Here’s what I can piece together from fragments of offline analog memories:
My wife, 5-year old daughter, and I recently took a 7-day cruise to Mexico and we made a decision to spend the week offline. The internet (or at least a slow, bastardized version of it) was available on the cruise ship…for a fee…but we spent a solid 168 hours without it.
I wasn’t sure how it would go. I love getting e-mail, reading funny tweets, googling anything and everything, and judging people for posting the most ridiculous things on Facebook (not you though, never you) so I was nervous about leaving it all behind. I knew Travis, Rhonda, Bridget, and Melissa had everything covered in Date-Line Land, so I wasn’t worried about that. This was personal.
Except the most amazing thing happened. I actually enjoyed it.
I can be a compulsive refresher. Updating my RSS feeds for the latest articles, checking my e-mail over and over again, refreshing Hootsuite for the latest tweets… My friend Brendan asked if it was nice to be “unavailable” and I told him that, more to the point, it was nice to be unable to instantly distract myself from my current reality.
I can’t just stand in line at the store, or endure a red light while driving. I am compelled to distract myself with bite-sized bits of…I don’t even know what to call it.
Now, we weren’t without technology on the trip. We watched TV at bedtime, enjoyed a couple of movies on an iPad, and I read a few books on my Kindle. But consuming information or entertainment by reading a book or watching a movie is different than scanning the latest tweets compulsively.
Instead of constantly updating and refreshing and trying to know everything about everyone before anyone anywhere, I sat with a book. Instead of dealing with one more e-mail that proves how important I am, I played mini golf with my daughter. Instead of trying to get better and smarter and faster, I took a nap.
I’m not saying that my love for the internet has waned. I’m saying that I want to manage my consumption habits better. To do things on purpose and not because I can’t sit still or wait patiently for a few minutes.
I certainly don’t want to give up the internet, but I do appreciate the importance of disconnecting for a few days. I want to be in charge of when and how I use the internet.
Not the other way around.
CARE TO SHARE?
Do you control your phone or does your phone control you? Are you addicted to your web browser’s refresh button? Could you disconnect completely, at least in your free time, for a day? A week? A month?