CHANGE YOURSELF: Unplug, Unfriend, Unfollow, Unwind: Is That Sacrilege?


BlogHer '11 Panel Transcript: Unplug, Unfriend, Unfollow, Unwind: Is That Sacrilege? August 6, 2011. Conference Track: Change Yourself. Speaker: Gwen Bell.

AUGUST 6, 2011

Captioning Provided by:
Caption First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3066
Monument, CO 80132
800 825 5234

* * * * * * * *

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided
in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may
not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

* * * * * * * *

>> GWEN BELL: Hi, everyone. We will start today by pulling in as near as we, as you are willing to come. I'm Gwen Bell and we are going to start today by first by powering down. So, as you know, this is Unplug, Unfriend, Unfollow, Unwind. Is that acrylic? And there is someone, Becky, is taking notes. She is recording every word I say, no pressure, and every word you say, no pressure to you either. So anything that's said in this session will be captured in fine, beautiful, fantastic detail, and as a result there is no need for you to take notes unless you are compelled to do so, in which case, well, we could talk about that over the next 90 minutes. So I would just like to start with a seated exercise, seated meditation exercise. So you will find your seat, take your seat, and pull away from the table a bit, give yourself some space. And we are just going to kind of arrive in the room. Just noticing your seat in the chair and the base of your spine, if you can close your eyes and visualize the base of your spine. Place your hands facing down or facing up, it doesn't matter, on your knees or your thighs. Roll your shoulders back down away from your ears. Just elongate your upper body while feeling your feet planted on the earth.
Just take a few seconds to check in with yourself and really arrive in the room. Notice how you are breathing. And you can notice thoughts passing through your mind, but no need to attach them, just like clouds, let them pass. Whenever you are feeling calm and relaxed, notice that sensation and fee if you can transfer that calming, relaxing sensation to other parts of your body.
The eyes soften, the face softens. Really this is about allowing whatever is rising for you, allowing it to arise and allowing it to fall away, and rather than attaching to a thought, simply letting it drift by. It might help to count, so when you inhale, breathing in, counting to yourself, one, as you exhale, counting to yourself, two. Inhale, three. So on to ten. And if a thought comes up, returning to one.
Now you might shift your focus to your breath and just notice how you are breathing right now. Are you breathing into your belly? Are you breathing into your shoulders? And if so, can you shift your breathing just slightly into your belly. So from belly into lungs and then from lungs exhaling out all of the air all the way down to the belly. And then opening the eyes. Welcome. So this summer I unplugged and I went into the forest search willing for fairies and found them. I take a digital sabbatical once a year, and I take a month, unplug, and go out into the world and experience it, no iPhone, no iPad, no computer, and when I come back on line Stephon Sagmeister, he takes one year off every seven years. He closes his design firm completely and unplugs. And he is one of the most famous and most influential designers in the world. So taking time off, the power of time off, I think, is kind of an undeniable fact, but there is a lot of fear around it. And that's what this session is about, the intention that I would love to set is for us to look at that fear and think about together creative ways to engage in a mindful way with our technology. So it's not just about unplugging to get off line or to say no to something, but it's about what are we saying yes to.
So that's the intention for this session. So thank you first of all for coming and for also taking some time for yourself at the conference to put down your devices and really look each other in the eyes. We are going to do some interactive activities and talk with each other, and you are welcome to take analog notes but, please, no texting or Tweeting from the session. If you would like to text and Tweet, please do step outside and honor the integrity we have created here today. So FOMO, fear of missing out. How many have felt that, FOMO? So what are we afraid to miss out on? That's what I want to get some feedback from you on. What are we afraid of missing out on? If we don't check in with Twitter or Facebook or Google circles or email, what are we afraid we are going to miss? You know what, turn to the person sitting next to you. I'm afraid I'm going to miss I'm afraid I will miss out on and tell your partner, one person and then we will take a few seconds doing that and then we will switch, and then the stem of the question is I'm afraid I will miss out on, and you fill in the blank. Stay with the stem, I'm afraid I'll miss out on. I'm afraid I'm going to miss out on be sure to stay with the question or the stem.
I'm afraid I will miss out on something cool. I just heard that. I'm afraid I will miss out on something important. Switch if you haven't already done so. I'm afraid I'm going to miss out on money, on earning, maybe. I'm afraid I'll miss out on all right. Let's hear from you. Let's hear from the group. What are you afraid of missing out on? Shout, Holly.
>> AUDIENCE: I know it's going to be a little bit counterintuitive to what we are doing but because this is audio recorded, I am going to have to scoot around and catch everybody. Afraid I will miss important emails from work.
>> GWEN BELL: Definitely.
>> AUDIENCE: And I said I have purposely not checked my email since I got here and already my co workers are a little disappointed not getting back to me instantly but I gave my computer and walkie talkie away to another co worker so I could come here.
>> GWEN BELL: What are you afraid of missing out on? Let's hear from other folks.
>> AUDIENCE: Social opportunities, I'm a social butterfly and you can't always get everything if you don't find it right now.
