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The Unplugged Experiment

  • October 13, 2019
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No, I didn’t decide to go offline for a week or more. I chose one day. One. Seemed like an easy thing to do, right? I had been worried about how much time I spent checking social media, playing games, emailing, texting—you get the idea.

So, one day I went completely offline. I even stayed off the phone. Here’s what I learned.

  • It’s important to tell people ahead of time. I accidentally worried a few friends when I didn’t respond immediately, since everyone knows my phone is usually attached at the hip to me.
  • A lot of time was freed up. A LOT. Suddenly I had time to write, to declutter, and to walk outside in the sunshine.
  • I was jittery. My fingers kept twitching toward the computer keyboard and cell phone. I reached for the phone dozens of times acting on automatic pilot and had to force myself to back away. It was hard.
  • The day slowed down. My brain slowed down. Even reading a book became a new experience because usually when reading something that mentioned a recipe or country or anything I latched onto with curiosity, I’d immediately look it up. Instant gratification at its worst. I was forced to wait. I haven’t waited in years.
  • By the end of the day, I was partially ready to reconnect with the Internet. But a large part rebelled. I felt how wound up I’d been and how the barest tip of the iceberg was reached with this experiment. It was obvious how stepping away gave me relief.
  • The biggest impact? When I turned everything on again, sorting through my email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my website and anything I wanted to run searches on took far less time than I had expected. There was certainly no need to keep checking all day.

Since that day, I’ve been trying to do this once a week, on the weekend. It’s a struggle. If I use the GPS on my phone when driving, texts from friends who contact me only that way flash across the screen, or notifications of people following me on Twitter appear, enticing me to focus on the screen and become submerged in that blue light (after I stop driving of course).

So where do I draw the line? If I want to write using Word, is it okay to turn on the computer just for that? Do I have the will power to turn it off once I close the file? Should I write only by hand on that day? When I watch TV or movies online, is that okay too? (If I’m not stopping myself from watching TV, why not watch this way?) It’s a slippery slope, people.

Have you ever unplugged? How did you feel about it?


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