Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unplugging [with updates along the way]

I remember when my elementary school library acquired a white fuzzy squeaky mouse the likes of Cinderella fairy tales. At least that's what we thought when we heard of the mouse for the computer in the library. What sort of mouse? We wondered. Some kind of souped up robot-mouse? Do we shout out what we wish to type and it hops as instructed on the keypad?

We've come a long way from hypothetical robot-mice, pay per minute dial-up, and you've got mail! The computer and corresponding internet has gone from a novelty to a medium we cannot live without.

Or can we?

Everywhere I go, parks, doctor's offices, restaurants, in line at the store, I see people poring over their smartphones, staring at an iPad and wonder what important work they're doing with furrowed brows and a look of complete absorption. Inevitably its Facebook. Or twitter. And lately- those people? Are me [Although-- thank you new FB for making my head hurt, I've logged in only once since]. I've known life without complete internet dependency and see the difference it's made in my life. I read less. I write less. When the phone bings, I check it. Almost immediately. I read blogs, check e-mails, but sometimes one link leads to another and I've spent an hour I could have worked on a short story or read a book just surfing-- and while that can be useful, most times its not especially when its time spent immersed in social media-- I mean, did I really need to spend twenty minutes looking at pictures of a facebook 'friend's' parent's cousin's best friend's in laws' thirtieth wedding anniversary? There are benefits to the instant gratification the internet provides, but there are drawbacks. I'm thankful I don't tie my self-worth to my on-line life- but facebook, twitter, they can have damning consequences and we can forget that life is lived on the dirt we stand on, the people having dinner across from us, not the 'friends' we accumulate and count and tally. If we're on-line too long, too frequently, checking on every bing, and ping like the classic Pavlov's Dog- we have the potential to lose sight of that- and that? That's frightening.

Three months ago we cut our cable. I anticipated methadone shots to deal with the withdrawals of the steady background noise of TV during the quiet moments my son was asleep or otherwise engaged- but nothing. I still watched TV via discs since I'm not anti-TV, but the background chatter vanished. Once it was gone I realized I didn't need it at all.

Do I need the internet? Will I jitter without it? I want to know. I want to see how my life will improve [or not] if I cut it out. I want to know what it's like without instant gratification at the touch of my fingertips. I want to rid myself of the potential descent into a life in which the internet controls me, and not the other way around.

So for one week, I'm unplugging. Not entirely. As nice as it would be to be all or nothing, I'm in the middle of a few high-priority situations which require access to the internet. So the plan is simple: For one week: disable my phone notifications, check and reply to e-mails/blog comments, twice a day [morning and night] and nothing else.  It's just a week. But I'm curious. Will I learn to enjoy the pleasure of my company, read books, play with my son more? Or will I huddle in a corner with the shakes. [Methadone is not a cure-all after all.] In any case will update a week from today [or sooner if I fail spectacularly-- which, I might]. 

Wish me luck! Ever unplugged? Ever consider unplugging? Curious for thoughts on this!

Day One: Well, so much for sticking to my rule for twice a day internet. While I've stayed away from facebook, twitter, and web-hopping, I've definitely checked my e-mail about five times. Still. Better than nothing. But not better than the plan. Will aim for stronger willpower tomorrow!

Day Two: Does it get worse before it gets better? That phone of mine is the hardest thing because a simple click and I check in on my e-mail-- and yes I've even clicked on a few links and read them. A lot lower than normal internet usage but not the unplugging I wanted. The thing is, w/out notifications I just check it more to see if I missed anything. Very counter productive! And while someone reading might laugh at me, try to be w/out interent for one day- completely- and see how you feel. You don't realize how completely dependent you've grown on the medium until you try to quit it. It's honestly scary. This weekend is super busy and I wont be near a computer so as long as I can tame my e-mail checking abilities on my smart-phone Seriously wanted to regale you with stories of internet-free zen-bliss. Seriously disappointed :( 

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

good luck!

Anonymous said...

Aisha, I think you bring up a relevant point in today's culture. Living in a metropolitan city there is NO ONE who is not on their iPhone, iPad, Kindle, BB, etc.. including myself of course :) But the point I want to dwell on is your comment about self-worth being tied to your social media standing. For us (late 20/early 30-year olds and older), we remember when we had to talk to a person over dinner, or catch up with a friend only on the phone or in person... but unfortunately, the generation after us skipped that aspect of socialization.

