Cutting the Cords of Communication and Dealing with Consumption Overload

We’ve all got a little bit of a problem.

We’re constantly connected.
Some of us are more connected than others.  Some of us value our connectivity over most everything else.  Some of us do not view this as a problem at all, but a gift.  A gift or by-product of our high levels of productivity.

A simply beautiful drive through the Rockies.

We carry our connectivity close to our hearts, in our shirt pockets, jeans pockets, attached to our ears and the constant ding of our in-boxes and rings of our smartphones make us feel wanted.  Needed.  Special.

But others loathe this constant connectivity.  Others view it as a curse of modernity.  A burden.  A chore.  Others see this constant tethering to our devices as a deterioration of our communities, of our ability to hold a conversation and the ultimate destruction of our society.

And others view this constant age of connection as a fracturing of our minds, a biological rewiring of our brains- never seen before in the history of our species.

Personally, I feel as though I’ve gone full circle in this age of connectivity.  In 1994, I almost failed a college course because I refused to retrieve my homework assignments using this new thing called “email” because you had to log in through the UNIX system (think MS DOS and dial-up) and it took too damn long and was insanely inefficient.  In my college days, if I wanted to see what my friends were up to, I walked over to their houses.  There were no cell phones and no one ever answered the land line.  I eventually evolved into a cell phone, but it took a while.

Then one sunny day 3 years ago, my five year old flip cell phone fell on the concrete and shattered.  Damn!  So I traipsed over to my carrier and took the leap into the world of the Crackberry.  At the time, I was juggling several major commercial multimedia jobs, helping teach classes at UNC and my in-boxes runneth over.

So, I went there.  And it was fabulous.

I felt on-top of things, in the loop, connected and productive.  That lasted for about a year.  Then I found myself rolling out of bed and grabbing the Crackberry to see what was happening in the world and in my inboxes- before I even brushed my teeth.

Does one really need to scroll the NYT first thing in the morning?

I found that my morning muse- the little voice that produces many of my articles, was being squashed by my need to address the flashing red light on my smartphone that told me someone wanted to communicate with me.

My smartphone was making me dumb.

So, I cut the cord.  It took a while.  I had that thing for two and a half years.  But I did it.  Done.

And though I was no longer coddling the Crackberry first thing in the morning, I was shifting my communication addiction to the social media beasts.  And yes, I was working and marketing and I value the connections I’ve made through social media to a great degree.  But I found myself flitting about obsessively on these outlets looking for information and connections that would further my work.

And I found them.  And I consumed.  Alot.  And now I’m tired.

Yes, my brain has reached its capacity for consuming information on the internet and all it really wants to do is read Harry Potter books and ponder the Tao of Abundance.  My internal hard drive is full.  And luckily I live in a town where I can now so easily cut the cord of communication and begin my recovery from my consumption overload/communication addiction.

Here’s a glimpse at the Detox.

I live in the highest town in the country now, and the internet is questionable.  I researched home internet access and the process was exhausting.  Then, we asked the plumber who was wedging himself into the crawl space under our house about the best option.  I mean, there are 3 satellite dishes attached to our rental home- which is all of 300 sq ft.

He said that the only one worth a damn has been down for about a month.  Apparently, the internet has a virus- or the tower does- or something insane like that.

So, I now hang out at the local bar at 9am because they have wifi, bottomless cups of coffee, pancakes bigger than my head and the local banter is priceless.  The morning chef now yells her greeting to us from the kitchen based on our breakfast order.  Love it!

I work until lunchtime, when the place starts to fill up and the booze begins to flow.  Some mornings the weed is fired up early too and the bar smells like Christmas.  That whole medicinal marijuana gig in Colorado is treating this town pretty well.  I had to check for an important email the other afternoon and figured I’d be OK, it’s only 3pm.  The bar was filling up and was getting rowdy by 4pm, so I had to quietly exit.

I now only check my email, Twitter/Facebook and RSS Feeds once a day (or every other day) for about 2 hours in the morning.
That’s it.  And there’s no real in-depth work being done in a bar, sorry, that’s just not gonna happen.

