to limit your posts.

  • When we constantly think about what we will post online, we lose sight of what is going on around us. Instead of enjoying the moment, our minds are carefully wording our next status update. Instead of watching events unfold naturally, we pause what we are doing to take 10 photos of ourselves or our children to get the perfect shot to go with our thought-up caption.

  • This is not living life; but, rather, creating a false reality for others to see. Sure if your kids do something totally cute, get your camera out and snap a few pictures. But do not post the pictures online right away or even at all. Hold things back from social media. You'll avoid the trap of living your life through your posts, and you'll have something to talk about to others when you see them. If you post everything you do online, then there will be nothing new to share.

  • I happen to be married to someone who cannot stand social media sites, so I have been conscious of not hoping on them when he is around. Even if we are simply watching TV together, I resist the temptation to scroll through my phone (which can be especially hard when it is a show I am not interested in). This small effort on my part has made a big impact on my marriage. My husband appreciates that I am with him fully when we are together—not only physically, but mentally as well. It keeps both of us in the present and helps us live in reality. Be aware of those around you when you find yourself using any kind of electronic device. They will appreciate it and perhaps even follow your lead.

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Megan Shauri graduated with a bachelors in anthropology and a masters in psychology. She is a mother of twins.

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