Did you know the average person tends to touch their smartphone more than 2,000 times per day? At OutThere Colorado, one of our goals is to get you away from your screen and outside adventuring without the digital distraction. This may sound contradictory coming from a digital-first publication, but for us, it’s more about what you do with the information found in our content than how much time you spend consuming it.
The digital screen (typically in the form of a smartphone) can be the ultimate distraction when you’re out in nature. From the process of capturing the perfect selfie to choosing your next song (please, please, please use headphones) to worrying about how many likes your last Instagram post got, giving attention to the digital screen can quickly become a negative habit, pulling you away from truly becoming immersed in your surroundings.
As the person that handles the social media efforts on behalf of OutThere Colorado, you can bet this is something I struggle with. I’ve spent most of my professional life worrying about what’s happening in the online space. A lot of the times, I’ll be browsing an app like Instagram without even noticing it. I would be what most consider a heavy user of digital screens.
That being said, I also love giving my full attention to whatever outdoorsy activity I happen to be participating in. I choose to make a concerted effort when I’m out there exploring to stay off of my smartphone. It’s not about cutting technology out of your life completely, it’s about finding a balance that makes technology less disruptive.
Here are a few tricks that I’ve picked up that might help you avoid the distraction of the Internet while you’re on your next adventure
1. Put your phone on airplane mode.
Not only does this help save battery, it also keeps you from getting notifications. As discussed in the book “Hooked,” notifications act as an “external trigger” to pull you back into a specific online service. When Facebook sends you a message that someone commented on your most recent picture or ESPN sends you a news alert about your favorite team, these companies know you’ll get an itch to check out their application. The only way to satisfy that itch is to give their notification your attention. The best way to prevent this from happening is to simply turn your connection off at the trailhead. Of course, you can turn this back on if need be. Still concerned about apps like Strava that you use to track your route? Many rely on GPS and should still be functional (minus the uploading) in airplane mode. Test your favorite application on your next familiar hike.
2. Make a playlist.
If you’re someone that insists on listening to music while you’re outside (I do when I bike, not when I hike), make a playlist before the experience. This will keep you from checking in to pick new songs. Don’t think this is much of a distraction? Picking a song might not be a huge distraction, but when you get your phone out to do that, you’re opening the door to get even more distracted by notifications. And then you’re doing it every 3-5 minutes when a song ends. It adds up.
3. Limit your picture taking.
Unless you’re headed to the trail for the sole purpose of taking pictures, trying to document your hike this way can become very time consuming. You’ll likely end up with a wall of photos on your smartphone screen that you’ll never view again at the cost of hardly remembering the trail you were on. Ask anyone who has hiked with me, I take a ton of pictures. That being said, I take fewer now than I used to because I realized this prevented me from living in the moment. Make an effort to be selective. A good photographer doesn’t necessarily take a ton of pictures, they take the right picture. Give yourself an allotted number of photo-op stops and stick to it. For me, I set it at two stops per hour of hiking or two stops per day of skiing. I know, I know…this still seems high…but I’ve got to get pictures for you guys, so I have an excuse. You’ll notice that as you limit yourself, your photos will get better, simply because you’re forced to use more discretion when choosing a snapshot. You learn to be more selective, and it pays off in more ways than one.
4. Plan your route ahead of your trip.
A growing number of people are using online applications like AllTrails to follow hiking routes. While these applications are great, many of them still require connection, which opens the door for a flood of distracting notifications that pull you off the app. Additionally, these trail apps are often huge power drains. If you insist on using a digital map for your adventures, do what I do and screenshot the route beforehand. Make an effort to also screenshot photos of the landmarks people mention if you can find them. Not only will you find that this tends to be quicker than actually using a trail application in real time, it also forces you to plan ahead and be more aware of your route–two things that can be essential for a safe hiking experience. Concerned about getting lost? Use an application like Strava that operates on GPS. It’ll use less power while still giving you a route you can follow back to where you came from if needed.
5. Utilize “past-capture” features on social media.
“If you didn’t post it on social media, it didn’t happen” seems to be a saying that’s floating around lately and many people believe this to be true, whether they’ll admit it or not. I’m not going to tell you that posting a lot on social media is wrong. If you want to let your friends know what you’re up to, go for it – just do it after the fact. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat both allow you to post in story format at a later time, meaning you don’t have to spend your time while you’re in an activity getting content for these channels. Simply take your photos during your planned photo stops (aforementioned) and upload images and videos from these moments from the comfort of your couch after your hike. As a side effect, you’ll notice your online stories are higher quality, as you’re able to look at the full day in its entirety and then decide which moments make the cut for your post.
6. Wear a watch.
How many times a day do you check your smartphone for the time? Just try to keep track for the rest of this hour. Some studies show that average users touch their phone more than 2,500 times a day, many of which are quick touches, with checking the time being the main culprit. Wearing a watch while you’re outside can keep you from reaching for your phone when you’re curious about how late it’s getting. This one will also help you save some battery on your device.
Digital screens have become a part of daily life, there’s no denying that. However, digital screens don’t have to interfere with your experiences in the great outdoors. Hopefully these tips will help you move toward a less distracted time while you’re exploring nature. If you adopt these practices (or even just one), you’ll find that your time spent in the woods and on the mountains noticeably more fulfilling.
Do you have tips for deleting the digital distraction? Share them in our comments below.
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