>> GWEN BELL: Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I feel like I'm missing out on really big announcements these days if I don't check Facebook, birth announcements, I was one of those people I announced my pregnancy. And months later some of my friends were like I wasn't on Facebook, I didn't know you were pregnant.
>> AUDIENCE: Well, I was going to say opportunity and that includes social, but moreso just work, whether a work email, a Tweet to go out, anything, any type of opportunity.
>> GWEN BELL: So opportunity, announcements I'm hearing. I heard money when I was walking by, like, earning, okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I actually do social marketing for a living so my big thing for me, I work for make a wish foundation, so we have 270,000 people on Facebook and at nighttime I go to bed and something happens and I miss it. The next morning it is a little crisis to start off and then thousands of people took hold of it by morning it's a mess and I feel like anytime I see the littlest thing I will be like oh, my God, I have to handle this now before someone else sees this Tweet and I have a hundred to deal with.
>> GWEN BELL: So fear of missing out, fear of missing a beat, really.
>> AUDIENCE: The idea that something this big will become that big and I have to be the one that's looking all of the time.
>> GWEN BELL: Thank you.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, this actually happened to me a couple of months ago, but I lost my iPhone a day before I was traveling to go somewhere and work and then there was no internet connection there so I was completely unplugged, not by choice. And I guess I felt like I was missing out on another life that I had, which was this immediacy and this life that actually was a virtual life because I was already living, like I was already with people living the life that I was supposed to be, where I was supposed to be, but it felt like I had this extended virtual family I wasn't taking care of. It's a weird family.
>> GWEN BELL: Fear of missing out on what the family is doing.
>> AUDIENCE: Not my immediate family, but my other life I have that unfolds on line.
>> GWEN BELL: Do you feel like you are living a dual life most of us in the room, a life of we are either plugged in or unplugged and we are having one life here and the real life here. Is that true for you, give me a nod. Is there someone in the room who teams like they have seamlessly, you have seamlessly, Carrie, can you speck to that?
>> AUDIENCE: So a year ago I had cancer, and I had no immune system so I basically couldn't leave my house, so I basically lived on Twitter. That was my only social engagement for about eight months other than my doctors and nurses and immediate family. And that turned into a new job for me at BlogHer. All of the people I have met on Twitter, they are some of the best friends I have in my life. I will be inviting them to my wedding next year. I sort of let go of my other friends and those are now my best friends.
>> GWEN BELL: That brings up something I would love to cover which is unfollowing or like letting go of friends who maybe don't quite yet what's happening in order to make room for new ones. Thank you for sharing what your fears of missing out on. Scott Belski has a term for when we are constantly checking our devices to find out what's going on, it’s called insecurity work. I remember when I first heard the term, I was really touched, and I was triggered, actually, I was sad because I knew it in myself that I do this kind of insecurity work. I want to know now whether or not someone has mentioned me. I want to know whether or not someone has Googled for certain terms on my site. I want to know whether or not there is an incoming crisis, to your point in the back. So this is a real these are real tender things that we are talking about here. So insecurity work, I think, that's one element of it. And the other is the fear of, fear of missing out. So now what I would like to invite you to do with a person at the table is to talk about the actually in fact I need you to change your chairs so that you are facing someone directly, so this isn't going to be a three person thing.
This is another little exercise that I think it going to challenge us a little bit more. It's, again, a stem, so you are going to be looking someone in the eyes, and you are going to start, you are going to start talking and you are going to tell this person who likely you have never met before we have someone who needs a partner. So what I would like you to do is first of all decide who will go first. I'm going to go first. You go first. Ready. And the person who goes first is going to start telling the person across from them the truth is, and then you fill in the rest. And you just, I just we are speaking from our heart here, so four words or four words to think on as we go into this exercise, they are the four tenants of counsel, so when we are engaging with someone or we are speaking, one is to speak from the heart, two is to listen from the heart, three be spontaneous, and, four, be lean of speech. So you are speaking your truth, and if you are listening you are receiving that truth just as it comes from the person. No need to introduce yourself. No need to say what your blog is, just speaking what it is your truth is today this moment, what's alive in you, so the truth is and go.
This exercise is really funny. The truth is and the other person, the other person listening is just listening. Let's go ahead and switch now. So if you were listening before, now you are speaking, just speaking the truth, what's alive in you. The truth is listening this time if you were speaking before.
All right, everyone, let's turn our chairs back to facing one another. Thank you. So what's alive in you? What sensation without sharing the truth that came out of your interaction, what's alive in you following that interaction? Any feelings or impressions that came?
>> AUDIENCE: Settled down.
>> GWEN BELL: You want to speculate on why you settled down.
>> AUDIENCE: The truth.
>> GWEN BELL: The truth set wills us, I'm sorry. Just impressions to what impressions or feelings arise in you following doing an exercise of that nature. And maybe we don't we don't need to go into comparisons. Would you share what you shared digitally, but just instead, what comes up when you do that kind of work looking into another human beings' eyes?
>> AUDIENCE: It's emotional so I said, okay, don't be surprised if I cry. It's emotional to look in someone's eyes and talk.
