Friday, October 07, 2011

Unplugging: lessons from failure

Sometimes its good to be bored my father said to me when I complained as a child of endless summers of nothing to do and the television quota met for the day. I didn't realize it at the time but the musicals, skits, and stories written to allay the idleness were the most beneficial things I could have done for myself. I needed those quiet moments of nothing to reflect and grow creatively. Steve Jobs, may he rest in peace, despite being the man who brought us the ipod, smart phone, computers and all the other means to perennially distract ourselves credited his creativity to boredom:
I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity and out of curiosity comes everything. All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.
Last week I wrote about my desire to unplug. Though I failed at my mission to kick the internet out of my life for a week as planned, I did learn a great deal, including just how seamlessly it has woven itself into the fabric of my life and how difficult it has become in this day-and-age to be bored. I listen to NPR streaming as I do morning chores. I read blogs on my smartphone as I put Waleed to sleep. Small things I never noticed until I tried stopping. Meth addicts might have handled their withdrawal with better dignity than me.

As much as I wanted to share how unplugging changed my life and I now sit by a zen garden each morning whilst doing yoga- I can't. The good thing though is I did learn about my habits. I became aware of how much I use the internet and in learning this I can learn to tone back. In particular I learned that:

(1) Facebook is a time-suck. It's purported benefit of connecting you with others is mitigated by the fact that if you're not connecting any other way, what relationship are you nurturing? The new format, the way it throws everyone's business in my face on a nonstop stream makes me feel sick. I was off FB for a week. I don't miss it. My posts auto-post to my account, but I'm debating deactivating and being done with the whole thing, especially after Ruby pointed out FB is quite the "Big Brother" I can't help but wonder is having an account worth it?

(2) I know some people thrive on twitter, and social revolutions perhaps stemmed from it but I've never fully understood it and time apart makes it seem even more disconnected to my daily life. The more I'm on twitter the more it matters, the less I am, the less it does. It feels like high school again. And I don't want to go back to high school. [though this applies to facebook as well I guess] and [does anyone else have these weird nightmares where they dream they found out they actually didn't graduate high school because they missed one credit and have to go back and start all over again? Just me? Mkay] And  while I know twitter is  beneficial for many, for me its more time-wasting than time-enhancing.

(3) Julia said it best, moderation is key when it comes to smart phones usage and connectivity in general. How insulting to those in the flesh before me if I'm clicking my phone responding to e-mails, texts, and reading updates effectively dismissing the value of those before me? How distracting a life to live doing three things at once? Now, while I enjoy my NPR as I do dishes, I put my phone away for meals. While I read blogs while waiting at a doctor's office, I close the laptop when I'm not using it to simply surf mindlessly.

While I plan to completely unplug at some point, at least for now, all or nothing doesn't work. But maybe with moderation, I might find a way to actually succeed in the long-term. The key with wanting to stop, is not to prove that I can, for the simple sake of a self-challenge- but to allow my brain some room to breathe, to think, and to create. And to teach my son to the same. He's growing up faster than I can blink, and no screen is beautiful enough to miss a moment of bearing witness to the person he is becoming. I hope when it comes time to give him his internet quota for the day, like my father and my TV quota, I will tell him to do as I do, and not just as I say. If that's not motivation to moderate, not sure what is.

8 comments:

Alan Howard said...

Can you really deactivate from Facebook? If you close your account does all that data really go away and if not what does FB do with it? I agree on Twitter, I found it useless and adolescent.

On the smartphone thing I am a horrible person because I use it for work and am checking it constantly. It is worse than crack, but I just can't help it. I really need to disconnect at some point.

Maleeha said...

I think I've accepted that I can never really disconnect and have stopped trying to do so. I dont think its worth the battle. Moderation, the key to everything. :)

kmina said...

I deleted my fb account, only to reactivate it almost one year later. I felt totally disconnected, and even if I am no smarter for seeing pictures of my ex high school mate and his wife and kids, well, I am not dumber either. Especially since I stay at home most of the time, I like to know what others are doing from time to time.

Yes, moderation and the golden middle way is the key to a successful life. Having said that, I have to go tend to some screaming little unmoderated youngling.

Kamille Elahi said...

I'm a teenager but I don't use twitter. I have an account but I tweet about 10 times in a year. I only use facebook to talk to people since I'm too busy to do it in real life. And I have de-activated my FB account many times but I usually end up being back.

Aisha said...

Alan, I think you can deactivate and then always come back on-- but you have to e-mail them and go througha process to have your stuff officially obliterated form their system-- and even then I heard that its not fool proof I think someone found out that their stuff was still there despite that.

Maleeha, I guess I just hate being dependent. So that's why I want to unplug- but yes moderation is better than extremes :)

Kmina, I deactivated for 1.5 years and it was a good thing. Not sure why I got back on now that I think aout it.

Kamille, I think that it can help to keep in touch via facebook for sure-- its easier too-- but sometimes I worr ythat we settle for facebook communication instead of a phone call or face to face coffee chat because we're too used to just communicating online. That worries me.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

Aisha! That's a really nice shoutout to me! Like you, I'm a work-in-progress in this department. We disconnected cable months ago and now I watch at most one or two movies a week. Used to watch 3 hours of Today show plus much more at night. Now I never have it on in the daytime. I feel so much better! The iphone is the newest challenge, and as you said, moderation works best for me. I want 100 percent engagement with those I am with IRL, and so I (almost always) put away my iphone except when I'm alone. My husband will now gently tease me about it if I slip up (he NEVER looks at his smartphone when we're together!). FB is never a challenge; but as a solitary writer, Twitter is an ongoing pull.

Like you, I feel exactly this way (and I love the way you put this!): "The key with wanting to stop, is not to prove that I can, for the simple sake of a self-challenge- but to allow my brain some room to breathe, to think, and to create. And to teach my son to the same."

Beautifully said!

Julia Munroe Martin said...

forgot to say: THANK YOU for the shout out :)

Kamille Elahi said...

That is actually something we should be worried about. i read somewhere that an increase in use of FB could result in an increase in the likelihood of developing depression or anxiety.

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