A week has passed since I decided to take a break from technology and I have to say, although unable to fully abstain, I was able to cut down my internet use significantly. Since blogging seemed to defeat the purpose of my little experiment, I stopped that too. I return with some thoughts which surprisingly are not all about technology addiction or obsessive email checking. Last week I asked “What is happening inside this little device that is so important we can’t miss a second of it? Is compulsive phone checking really necessary for our survival? How can someone get so strongly attached to an object? Or is it really the object we’re attached to?” It turns out the answer lies in something much smaller than the WWW: the “real” world (and by that I mean the one you don’t experience through a device).
Here are a few thoughts that came up for me:
1. “I’m missing out on something”. Being away from the internet, I began feeling left out. And nobody wants that. We are taught, very early in life, the winning script of “keeping up”. Every time someone would say “Did you hear about so and so and such and such?” I felt stupid for not being able to participate, to interact “No I didn’t hear, I have been on an strict internet cleanse”. A painful one, as it turns out. I realized the internet today helps fulfill one of our most fundamental needs: the need to feel connected. Note “feel” being the important word here because it doesn’t matter whether you are actually connected as long as it feels that way. This says something about who I am and about who you are.
2. “I feel out of control”. This was interesting. It was almost as if being “plugged in” gave me a sense of control, a false one at that. The WWW does not miss you and there is nothing you can do about it! As if me checking in with the e-world would somehow cause a deviation from IT’s course in the same way my car affects next week’s weather. And we want to make an impact on IT, on the earth, on other people. We want to leave a legacy to our families. We want to know our existence mattered, that our being alive caused some change in others and the world, may that be positive or negative. The question is, how much should we rely on the internet vs say our communities to accomplish this?
Then towards the end of the week I had this thought.
3. “Now what???” which is what one asks when bored. Worthy of a true internet fiend.
The good news is, last week was one of the most productive weeks for my business (since November 2010). And my friendships blossomed too. I had been putting off a few things from fear of taking initiative and being shut down. You see, the internet gives you the illusion of never being shut down. But some things can not be done via the internet and require that you overcome the fear of reaching out to “real” people.
This is a picture I took while waiting to see a friend I hadn’t seen in a long while. And it smelled like honey!
It’s amazing what you can make room for in your life when you eliminate the internet.
In terms of social relationships or even dating, a lot of people turn to the internet because it’s easier, especially if you’re shy or you’re trying something new. Change is hard. And the world can be harsh and unforgiving. Who needs real life friends when you have the internet?! Some people have made successful careers using the internet and some people (including myself) have developed significant life-long relationships which started on the internet. But where does the internet end and where does your life begin? Can we use the internet to advance in the physical world and become more fulfilled? Can we find balance in between screens? Is our physical world really that painful or boring?
Until next time, I will continue to include more things in my life that do not require plugging in.