>> GWEN BELL: I would like to hear a few more things, before this session, Amy, she is sitting at the front and we met and she shared with me do you remember what you said about people looking at their devices.
>> AUDIENCE: I said, talking around this conference, I'm seeing, you know, people I recognize, but their heads are down in their devices and I feel like, well, they don't want to interact right now. So it's, you know, it's really hard to engage with people and part of me is thinking, well, it's okay if I don't run into them, I will see them on Twitter, so it's fine.
>> GWEN BELL: Wow, that's interesting! Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I think it makes you vulnerable, and you get going with it and you realize, I didn't even say that to myself. Oh, Wow!
>> GWEN BELL: This is an interesting point. Do most of you in here, I will assume have some sort of social web preference or you wouldn't have come to this session to unplug. So you are plugged in to some degree, is there a sense here that we filter everything that we put up so maybe we wouldn't have that? Yes. That experience if we were plugged in right now.
>> AUDIENCE: I don't. My blog is the place where I do do all of that work actually. And that makes personal interaction sometimes more difficult because you have worked something out on your blog, and you are over it, and then somebody is like, hey, hey, how are you doing? And you are like, I'm good, because I'm over it. So I don't know, I feel less vulnerable in person almost and more vulnerable on line in a lot of ways.
>> GWEN BELL: Wow, okay. Thank you.
>> AUDIENCE: I think one of the interesting things the eye to eye personal contact is we are less likely to judge. On line there is so much faceless communication going on, that we are very quick to judge and point out the flaws we see in others without actually knowing them, without seeing their eyes, without knowing what makes them a person and who they are. So I think that eye to eye communication, conferences like this are great because they become real 3D people to us which I think in turn makes us more compassionate humans.
>> AUDIENCE: So when I moved to San Diego, I moved here because I had been dating someone from my alma mater, and he moved out here. And we had a long distance relationship for awhile, so we were always texting and chatting and Tweeting and Facebooking, and so when I moved out here, four days after I moved out here, he broke up with me, but not only did he broke up with me, he broke up with me on line.
And it was the biggest realization of how am I using these tools and what am I doing to my psyche by not allowing myself and respecting myself enough for someone who I have just spent a pretty decent amount of time dating and who knew me in person just as well as he knew me on line, it wasn't like we had met on line or anything like that, but we communicated on line. And I felt like I had lost the respect for myself. I didn't even blame him. I blamed myself. I thought I didn't respect myself enough to have this turn out differently, to have him break up with me on line or break up with me in person. So I feel like knowing the boundaries about where you let yourself be vulnerable or let yourself be protected when it comes to this digital world is a big question about what are you respecting and who are you respecting and how do you feel about yourself.
>> GWEN BELL: Is there someone that can respond to that?
>> AUDIENCE: It's called add on line So I see a lot of not such great behavior and I hear stories from people in the community who have been lied to, cheated on or whatever has happened and I think the very sad thing now is that people have forgotten that there is actually a living, breathing human being that has feelings and blood and behind the screen or behind the text. So it's dehumanized us a bit in terms of kind of like there is a person there. And going back to unplugging, twice a year I go into other parts of the world, no technology, nothing, because it just reminds me, this is our gook. This is what we are. So I think as great as all of this is, unplugging part, the realizing that we are these living, breathing beings is just, it's huge. It's massively important.
>> AUDIENCE: It's great to be able to go out in the world and look people in the face and actually do the connection instead of sometimes I feel like because I work in a technology field thank you for holding my mic, honey, I'm so sorry. But if you work in technology and we leave in a technological world where everything becomes virtual because it's easier, it's more convenient or distance or time or whatever. It's harder to do things face to face. And it's God bless my friends who force me. They are like ut hum, obviously you confused me with some other bitch. We are having dinner, put your phone down. But I think it takes bravery to kind of force yourself to stay grounded and be like this is the real world. For people who are shy or, you know, it's really a struggle, but I truly respect, I mean, when Cathy was doing hers, it was difficult I think for Cathy to do that.
>> GWEN BELL: You also unplugged, Cathy is that what I'm Cathy, is that what I'm hearing?
>> AUDIENCE: We were doing the truth. It was a challenge and it made me respect and be empathetic to that challenge. So thank you for your courage. I think it took a lot and I appreciate it.
>> GWEN BELL: I have a follow up question to that and that is whether or not any of you have dedicated unplugged times beyond taking a year off, do you have times and how did you create that? Was there a breaking point or was it just now I want to we have a couple, I think, people who want to share. How did you decide, the questions are how did you decide and then how do you implement that and how do you enforce those rules? It's kind of a three part. This interesting to everyone? Is this what you came for? Okay. If not, speak up and let me know.
>> AUDIENCE: My husband and I are web developers and we met on line and dated long distance for the last year and a half of our relationship. So we built everything on line, all of our conversations, everything. And now what we have found is that when we have arguments, we will carry them out on line because we actually speak and communicate better on line than we do in person even though we live together and have been married for three years. So what we have done is dedicated vacations to remote areas with no technology two weeks a year to actually force ourselves time communicating face to face because we need to work on that because we will be in the same house and we will talk through chat in different parts of the house.
