I’m writing this freshly back from a two-week Italian vacation, and at the end of the longest digital fast of my ever-expanding digital life. I didn’t go into this time off with the goal of having a respite from Facebook, Twitter, blogging, news sites, email, and the rest of it. I probably should have, but lucky for me, it happened anyway. And what was shocking was how easy it was and how little I missed it.
Now like a good modern worker bee, I left fully prepared with my SIM card and the entire suite of Apple devices in tow. Wi-Fi was a prerequisite of every hotel. But my phone had chronic connection issues, and with a large family group to manage, I was generally too distracted or otherwise engaged to check online. Before I knew it, I hadn’t so much as read a HuffPost article in a week, and had no idea what current news was breaking. My assistant was deftly handling emails with only slight intervention needed.
A real vacation had begun.
If you read my blog you may recall that I speak frequently about the need for mental space, as I wrote about here. But I’ve advocated taking small breaks from technology, not a full-out fast. The concept actually hit me while reading the exquisite book Arcadia by Lauren Groff, where the main character, who was raised on a commune, encourages his art students to take a full day’s break from technology and simply notice. While it’s good to take time away from our devices, it’s a whole different experience to unplug for a prescribed period of time.
And though some may find a technology fast an impossible concept, it was simple given one important condition. You have to be more interested in what’s in front of you in your real life than in your digital one. And if we’re honest with ourselves, often we’re not.
Let’s face it, our digital lives are immediately gratifying, tidy with boundaries, and make us feel important. How often do our offline lives do the same?
Which one actually matters in the end?
It was apropos that I came home to find the iCrazy cover story on Newsweek, stating that the Internet and social media create an addiction-like dopamine response. Internet addiction is officially a mental disorder listed in the psychiatry Bible the DSM, and Asian countries a bit ahead of us in usage are taking it very seriously. In the course of a decade we’ve begun spending more time in front of screens than sleeping.
For me, Italy provided a perfect, and timely, distraction. Now I’m toying with this idea of trying a digital fast on an ongoing basis, right at home, during what’s supposed to be (gasp!) non-work times. I’m shooting for one Saturday a month. No email, no Internet, no social, nada. Then, I’ll see what I can make happen from there.
Just curious to see what I notice, or don’t miss at all.
Anybody want to join me? Share here or @kristihedges.
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. Find her at kristihedges.com and @kristihedges.