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.
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.