>> GWEN BELL: Is that true for many of you in the room, do you chat with your significant other rather than have face to face.
>> AUDIENCE: We still talk, we have a food blog, but the real deep, meaningful, are we having kids, what should we purchase, all of those conversations seem to happen on line.
>> GWEN BELL: Wow!
>> AUDIENCE: Hi. I didn't intend to get a microphone, but any way, I tend to unplug on weekends, I guess. I still do like receive and, you know, put out emails and stuff like that, but I don't typically go on Facebook or anything like that. Like the weekend is like my time that I just and I have always done that. I always just kind of dedicate my weekends to just doing things I need to do, and kind of like putting it down, you know.
>> GWEN BELL: So I have, really quick before the next person speaks, I have kind of a guide to taking a digital sabbatical, and if you haven't done this exercise before, it's really worthwhile. There is a book someone who has written a book about 168 Hours, that's the number of hours in a week. Have any of you looked into that or read that? You have, okay. And essentially what it is is you track for 168 hours what you are actually doing. So every 30 minutes, you would check in and say, okay, we just had a fight on Twitter. And you just be super brutally honest with yourself. The truth is, and then you would basically write into the 168 spreadsheet what's happened during the course of the week. And then you get to evaluate honestly what you did, because I think some of us, we sort of under estimate the number of hours we are spending on line.
So worthwhile to really look at that and tell the truth about how many hours you are spending on line so your friends don't have to say, okay, we are unplugging for dinner. Question in the back.
>> AUDIENCE: I read this great book called “The Winter of Our Disconnect.” Did anyone else read that? Fantastic book about a mother from Australia, and she and her three children unplugged for six months. She is a journalist so it's well written, but her son, the teenager, he couldn't play his games or do any of that stuff, so he started playing his saxophone again, and he now wants to be a professional musician. That six months cemented it for them. So it's an interesting book about what are the things we are giving up when we are facing the screen, the hobbies.
>> AUDIENCE: So in January I had this whole great idea that I would take more time to get off line, and then I didn't, and I got emails from people, and I was at a point where I knew I needed to step back because I was tired and cranky and I needed to rest, but I went off verbally, and then that kind of translated into a very short, curt email. And I knew then that I needed to get help. So I talked to my life coach, and she had put me on a short leash and had me look at what could I give up, and also to create standard language when someone sends an email when they ask you a question about something and you are not able to so I start with thank you very much, and then I say I can't, and then I leave it at that. Because I was feeling bad because I couldn't answer it. And now once a month, I have digital sisterhood unplugged which is for me, and I did a week with your book, because I knew in June I was going to crack up if I didn't do it. And I weaned myself off every day. There were some days where I was able to do complete being somewhere, but it was an opportunity for me to step back and it was one of the best things. So now I just use the third Sunday every month and I try and invite other people to do it, but it's been a good thing. I don't feel bad now when I step away, because that was really the thing that was pissing me off was I couldn't be this responsive person because it's so much.
>> GWEN BELL: I was actually, I would love to hear from the two of you in the back. Sitting with the 20 something bloggers group contingent we were sitting around the fire talking about how, you know, maybe in the 80s and 90s it was about climbing the corporate ladder and we were like we don't want that. We don't want to be chained to a desk anymore. And now instead, 20 something and maybe not even 20 somethings coming into the workplace, but all of us, we traded in a ladder for a tether and Holly Buchanan who is a friend of mine and works with women and marketing knows a lot about this space. She said it used to be you had a long tether to your boss and to the office place, and now you had a long tether, but you were connected, but you didn't feel it as much and now it's a much shorter tether because it's in our hand and in our face and it's a screen. So it feels like we have less choice around it because it's always on.
Whereas with the old tether, it was longer and we could, we felt like we could stray a little bit further. So I'm curious what, you know, for those of us who work in the digital space full time are there ways for us to let people know that we have these boundaries or beyond auto reply, ways we can communicate, hey, I'm not on 24/7. Don't expect an immediate reply. Don't expect me to friend you back immediately. These sorts of things. I would love to hear from you too and then I would love to talk about that, how you set boundaries around that.
>> AUDIENCE: In response to the other one, you had asked do you take time off, and I had to come to a point where my husband even asked me, you know, we would like to see something other than the back of your head. So I took Sundays because that's our day of worship, and so it was really quite difficult at first because I kept feeling that pull, that draw to check email, check Facebook. For the most part for me, it's not wanting to miss out on opportunity. So that's sort of passed and now there is a recognizable difference in stress on that day. That day is my day to be with family, sit on the back porch with the husband. My kids fall over me on the couch and one is 14 so that's quite painful, but, really, there is a noticeable difference in stress and I sleep better that night and just altogether, but I did the whole, like, unfollowed everyone on Twitter and everything and thought I would get great backlash because I can't keep up with everything that's just something I'm not going to do, and none whatsoever. So I think we build things up in our head that they will be way, way more than they ever will be. That people don't care as much as we think they do. I have met friends that are quite important to me and I go and see them physically and we get together physically. I don't think people are as concerned as where we are.