The anxiety of such a limited access to everything internet related was a little overwhelming at first.  I logically know that there’s nothing in my in-box that will implode my world if neglected and I know that such matters can wait until the next day- or a few days from now.  My clients who need to reach me have been informed of my schedule and they have my cell phone.

But there’s this fear of being out of the loop.  Fear of losing audience for the blog and all the hard work that has gone into her so far and there’s a fear that I’ll like this disconnection so much, I might not go back.

I spend more time walking my dog, taking in the amazing mountain views and reading.  I do my work when it needs to be done, but then there are these vast blocks of time that are free.  At first I thought I’d have to spend big money on a special wifi rig for my computer or get another smart phone.  But now, after a few weeks of this routine and surviving the digital detox, I don’t think that’s necessary.

I believe this cutting of the cord is a fabulous occurrence in my professional evolution.  The down-shifting back into life is a welcome transition.  And it feels nice.  I can move back into production mode, creativity mode and contemplation mode.

I’ll leave the communication mode on hold for now.  Communication will happen, as it should, but more on the 1994 terms of my youth, than the communication on steroids of my thirties.  And I believe the information consumption will stop for some time.  I have my choice outlets for consumption, but my frequent visits will occur no longer.

Welcome Free Time.  Hello Productivity.  Nice to see you again, Creativity.  It’s been too long, Contemplation.  Good to see you all again, I’ve missed you.


  1. says

    This is really inspirational. I’m living with computers since mid 80’s. I was 11 or 12 y-o back then. It would be too much to start describing all the ways that I love the Internet. Still, I find myself wanting to cut the cords. And I want it more and more.

    Truth is, having all these means of communication is great. But, as with many other great things, we are prone to start abusing them. We get hooked so easily on the instant gratification caused by inbox sound. And every overuse leads to fall in quality.

    Yeah, I need to cut the cords as well.

  2. says

    Hello Crystal,

    Don’t worry about losing audience because of cutting the cord; you just found yourself a new reader! You very well described how many people feel. But there is fear to do something about it. Just a couple of months ago I just closed Twitter for a week. It made me think about why and how I should actually use Twitter. I guess we need to do that at least twice a year.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks Emiel! Excellent move on stepping away from the Twitter! Its fabulous at times, but can get a little overwhelming when left to our own impulses. The fear is real, but the world will forgive you if you miss a few communications- that’s the hard thing to remember.

      Thanks for the comment and take care!

  3. says

    I couldn’t agree more. When I took the plunge this summer and signed up for a 3-year smartphone contract I thought all my problems were solved.

    Now the phone sits neglected in my purse – uncharged. This isn’t so much a deliberate move as I just don’t feel the need or desire to be constantly connected.

    If I could just get out of that #@!& contract!

    • says

      Bummer about that contract! What I found when I was becoming annoyed by the constant connectivity of my blackberry, is that I would turn the actual data signal off most of the day and just use it as a phone. Twice a day, at 10 am and 4 pm, I would turn on the data signal, check my email and respond from the phone. One beautiful thing about emailing from the phone (and using the “this is from my smart phone” signature) is your emails can be short and concise without being rude. That is a definite perk, if you can’t get out of that contract! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

  4. says

    Go Crystal! That takes some willpower and purpose. I sometimes wish I had more control over my email/facebook checking behaviors… it feels like an addiction. It’s not one I am ready to kick just yet, but I know when I’m serious about being more efficient in work and in free time, I’m going to limit my internet time to once or twice a day like you. Good for you!

    • says

      Thanks, Jenny! Whenever something starts to feel like an addiction or a crutch- that’s when I toss it to the side for a while. Then, once I’ve separated from it, I can slowly reintroduce it, if necessary. I’ve always done that with all my little crutches- espresso, wine, whiskey, internet, etc. I’ve studied lots of efficiency stuff over the years, GTD, 4 HWW, etc and try to implement a few principles in my work. Check out this free e-book called Focus, from Zen Habits, he’s got some great concepts in there and might help you with cutting the cord! Or at least, severing it a little bit! Have a fabulous New Year, Jenny!