I say this because I have noticed someoen very close to me becoming a shell of a human being right in front of my eyes -- and the constant access to internet is coring our her soul each and every day. Every blackberry ping is answered, as you say, with Pavlovian predictability. She has 1000+ FB friends, but no one to call if she were sick, having problems, needs to talk, needs to vent, discuss aspirations/dreams, etc. NOT ONE close friend... always blames it on other people and their "neediness" -- it makes me so sad. Because this person is a relative, i can't really distance myself, I have to just endure it. Almost 90% of any experience undertaken with this person (shopping excursion, lunch, walking down the street), you will find me engaged in my surroundings, and she is ticking away on her BB. "Who are you texting?" I find myself asking almost 8 times a day! "Oh this girl from Florida", "oh this girl I met in Egypt is talking to me on blackberry messenger, she is so annoying..." - Well, why are you wasting time spent alone with me (especially time I make to be with her 1:1, without even my daughter), texting to someone you DISLIKE half way around the world? Can't you just IGNORE the messages and reply later and say, sorry I was busy.

The answer, for this generation, is NO. They canNOT ignore. I really wonder what will happen when they have children -- will they even have guilt attacks that they spent their day reading blogs online (as we do), or will they waste it IM'ing their old friends from high school/college/first job etc? Will they even remember how to look someone in the eye anymore?

Anonymous said...

Oh sorry, this is Hajar :-)

Julia Munroe Martin said...

We unplugged cable 8 months ago out of financial necessity (my husband was laid off), but even now that my husband is working again--we've not reconnected. I agree with you, it is WONDERFUL to get rid of the background chatter. (I'm also not anti-TV and we have netflix/roku box so we watch when we want.) Recently we were out to dinner and I witnessed something that made me want to never look at my iphone again (and I love my iphone). I observed a husband and wife who spoke to one another maybe two times during the entire dinner, and he THE ENTIRE TIME was paging through his smart phone, *never* looking at his wife! INCREDIBLE. I would've thrown that thing (and him) out the window. When I got home, I conciously decided that when I'm with people I care about I will unplug and be present in their and my lives. I doubt I'll miss something significant online, and if I do, the gains in family time and love will be so much more important. Still, like you I won't unplug completely (two kids in college, I must keep in touch w/ them!!), but I may cut down to essentials for a week and give it a try. GREAT and IMPORTANT posting!!

Anonymous said...

LOL Good luck!! You can do it!

Anonymous said...

That was from me...E

Sprogblogger said...

I've never been a tv person, so not having cable doesn't matter, but internet? I HATE not having internet. I'll be very interested to hear how your week goes & what you come up with at the end of it. Good luck & enjoy your unplugged week!

Ruby said...

Hi, I completely agree with you. I think I should do the same too, because time flies when I am on the laptop. I'm sure I could spend the time much more wisely, with the husband, or reading an "actual" book or anything that doesn't involve computers or smartphones. I am also seriously considering deactivating my FB account. I read something disturbing today - apparently FB tracks sites that we visit even when we log off. Also, in my part of the world the weather is becoming lovely and I should just be sitting in the garden with feet up, drinking a glass or wine and reading a book UNTIL....the little 9 month old munchkin decides that sleeping is for other babies.

Roadblocks and Roller Coasters said...

Good luck!!! I sometimes do this by just hiding my phone completely. It's liberating! :-)

katery said...

good luck!! i have THOUGHT about unplugging, but i feel sick just thinking about it, i know it will never happen here but you are AWESOME for doing it. we'll miss you!

Aisha said...

Anon, thank you :)

Hajar- I could recognize based on your thoughtful response that it was you w/out even your name :) Wow- thanks for the food for thought with your personal take. I honestly hvae to say I can relate. Sitting with family members who are not really present, because they're busy online, on a smart phone etc. It's depressing and its very scary to witness. I wish there was a solution- but I do know that its a real addiction, just like any drug or high its an instant fix a rush and so its no surprise that it hooks us like it does. I hope your friend will realize sooner rather than later. :(

Aisha said...

Julia-- that is perhaps the best most practical advice I've heard-- put it away in the moments you should be focusing on your family and loved ones. Just put it away. So simple. I really need to do that as a long-term plan of moderation with internet usage. Thanks for your perspective.