>> GWEN BELL: We are more concerned about whether or not we are on line than they are. Like leaving Facebook, have any of you left Facebook besides me? No, none of you. Leaving Facebook, it's incredible, more than a thousand people, not a peep, not a peep. Nobody said anything. Hey, Gwen, where are you at, girl, nothing. I was real sad. I really took it personally.
>> AUDIENCE: So in response to your leaving Facebook thing, I am on Facebook, but I don't use it very much. And I have had family members call my mom and ask my mom why I am not updating my Facebook.
>> GWEN BELL: That's over the top. Any other experiences leaving a community and okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I was going to ask because it was two topics ago, because I was saying what I do all day long that I am on Facebook and on Twitter all day long for work. So then the hard divide for me is that what time is afterward that I'm doing the same thing but it's my own stuff. I will be like I want to write something and it's the weekend but I don't even want to put my computer on because I spend all day looking at stuff and I have yet to figure out what's the best way. If I put insta beeper on my phone, when I see an article I want to read, I can save it. And I started doing things like that. I feel like there is the me time that I don't even want to have on line because I'm looking at it all day at work. My dad will send me a video of something, and he will be like what do you mean you didn't look at it, you spend all day on line at work and when I get home the last thing I want to do is put the computer on.
>> AUDIENCE: When you have an article. Do you go back and read them.
>> AUDIENCE: I don't.
>> GWEN BELL: Elisa, one of the cofounders, and I wanted to know about email bankruptcy. Have any of you declared email bankruptcy. So I wanted to know what she really meant by email bankruptcy. She said I touch every email, so she touches every email but once a quarter she will copy everything in her inbox and hit archive all to Q1, 2011 and that's email bankruptcy. If you have emailed me, I will not be responding to you, basically at all. So if it's important enough, they will ping her again, ping her again. She said on all of the times she has done that, she has never had any backlash, never. So if people want to get ahold of you badly enough, they will get ahold of you.
>> AUDIENCE: I think it ties in well because, Gwen, I did notice when you left Facebook, and I was kind of sad, but.
>> GWEN BELL: There is one.
>> AUDIENCE: But I wasn't as sad as I would have been because, and this leads into my next point, I knew you were accountable and that I wanted to reach you at your convenience, I could. And you have proven it, too, because I got ahold of you when you came here. And I have gotten to see you.
So I think that for me, when I have taken breaks from Twitter or unfollowed or taken people off Facebook or just not really shown up a lot, I have demonstrated to people that I still care by in a reasonable amount of time at my own leisure responding. And if someone shows genuine concern saying, yes, I'm still here for you, you know how to reach me. So I feel like it's not so much a proactive saying I'm not going to be there. It's more being kind to yourself and then being kind to that other person at the same time and being accountable. So thanks for being accountable. And I don't think anyone is hurt by that.
>> GWEN BELL: Beautifully put. That brings up a beautiful point and it segues into this unfriend, unfollow, have you been unfriended or have you unfriended or unfollowed someone and then had to have that difficult conversation or even more than that you have proactively let someone know, hey, I'm about to hit the unfollow button, here is why? That might be the next topic.
>> AUDIENCE: So here is what I'm dealing with as far as the unplug fear is that last November my grandfather was in the process of dying. And my mother was spending a lot of time, obviously, with him before that. My mother is on Facebook, I'm on Facebook. So my plan was on Thursday I was going to go drive up to see him, you know, spend last moments with him. On Wednesday night apparently my mother wrote that he was in the process of passing on her Facebook and he died that night. And had I known, I would have left work early, obviously, and gone up there, but I didn't. I wasn't paying attention to Facebook today, and her response is, well, you are on Facebook, why did you not know because in her world she has ten friends so why would you not see her post. So I now have this fear that if I unplug for a day, grandpa is going to die, something big is going to happen that cannot be taken back. So I'm wondering how people deal with that particular form I don't know that everyone it's kind of an extreme example and I totally accept that not all of your grandfathers are going to die when you unplug. I promise, but how do people cope with that level of fear?
>> GWEN BELL: Yes.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I have been to a couple of sessions I have been to anger is building in me how social media destroys lives I say that half serious, half joking around, but it's true. I unplugged after the last BlogHer conference for a few months from my blog and Facebook and Twitter and trying to reprioritize my life with work and family. I find I was happier than I have ever been when I was completely unplugged. I found that on my blog and all of the other social media networks, I was noticed that I was being a better or portraying myself as a better person, a better dad and bet on line than I was on line than in real life. We talk about missing things if you are not on line. My whole issue and problem was because I was so afraid of missing things and showing people how unique and special that I am, that I was actually doing completely the opposite. I wasn't in the moment in real life and I was missing everything around me.
And I struggle with that all year and I have recently, you know, started to reappear and just being here now is the one thing I try to do is check any motives now in life. And I wasn't even going to come this year because I was trying to figure out what's my motivation, is it ego? Is itself centeredness? And just being here I'm starting to realize that maybe I shouldn't have come. I'm having a great time and seeing a lot of good friends and I can't beat myself up too much about it, because I'm here, but I definitely can judge, there is one barometer of how spiritually fit I am, it's being on line, because I start feeling that ego come back again. And, you know, I just know maybe it's time maybe that's my cue after BlogHer conferences, I need to unplug again and just get back to being in the moment.
