My family and friends know, and enjoy giving me (usually) good-natured reminders, that I resisted cell phones and smart phones for a long time. Like so many, I was pretty adamant about it too. My refrain was often “I will never have a cell phone.” I watched as slowly people around me joined the ranks of cell phone owners. Even though I saw the usefulness, what really struck me is what I call “constant contact.” Suddenly there was never a time when someone was just plain “out of reach.” With the rise of texting, followed by smart phones with ever-increasing reach and capability, this became more and more true.
More than anything, this idea of “constant contact” was what made me cell-phone shy. I didn’t want to be constantly reachable. I liked the idea of leaving home at home and work at work, and have times in between where I was just not available. The answering machine or voice mail could hold a message, and I could check my email once or twice a day and be content.
Eventually I gave in to the cell phone. Once that happened, I didn’t resist the smart phone quite as strongly, though I wasn’t in any great hurry to get one, mostly because of the expense of a data plan. However, I eventually gave in to the inevitable, and got an iPhone 4s. I love my iPhone. I’m not going to lie. The ease, versatility, and convenience of a smart phone make it an alluring chunk of technology to own. In the year and a half since I got my iPhone, I (like many others) have become addicted to the thing. Most of the time, it goes from room to room with me at home. I almost never leave the apartment without it. With it and the miracle of the internet, I can keep in touch with family and friends like never before: daily pictures of a niece and nephew from the other side of the state, long-distance viewing parties with fellow TV Series fans who live a thousand miles away, text messages for quick exchanges without the interruption of a phone call; social media to find and connect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.
But with all the benefits and convenience of the information age, come certain pitfalls. Unless I stop myself, I find myself checking a hundred times a day to see if I have a new text (I don’t), or a new email (only junk messages), or if someone has liked my oh-so-witty Facebook post (must not have been as witty as I thought), or commented on the 8 millionth picture of my fuzzy-mutt posted this month alone (c’mon people, he’s the cutest dog alive, you have to agree and comment on his adorableness). Things get really hairy after that. Checking Facebook leads to taking a quiz on which Doctor I’m most like (I got the 9th Doctor, which is awesome because he’s my favorite), which leads to another quiz, and another. Once I’ve escaped the quiz-taking black hole, I click on an article or picture someone liked that seems interesting, and if I’m not very, very careful, I read the comments. At which point, I come to realize that not all human beings are as nice as I like to think they are. Rather, some of them are horrible trolls who have the terrifying (and depressing) gift of turning even the most positive, “feel-good” item into a hotly-contested point of debate about how the world and all of humanity are doomed. And I sit there dazed, thinking “I just thought it was a cute kitty, but apparently it is a harbinger of the apocalypse.”
Thanks to my particular set of quirks and foibles, all of this can lead me down an unfortunate path if I am not very guarded. I sometimes find my self-worth getting caught up in whether people are liking my statuses or responding to my texts, and I rely too much on social media for social contact, instead of actual, in person conversations. The doom and gloom and negativity of many posts and articles (and especially comments on articles) can drag me down into a funk. The ease of checking in with social media or surfing the web makes it too easy to procrastinate from things I should be doing.
And so, for the sake of my sanity (and productivity), occasionally I find it necessary to, as I like to put it, “go off the grid.” I take at least a few days to completely disconnect from social media, game apps, the internet, and as much of my cell phone as I can manage, though I’ll still text and answer calls, and sometimes check my emails. I usually shoot for about a week of being disconnected, though how long I can actually manage it varies. My off-line times are a chance to reset my mind. It’s a reminder to experience for myself, rather than witness through the filter of the internet and social media. I find myself getting more done at work and at home. My creativity reawakens when I’m living more in the real world than the virtual. When I return after a few days off the grid, I find I have a clearer perspective and can process everything with the grain of salt that is necessary with everything on the internet.
This time around, I’m also going to take it a step further. In addition to going off the grid, I’m also unplugging my TV and Blu-Ray player, and probably my computer too (except for paying bills and working on writing projects). I’ve lately found myself complaining about not having enough time for reading and writing, which is ridiculous when I can manage back-to-back movies or episodes of “Arrow” or “Doctor Who” with no problem.
Starting sometime between now and Friday, I’ll be going off the grid for at least several days. I haven’t decided just how long yet, it will be as long as it takes to get my brain reset or as long as I can stand being so out of the loop. Of course, as soon as I’m back on-line, I have to spend hours scrolling through all the feeds to catch up!