Thanks E, and Roadblocks!!

Susan, one weekend I didn't have internet and I literally felt jittery and anxious-- since then I've been uneasy about the reaction I had. . . hence prompting this moment. . .

Ruby--- Really?!?!?! Could you happen to have a link to that about FB tracking us when we're not online??? If so I need to deactivate ASAP. Horrible! They are truly a creepy organization.

YM said...

oh no! I tried and failed. It's addictive like cocaine!
It's sad but I find myself emailing when family members are around. my phone is always with me. I have the laptop on 24/7 (okay except when im sleeping).
My mom was so fed up with my phone, she actually took it away LOL I definitely sleep better but I still have the laptop LOL I honestly cant survive without internet since we dont watch TV.

Tracy said...

Another friend of mine recently tried to unplug and wasn't successful at first either.

I think it's a healthy thing to do. I keep waiting for the moment our society will say, "This has gotten out of hand" and there will be a counter movement away from social media and back to normal life - but so far, I haven't seen it - except from friends, individuals, just saying they feel unbalanced.

Here's the post from my friend. She offers some good advice:

http://tikitikiblog.com/tech-free-day-need-do-over/#axzz1Z9tOV6pC

(The irony of giving you a blog post to read as a means of "helping" you stay offline has been noted.)

Ruby P said...

Hi Aisha,

Here is the link for you

http://theweek.com/article/index/219650/is-the-new-facebook-always-watching-you

Ruby P said...

Oh also wanted to say regarding your updates - checking email doesnt count because important things come to our inboxes!!! or thats what I am telling myself

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great plan - I'm not on FB but still spend way too much time online.
Have you heard of the book "The Winter of Our Disconnect" by Susan Maushart? Haven't read it yet myself - waiting for it to become available at the library - but it sounds like a good read on the topic.
Natalie

Tauqeer said...

Yes considered it many times. Failed since ever. lol

raisingbrainchild said...

Good for you! (Yes, I'm still here...it's been awhile, I know. I was taking a break of sorts too).

I worry about the effect that my constant smart phone usage will have on my daughter. Does she realize that I'm only halfway paying attention to her? I think so. The internet makes me less productive at work and at home. I would have played so many more games with my daughter, read so many more books by now, and maybe even written one, if I weren't so taken with other distractions. Of course, this is just one more excuse. If it wasn't the internet, do you think that there would be something else to take its place to keep us from doing real work and focusing on real relationships in life?

raisingbrainchild said...

Good for you! (Yes, I'm still here...it's been awhile, I know. I was taking a break of sorts too).

I worry about the effect that my constant smart phone usage will have on my daughter. Does she realize that I'm only halfway paying attention to her? I think so. The internet makes me less productive at work and at home. I would have played so many more games with my daughter, read so many more books by now, and maybe even written one, if I weren't so taken with other distractions. Of course, this is just one more excuse. If it wasn't the internet, do you think that there would be something else to take its place to keep us from doing real work and focusing on real relationships in life?

Aisha said...

Ym, I know its hard for me too!

Ruby- thanks for the link- and YIKES. UGHHH. Maybe I need to deactivate too. Thank you for sharing that.

Tracy, thanks for the link! I am going to look at NEXT WEEK! :) It is bad though. Very bad how addictive this-- and the unbalance is real. . . we're becoming a Wall-E generation faster than we can blink.

Natalie, thanks for your comment, I have heard great things about that book! Am waiting for it to come down in price, but have heard great things about it.

Tauqeer- its addictive! And its always there!

Raising, honeslty that's one of the main motivators---- looking at my son watching me using it. It kills me. I hate it. And yet its so hard to stop. That's called a problem. SIgh :( Glad to see your'e back!

mystic-soul said...

I visited Canada for 5 days and had no cell phone (I used public phone after loooooong time), had no internet (used free wifi twice at McDonald when I was lost) and used public transportation - I was more relaxed, less jittery as I knew I am off the hook for good.

Since I have iPhone, I compulsively check it every 30 minutes for update....

Aisha said...

Mystic, my brother recently went to Canada and had the same experience!!! Though he actually ultimately missed his connectivity. I wish I had a solution to be connected but not as dependent on the connection.

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