>> GWEN BELL: Wow! That really touched me. Thank you for sharing that. To speak to what happens, I don't want to segue too quickly but to go back to your question really quickly about what to do, like, if your grandfather is dying, if there is some immediate, you know, emergency situation, it sounds like you already know what you would do. You would create a different kind of tether to your mom at that point, like, mom, text is ideal in this case, Facebook is not.
>> AUDIENCE: Well, she learned that, but it never occurred to her that I would not see her post.
>> GWEN BELL: Maybe it's time for those of us in the room to start thinking about what are the category one, two, three, what is the emergency action plan. I had my house burn down a few years ago and the first place I went was to the blog because it was the best way to announce and get the word out quickly. So what is your emergency action plan and, you know, letting your immediate family know what that is. I do want to get to this question of unfriending and unfollowing. I think it's particularly sensitive, and it can be a triggering topic, but I think it's juicy and it can be great. How about let's go back to partners Victoria, do you have something really quick.
>> AUDIENCE: I can do it later.
>> GWEN BELL: If you will hold that, and let's go back to the partner connection and talk about was there a time when you unfriended or unfollowed someone and they felt hurt or on the other end of the spectrum, they unfollowed you or unfriended you, and you felt hurt or you felt some sort of, like, something isn't quite right, and what did you do with that? How did you follow up? So let's talk together and then we will share as a group. So maybe take about two minutes per person. I will let you know when the midway point is.
>> GWEN BELL: Switch if the other person hasn't heard. So an unfriend or unfollow experience. Switching partners.
One more minute. Let's bring it back together and share some of our thinking, let's share some of our experiences, either being unfriended or unfriending someone. So it doesn't matter which one, but either side of the coin. Let's hear from someone who hasn't spoken yet. Yes, go ahead.
>> AUDIENCE: A couple of months ago I noticed that I hadn't been seeing updates from a childhood friend who I hadn't seen in ten years but we found each other on Facebook through mutual friends and I hadn't seen anybody for awhile so I went and typed into the search book on Facebook and I clicked on it and I realized she unfriended me. I'm like oh, my gosh, I can't believe that I'm so offended and very quickly I realized I haven't even seen her. Who knows how long ago she did that even. And realizing it was more just I wanted to be able to check in and even kind of judge her and be like, oh, she is doing this with her life and that's good or bad or whatever. And that was more my motivation for being Facebook friends with her than actually caring about her. That was kind of a reality check for me, like oh, my gosh, I'm a horrible person.
>> GWEN BELL: It takes a lot of guts to say that so thank you for sharing the experience.
>> AUDIENCE: I wanted to say I thought Jason had an excellent point that he just made a few minutes ago and we were chatting about people's obligation to be on Facebook and Twitter, and I was just telling him a story about how my mother in law tried to be my Facebook friend and I'm sure some of you that doesn't really always work out in real life especially if your mother in law can't stand you. And people told me I had to friend her. They were like you have to totally accept that. No I don't, you are not my friend and you will not follow me on Facebook, so, I think you just have to stand up for yourself.
>> GWEN BELL: Make the boundary, right.
>> AUDIENCE: So I had to unfriend one of my sisters. Yes, and it has still created a rift. She didn't realize mostly I use Facebook for business and she would use very snarky comments for whatever reason so I unfriended her and it's bad. And she has two kids and I don't want to unfriend her kids and favoritism and it creates an icky dynamic. I can see the look in her eye and she is like you unfriended me.
>> GWEN BELL: Does she say that is that a conversation you have had face to face?
>> AUDIENCE: I let her know, hey, I use this mostly for business. It's not, you know, a big social play ground for me. I'm not posting pictures of me, you know, drinking a beer at the party. It's a professional place. And so I'm sorry if you are going to leave snarky comments, it's not okay. And, yes, but it's created a really uncomfortable dynamic, because she doesn't I don't know if she still understands that boundary there. She is a mom, you know, so her life and my life are very different. So unfriending family is, it's a challenge.
>> GWEN BELL: And unfriending friends who are friends, like, not to create a dichotomy, but friends that we know from our real lives versus people who we only know from digital world, so thank you for sharing that. Any other experiences that are particularly, have been challenging. I just want to put out there, I have unfriended a few people who I was really close with, and I don't try to do it all at once. I try to, if I'm going to unfriend the terminology, first of all is really challenging because it sounds like a deletion. It sounds like I'm leaving you for something else.
