Sunday, December 29, 2013

A case for disconnecting

My husband rarely checks his phone. He is harassed often by his friends, his mother, and occasionally his wife about how long it takes to get a hold of him. Those of us who know him well know that it is not personal or purposeful. And those who know us well, know that if you need to get a hold of him right away, text or call me. Because my husband is rarely looking at his phone, while I, on the other hand, have been slowly becoming that person who rarely does not.

Back in 2009 when I first started this blog, I wrote a post bashing Facebook (and pretty much mocking the people who use it constantly). Now, I refer to FB as my rabbit hole: I open it up to post something or peruse, and I fall in...

I text. Constantly.

If my phone is on the kitchen counter and I walk past it, I will pick it up and check it even if it hasn't rung or beeped or vibrated or dinged, "just in case."

I used to get really, really, really pissed at my friends who had their phones out during dinners or when they came over to visit. Once (possibly more than once), I snatched it away from my girlfriend, hissing about how insulting it was...was my company not enough? Last month, I went away for my annual girls' getaway, and this time it was one of my girls hissing at me (albeit more gently, because, well, let's be honest, I have a reputation for being harsh): "Put. That. Away."

So a couple of weeks ago, when Hubby and I went to Disney World with the kids for four days, I declared a moratorium on all things connected. No Facebook. No texting. No "just checking" either. (Okay, disclaimer: I did post ONE picture on Facebook, but it was with Hubby's blessing and it was too good to pass up...Here it is:)
"Mr. Miyagi would be proud..."

I admit that there were a few moments I wanted to capture and text immediately to a friend with a clever comment, and there were more than a  few times I wanted to post something for the world to see, but for the most part, it was easy. There was something incredibly freeing about clicking off my phone and dropping it in the backpack...never fumbling around and checking my pockets frantically to find it...never missing a moment or a conversation because I was reading a text message. I remember the trip much more clearly, because I was actually present for all of it; I wasn't multitasking or trying to maintain ten conversation threads at once.

And I know what would have happened had I not made that promise to myself and my family at the beginning of the trip: I would have had my phone out in every line, while walking from ride to ride, while sitting on the resort bus.... And I would have been able to rationalize it by saying that I was "only doing it" when nothing else was going on. As a result, I would have missed out on all the conversations and all the comfortable silences, the spontaneous jokes and hugs, the parenting and family time, the snuggling up against my Hubby's shoulder in exhaustion while waiting in line, the great people watching that can only be seen in a place where that many people from that many places congregate.

Something else would have happened too: I've realized I get overstimulated. You know, like when you're a new mom and you're reading the baby books, and they tell you that for some babies, too much stimulation can make them overwhelmed and cranky and unbearable. Well, over the last few months, I've been working a great deal on all that "noise" I talk (and write) about that's always in my head, making me exhausted and stressed out all the time. I've realized that a lot of that comes from the external stimulation I inflict upon myself: not only the phone and the computer, but also the attempts at multitasking, the endless To-Do lists, the self-imposed demands and unrealistic expectations to keep up with it all. So I would have been just one more cranky, annoying, crying baby waiting in line for the Dumbo ride.

I came back from that trip pretty oblivious to what was going on in my social media groups and the blogs I follow. I felt disconnected enough that I neglected (purposefully and consciously) this space for a while, too. I didn't sit on the couch with the laptop open. If I absolutely needed to look something up, I used my phone so I wouldn't linger too long. When I posted something on FB, I tried to resist my Alice in Wonderland incarnation. On Christmas Day, I avoided the internet completely. Although I have to admit that some stress has come from all this (What if my followers stop reading my blog? What if I lose my niche in the little author groups I've joined? What if someone is waiting on me for a response to something?), for the most part, it's been calming. I have had more time to talk to my children. I have had more time to interact with my husband. When I've been with friends, I've been fully present. It's the same old thing we keep reading about and discussing out there regarding the society we live in and all its hyper connectedness: as amazing as it all is, to a great degree, we are missing out on the people who stand before us and the experiences we are literally having in an attempt to post, text, and "connect." 

1 comment:

  1. I'm impressed. I haven't yet disconnected but after reading this I will have to think long and hard about it. Particularly the over-stimulation part - I never even made that connection! But it makes so much sense.

    Happy New Year!


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