A funny thing happened a couple weekends ago: I was spending a lazy Saturday bumming around in my apartment (an indulgence I don't take for granted, by the way) and suddenly realized that all of my personal forms of digital connection -- iPad, smartphone, etc -- were low on battery. Without these various devices to amuse myself with, I found myself in an odd place -- an unintentional digital detox, as it happened.
I was SO bored.
It didn't take long for restlessness to set in. At one point I swear I could feel my fingers actually twitching. My mind was racing as I wandered around our apartment, listless, tracking my husband like an animal as he happily tapped away on our laptop. I stared at him, willing him with my mind control to put it down so that I could tiptoe over and snatch it away, cackling like a crazy person. (It didn't work, by the way. He's actually grown quite adept at tuning me out when I hover.) When he finally looked up and caught me glaring in his general direction, I looked away with the same look of guilt and shame that our dog has when he's been caught digging through the trash.
The next morning I was reading in bed when all of sudden my mind turned to a meeting I had later that week. It got me thinking that I should probably make a hair appointment, which I could take care of directly from my iPad without needing to move from my cozy blanket cave.
Once online, however, I decided to cruise Zara for new sweaters, which led to a visit to Garance Dore's website, which in turn led to Pinterest to see pictures of her summer travels, which got me thinking about my upcoming vacation to Argentina. Then I was Googling "Best things to do in Buenos Aires," and let's just say it went downhill from there. I found myself coming up for air over an hour later when my phone pinged with an incoming text. The book I had been reading was long forgotten, my coffee had gone cold and my husband had long wandered off. I was surrounded by nothing but my own devices (literally and figuratively).
I looked around in slight bewilderment, wondering exactly where the last 90 minutes had gone. It was like the feeling you get after drinking too much and trying to place exactly what events had transpired the night before. I had chased the proverbial Internet rabbit down the dark hole, so to speak.
What is going on? I normally feel quite accomplished with my efforts to "turn off" as much as possible, especially after recent negative experiences turned attention to how stress impacts my life. I limit the time I spend reading emails or thinking about work when office hours are over. I treasure real time spent with friends and family as opposed to relentless social media engagement. I realize not everyone has this luxury and I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it suddenly struck me that the idea of disconnecting might very well be a literal one, and it was not something I was doing very well.
Unfortunately, walking away from technology completely is not an option. So I decided to write the Internet a "Dear John" letter instead. It's pretty short and sweet.
Let me first say that I do really love you. See, I'm old enough to come from a time where I had to use an actual card catalog at the library to write term papers and stuff, so I totally get how useful and convenient you are in terms of access to helpful (and useless) information. Plus, you know, Netflix. But I'm starting to think you and I might need to spend more time apart. Ours is a marriage of convenience and lately you've become way too convenient. So even though you're one sexy temptress, I'm going to try to do more things without you each day. Peace.
Full disclosure: It's really much harder to stay away than you think it's going to be. Keeping devices away from your bed has proved to a major help, especially if you don't want them to be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you pick up in the morning. Like any addiction, you don't realize how much you're a slave to your habits until you try to break from them. At the same time, it's a seriously empowering feeling when you find quality things to do instead.
Control really is in our own hands (once you set those devices down, that is). Turns out that picking up a real book and experiencing the tactile pleasure of turning a page is comfortably nostalgic. Spending a minute in quiet contemplation without immediately checking my phone is a soothing way to wake up to a new day. And last weekend, it was pretty cool to convince my husband to put down his phone as well and take a walk outside with me instead.