So that's challenging, but I think the language, and also in a couple of cases I either called them or I had a face to face conversation with them and let them know why I was leaving them for lack of a better term, why I was unfriending them. And it's it is a hard conversation to have, but those have actually been some of the most important, bridging the digital and personal divide conversations I have ever had. If you have had a conversation about that, I'm about to unfriend you, here is why, if you could share? Anyone? Yes. Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I have a really strange anomaly. I have three daughters who I Tweet with, and we do really, really well. And people have said, you guys are an anomaly, a mom and these three daughters that get along online with Twitter. However, I am not on Facebook because I respect their privacy. Their aunt, on the other hand, follows every word they say and it hinges on everything they say, and there is a lot of criticism that comes back to me. And I say, well, that's why as a mom, I'm not their friend. I'm not going to be their friend because they have to have their friends, not their mom. So I think it has helped our relationships. They are all adults and we can talk like adults, but I'm not going to be their friend we are friends but not on Facebook. There is a boundary there that I think should be left.
>> GWEN BELL: So this brings up an important question, which is whether or not we are getting our needs met on line, and I think what kind of needs we are getting met on line and whether or not we are getting our actual needs met on line, and we are kind of getting our needs met on line. There is a book that I recommend across the board. It's called, "What We Say Matters." It's by Judith Hanson Lassiter and Ike Lassiter, and it's about speaking our needs and feelings directly. And I think what I in my experience, what has happened is I will sort of hint at a need or how I'm feeling but not be really direct about it, and as a result I'm not getting that need met.
So it's something to think about, if it's a need for friendship or intimacy, and we are seeking it out on line, but what we really need to do is put the iPad down and have sex with our partner, that might be something to think about. So whether we are getting the need met in a pseudo way or an actual way, it's something to think about.
>> AUDIENCE: That actually feeds exactly into the comment I wanted to share which is we discovered that we had this discussion about it's really easy for me to unfriend somebody who has 500 friends because I know there is not a question there. They are not actually reading what I write because they have 500 friends. So it becomes this question what am I looking for in my on line life. Am I looking to have as many friends as humanly possible so I can say I'm a winner or to actually have connection with people.
>> GWEN BELL: What's the answer for you?
>> AUDIENCE: For me it's connection. If I'm not connected with somebody, then I don't in fact I have a rule on Facebook, that I don't have a Facebook friend unless I have met you in real life, because there is way too because I share more of myself on Facebook than I do on Twitter, I'm not going to say where I live, where my children go to school, I'm not go to do that stuff, where I will on Facebook. You have to know what you are looking for in this media setting.
>> GWEN BELL: How about Google Plus, are any of you, Google Plus is here, so you can go get on there today. They are billing it more as a social layer. They are not calling it a social network. Google Plus needs to be here, but there are buckets that you put all of your people in, but you can friend everyone and then stick them all in, you know, their bucket, like acquaintances, and on and on and on. So it's like the new Facebook, Twitter hybrid baby. I don't know. Anyway, I wanted to bring something up while it's on my mind. When I go under, this is a trick, when I go into the on line world, I signal with my little bell, and when I come out I signal again. It's my tote tem. Have any of you seen inception. Okay. So what I would like to do is choose, I would like you to think, maybe if you have an analogue paper situation, if you could just write down what you think your totem might be and why and then let's share that. So just two minutes. What's your totem so you that can go under, use it to go under and maybe Senate to the world that you are back. Think about that for a second and write or you can talk too, you can talk, you can write, whatever the preference it. I want to give the introverts an opportunity to write. Totem, a symbol of something you can carry with you. I'm sorry to interrupt totem talkers. What I mean by totem is, someone who has seen inception, can you explain what Leo uses? I forgot his name, but Leo uses, what does he use? Can you talk us through what happens with the totem?
>> AUDIENCE: Because in the movie, they are going into different like layers of consciousness, I guess, so you never know which layer they are actually in. So every person has a unique totem. Nobody knows what that is, but Leo has like a top and if it spins, I don't remember which way is right, but one way he spins he knows where he is, and if it falls he know is where he is not. So it's a way to keep in mind or acknowledge, okay, this is where I am right now, and when I spin this or drop that or throw it, write something, then you know that's like your signal, I guess, this is my deadline, now I'm done with it.
>> GWEN BELL: Moving into the real world or whatever. So with that in mind, think on what your totem could be. It needs to be portable. Have some of you come up with what your totem is or could be? No. No totems yet?
>> AUDIENCE: Tuning fork.
>> GWEN BELL: Awesome. Other totems I red bracelet you will touch or take off, take it off and put it on. I'm going on line, I'm off line. Going on line. What's your totem going to be?
>> AUDIENCE: Mine is more of a ritual, taking a sip of tea, if I have to go fix the tea to go on line, that's, okay, that's taking some time, and then, you know, the tea gets cold, so you want to drink it. So it's like I want to drink it while it's hot. So that means I leaving my time on line. That's something to try. I'm going to do this at home.
>> GWEN BELL: Write about that. I would love to hear about how it is. Yes. Any other totems?
