25 March 2012

How I Became More Plugged-in by Unplugging

Yesterday was the National Day of Unplugging. Well, really it began Friday at sundown. Twenty-four hours without email, Internet, or texting. This year, I decided to take the challenge. Now, mind you, this is not the first time I’ve gone 24 hours without technology. In the past year, I’ve had at least two Internet-free interludes that lasted at least five days each. Not much plugging-in to do in the middle of Death Valley or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But I’d never unplugged for that length of time at home.

I’ll admit that I can get a little compulsive about checking email or checking in on Facebook. I don’t really know why. It’s not like there’s ever that much that’s changed or new or different. But I don’t know that until I check, do I? And a quick two-minute check-in easily turns into fifteen or twenty minutes – or more – of mindless surfing. Do that a few times every day and it really adds up. And what is the one commodity that I always wish for: more time. So I was willing to take this challenge just to see what it was like, how difficult it might be for me, and what else I could accomplish in the meantime.

So Friday night at sundown, I switched off my computer and put my iPhone on its cradle. I read another chapter of a Judy Blume book to my youngest, who went to bed, and then I watched Super 8 with my husband and older daughter. It was the first time we’d watched a movie with her that we hadn’t yet seen that had been deemed “suspenseful” and “scary.” She jumped, got spooked, and loved it.

Saturday morning dawned a lovely day. Instead of checking email and surfing during my solitary breakfast, I caught up on magazines that had been collecting dust on the coffee table. And in one of them, I read that taking a break from the Internet and email can be as difficult as smoking. I wondered what I’d bargained for, but figured I already had slept through half of my unplugged time, so I might as well continue until sundown.

By the time all my family members were awake and out of bed, I’d graded all the quizzes and assignments I’d brought home, and then started reading a new book. I read a few chapters in another book. I worked in the yard for several hours, before and after lunch, weeding and replanting iris. I watched my daughter play with a couple of lizards we found in the garden. I called my mom. I watched my nephew’s televised lacrosse game. I read some more. And I did all of that without distraction, with my full focus, without multi-tasking.

And I have to say, that when the sun went down on Saturday, I didn’t really feel compelled to plug back in, although I did anyway. And you know what? I discovered that I hadn’t missed much.

What was different, though, was that I felt differently. All day I'd been more focused. I felt more plugged in to my family and to real life. And while I’m not sure that I’d do a weekly Internet fast, I’ll definitely shoot for at least a monthly Internet fast sundown to sundown some weekend that we’re home. And who knows? Maybe next time some of you might join me.

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