Balance key to harmony between life and devices
Falling into fits of sweaty panic followed by uncontrollable trembling was exactly how I pictured life without my iPhone.
At least that’s what I’ve heard happens when people stop shooting heroin.
The concept of a break from devices isn’t new; the vacation time that oft comes with salaried jobs is meant to do just that. It’s only become en vogue in the last few years for vacations to become strictly purposed for device-detachment. Hotels have even started offering reduced rates for digital-detox packages requiring participants to leave their devices at the desk for the duration of their stay.
The anti-consumerist publication Adbusters challenges readers to shut off their devices for one week every April. The thinking is that logging out and pressing the off-switch will make them more available to experience all of life’s wonders, like, you know, other people.
So I decided I’d switch off; mainly because I — you know — like people. Plus, I could use an excuse to do something like knit or start an ant farm.
No phone, no computers, no digital satellite, no Netflix.
Bring on the DTs.
To calm my nerves I sought advice on how to get the most out of my digital-free week. According to Adbusters, I needed to do three things: take a Zen moment, slow down, reconnect with reality.
Right, reality, where I can use more than 140 characters to express my displeasure with the current weather conditions.
On that advice, I began day one with peaceful contemplation… while lying in bed and ignoring the dog whining to go out, I fantasized the whole week would be like I was at the spa. The stress of school started to melt away — then my phone alarm went off.
Right — the off-switch.
I had a moment of panic. How was I supposed to avoid both academic and social suicide after I switched off? What if I wrote down my schedule incorrectly and work couldn’t get a hold of me and fired me? Irrational panic, but panic nonetheless.
Deep breath, and… off.
I learned something about technology while I was out experiencing reality: it’s meant to make life easier.
In grade 4, I spent the better part of the school year trying to decode the Dewey Decimal System. I couldn’t understand what business numbers had acting as a gateway to literature, but my librarian insisted this was a skill necessary to my general success and life’s happiness.
The next year the school’s catalogue went digital. Take that, lady.
After finishing all the laundry and deciding I wanted nothing to do with an ant farm, I trekked to the library.
Without the computer I couldn’t even find a book to read. Turns out the Dewey Decimal System doesn’t exist anymore. Alyssa: 2, librarian: 0.
But now I was stuck wheeling through the library with no sense of direction looking for a book for a final project — I gave up after two aisles and picked Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I got through two pages and learned the key to social success is getting people to talk about themselves.
It seems to be working, so far.
To exercise my new-found skill, I cornered a regular at the pub I work at. I find serving people beer gives license to ask forward questions, so I asked him why I never see him with anyone at the pub — maybe not what Carnegie was getting at.
As it turns out, Mr. Regular gives himself three hours at the end of every workday to answer emails before he goes home. If he doesn’t get to it in that amount of time, it doesn’t get done.
He told me he leaves his phone in the office during the day when he’s having lunch or talking to clients.He told me he hates being distracted when he goes home to his family, so he comes to the pub to deal with the 500 emails he gets daily before he goes home.
I nodded and made a mental note to reserve judgment on bar flies, in general.
I only made it only 72 hours into the detox before the guilt of not doing homework took over.
They were the most stress-free three days I’ve had since starting my degree.
The day I flipped the on-switch was not so nice. I was greeted with 60 new emails, voicemail full of angry messages from group members, even some passive-aggressive Facebook messages about my digital absence.
I thought about Mr. Regular, and realized he’d discovered something I hadn’t thought of — moderation.
Maybe I don’t need time everyday to knit or make three meals from my garden from scratch, but I do need a few hours where I can sit and relax or walk my dog without reading an email. And I certainly need to answer a few emails and phone calls.
I’ve started leaving my phone in my purse when I get home at night. Maybe if I find the off switch for a few hours a day, I’ll be able to get back to Carnegie and read page three.