>> AUDIENCE: I was telling Polly that we have just undergone a mass upheaval. We moved our entire household to a whole new state, and during that I also accumulated my mother in law in my home, so I spend a lot of time on line if possible, and, however, during the upheaval of it all, my husband had to go for work. He was three weeks ahead of me and I was in another state and we were talking and is misunderstood something I said and there was this huge misunderstanding, and he really got his feelings hurt. And he called one of my daughters and said she has more fun with everybody on line than she does with me. And it was like giant wake up call, you know. And I felt really bad, and so my on line off line is our new back door has a click to it that I can hear when he comes home or when he leaves. So that click is put your phone down, close your computer, it's his time now, and you can either chat about his day or I can fix dinner or do anything, but I don't pick up my phone or my computer because I need for him to know that after 36 years, yes, I still want to be married. And it's that simple little click that makes a difference.
>> GWEN BELL: Thank you for sharing that. I had someone else similar today. I met her on the trade floor. And when she picks her son up at school she hands it to him and he powers it down for him and she doesn't get to power it on again until he is in bed. So it's interesting using someone else in our surroundings to signal to us it's time to get off line. Let's have 30 more seconds to share what your totem was or if you are having trouble getting a brain storm going. 30 seconds to a minute, totems, go. Call out a couple of totems.
>> AUDIENCE: A key in a lock.
>> AUDIENCE: My watch.
>> GWEN BELL: If you are on line, if you are going on line world you are taking the watch off, putting it back on, you are back in real life. I love the idea of signaling it and Vicki was saying they turns her phone upside down so signal now I'm with you and she turns it right side up, now I'm in the online world. I love the idea of showing other people, okay, I'm present for you now. Okay. Great.
>> GWEN BELL: We have five minutes. Wow, it's gone really quickly! We have talked about unplugging, unfriending and unfollowing. We talked about what the truth is in us, 168 hours. Please go do that and look at what your truth is, how you are actually spending your time. FOMO, fear of missing out and insecurity work, and the totem. I would love to hear any final questions or thoughts. You have me for five more minutes so if there is anything I can share with you with my experience with a digital sabbatical or finding a way to balance this work that we do on line and off line, please, like, let's have that conversation now.
>> AUDIENCE: About eleven or twelve years ago I was at Stanford doing some work in the design department, and all of the conversation was about how do we make technology, how do we make technology always with somebody so they don't have to think about using it. They can just use it. And I'm struck here by the fact that now I'm having to undo that.
>> GWEN BELL: So I'm going to challenge you on undo because we know each other and I can challenge you. I will challenge you on undo. I'm not sure that the point is about undoing, it's about incorporating and finding a healthy way to live with it. We are not going to be able to undo, you know, what technology has done with our lives.
>> AUDIENCE: That's not what I meant. I get your point. That's important. It's more where ubiquity has become sort of an unconsciousness which was sort of the point of design was to get it so you don't have to think about it. And it's becoming more conscious of how I'm unconscious, that's what I mean by undoing.
>> GWEN BELL: Thank you. Yes.
>> AUDIENCE: Hi, I'm Britt. I would love people's thoughts about speed because I feel like we are talking a lot about you are off or you are on, but when you are on, changing your behavior when you are actually on, and, you know, we have slow food movement. We have the slow money movement. And I'm wondering if there is going to be a slow tech or slow communication movement or something like that.
>> GWEN BELL: Great question. Love ideas around that.
>> AUDIENCE: So a friend of mine recently took a year off of internet altogether and she started writing actual letters that you would put a stamp on and put in the mail because you can still do that, by the way. And I only, in that whole year, only wrote her three or four letters but I found that they were like almost meditation to actually put a pen to a paper and write to something about what you were thinking and feeling at that moment and not have a record of it to keep for yourself, which first stressed the hell out of me but it was still like I'm letting it go now. I love the concept of a slow communication movement where we actually start writing each other letters again and give each other physical gifts in that we.
>> GWEN BELL: I would like to just respond to that to let you know that although I was unplugged for one month, I have actually been sort of off line for six more or less. I have had a hybrid life, but I have been doing a lot of unplugged work. And I have started writing something called a letter, and it's there are a couple of different web sites you can do it with, and people subscribe to it, and I put for my birth month, I just put my address at the bottom. If you want to write I have received letters from Australia. I have received letters from the Netherlands, like deep heartfelt messages, and I wrote them back. So it started digital. We segued to the paper and then back to digital. So I love the idea of playing with one more minute, playing with both mediums and creating more of a seamless experience. The site is It's a letter, but it's basically an email. Okay. This is how I would it's a glorified letter I put it in beautiful PDF. So let's put our chairs, let's come back to where we started and just take a moment to sort of ground ourselves before we head back out into the world. And I just, I want to express my appreciation for all of you who showed up and sat and worked and spoke your hearts today. So, just, again, closing your eyes, finding your feet on the earth. We will just take a few seconds here to reconnect, recall how you came into the session, and how it felt arriving in the room 90 minutes ago, and then where are you now? Just connecting with the breath, connecting with yourself. And see if you might set an intention now around this question of unplugging, around this question of taking time for yourself. See if you might set an intention about how you would like to take the work that you have done in the last 90 minutes and take it into the world with you as you head into the day, as you head into the rest of August. How you might take this work with you, how you might deepen into this work. I just invite you to set that intention.
Then just opening the eyes, I'm so grateful for all of you for showing up and sharing your hearts today. Enjoy the rest of the conference. Thank you.