Internet marketers in today’s world whose legitimacy, trustworthiness, experience, and marketing savvy are judged based on their online presence can’t exactly be disconnected from the online world. Someone whose livelihood depends solely on the web, can’t be disconnected.
I took a week to challenge that. And I survived.
- No texting
- No instant messages (only work related during work hours)
- No Twitter
- No Facebook
- No Instagram
- No Google+ (huge loss for me there)
- No sharing via a third party (e.g., Sharing “I’m listening to xyz on Rdio” tweet, “Liking” an article, etc.)
For each offense of the rules above, I faced the following consequences:
- Run one mile or
- Donate $10 to charity
- Endure extreme shame and guilt
Upon deciding to challenge myself to a “digital sabbatical” I happened upon a TED Talk by Sherry Turkle that explains, in short, that we have become so dependent on our devices that we are losing our ability to be comfortable in solitude.
“I’m not suggesting we turn away from our devices, just that we develop a more self aware relationship with them, with each other, and with ourselves… Start thinking of solitude as a good thing. Make room for it.” -Turkle
While I don’t recommend everyone trash their gadgets and pledge an Amish lifestyle, I do recommend making an effort to become aware of all the ways technology and connected-ness enhances our lives, but also that it can be a disruption if we let it.
The beginning of the week-long challenge was the most difficult when I was finding other activities to occupy my time. I cannot confirm nor deny the occurrence of “I wish I could text!!” arm-flailing hissy fits. I can confirm, however, that I managed to spend more time cooking meals, writing, reading everything saved up in Instapaper, and even got a facial!
I almost forgot some of these things even happened because I didn’t post about it on my go-to social networks. I wasn’t able to post a picture of every meal I made on Instagram and I couldn’t check in at the spa on Facebook. In this way, I can appreciate social media. It is a way to document the things that happen in our lives. For example, it may seem silly to check in to places on Facebook or Foursquare, but when you look back in a few years, all of your travels will be chronicled like your own personal yearbook.
The biggest sense of freedom during my week of solitude came from the lack of pressure to feel “caught up” or “up to date” with everything going on in the industry, in friends’ lives, and in the news. I trusted that if something truly important happened, I would find out somehow. I realize that relying on someone else to relay news to me is not the most effective nor convenient strategy, but for seven days it sufficed. I realize there’s other sources to get information like a news site or the radio. However, I’m less reliant on those traditional media sources because my social connection provides me with the same information whether I actively seek it out or not.
It is important to appreciate the luxuries we have, but often times the instant access to an entire virtual world can easily become an interruption to daily life. I love being able to log in to Twitter and in a matter of minutes, have an instant snapshot of everything that’s happened in the industry that day. It becomes a problem when I’m constantly refreshing news feeds to see if any breaking news has occurred. The likelihood that Google rolled out the new Rhinoceros update in the past 30 minutes is slim.
I encourage you at the very least to become aware of the way that the digital world is shaping your personal and professional life. Be aware of how often you check your pocket to see if you have your phone. Limit yourself to only a few news feed refreshes a day. Take time to get to know yourself in solitude without the incessant alerts of your phone. While I’m the first to embrace technology in all its glory, don’t forget that there are ways to still connect with the outside world without being constantly plugged in.
I can’t promise that I won’t obsessively check Twitter, pretend that I don’t love to creep on Facebook, or even keep my phone on silent, but at least now I am more aware of just how addicted I am.
A Look at the Numbers:
32 un-answered text messages
9 incoming phone calls
15 outgoing phone calls
4 un-answered text messages
7 incoming phone calls
6 outgoing phone calls
What do you think about a “digital sabbatical”? Do you think you could unplug yourself for a week (or [gasp!] longer)? What do you think you would miss the most? And most importantly, did you miss me?!