Recently I’ve been noticing a pattern of escapist activity permeating my daily routine. As such, I had begun considering a digital sabbatical — and when Gwen Bell asked for feedback about digital sabbaticals, I knew it was time to get serious. She asked several key questions:
Describe the moment at which you decided you needed to unplug.
In the past, I have taken a few weekend sabbaticals because I was tired of wasting time on the Internet on my days off of work. I wanted to enhance the quality of my time and get a break from the glowing screen. Now, I’ve got way too much noise — digital and otherwise — in my life at the moment. I plug in, and I’m assaulting with all sorts of noise. Some of the noise is good, some of the noise is bad, and some of the noise is just noise. Sometimes, the digital noise serves as a means to escape the real life noise. Shutting off the digital noise will give me time to sort through offline noise — and to find ways to minimize or better manage it.
How long were you unplugged?
Previously, I only unplugged for two to three days at a time. When I say “a weekend sabbatical,” I absolutely mean it was a weekend deal. I’m considering a full week this time around — I really don’t feel comfortable going longer than seven days at this given point in time, and I feel that seven days should be sufficient for me to get my head straight.
Were there moments you cheated?
Oh, definitely! The first digital sabbatical I took, I popped into my Gmail because I was expecting an email from my mother. I didn’t plan to answer it, but I wanted to read it before the weekend was over. I think I also snuck onto Facebook to respond to a private message — but I didn’t scroll through my feed. Also, I still signed in to complete my daily online sudoku and crossword puzzles — I treated those the way I would have treated their printed newspaper versions.
Who supported you during your digital sabbatical?
Basically, my husband was my support. I wasn’t taking the sabbatical for anyone other than my husband and kids, and the kids weren’t particularly conscious of their indirect support. My husband, however, knew I was intending to stay offline and provided encouragement.
What do you wish you’d done differently during the sabbatical?
I wish I’d been completely faithful and stayed out of my inbox. Trust me when I say that during this seven day sabbatical I have no intentions of entering my inbox. When I say it’s been too noisy, I absolutely mean it. Really, I can’t go outside without being bombarded by noise. The current cicada invasion can get rather loud, in fact.
Will you take another one? Why?
I’m planning one within the next few days because I’ve become far too dependent upon digital activities to fill my day. However, said activities aren’t producing results — said activities only serve to distract me and waste my precious time. Each rabbit hole adds to my internal thought processes, and much like a computer I’m beginning to run sluggish with all my running processes.
What surprised you most about unplugging?
Actually, it was like going through withdrawals from any other addiction (or at least, from what I’ve read — my vice of choice is chocolate, I can stop any time I want, but I simply choose not to). After a day, though, it was much easier than I expected.
What insights did you gain about yourself by taking a digital sabbatical?
Honestly, I didn’t gain any of insights I didn’t already know — I already knew back in 2004 that I have an Internet addiction. This was before Twitter. This was when Facebook was so exclusive, not every university or college was available on it yet. You definitely needed a .edu email address in order to sign up. This was when LiveJournal was still all the rage (actually, it was one of my time suckers). I do notice my habits and patterns, but the Internet itself is a useful tool. I just need to moderate myself better. I can’t spend hours on end researching and reading about a subject that fascinates me, nor can I spend hours on end socializing via binary. There are walks to be taken, sunshine to be absorbed, dreams to be dreamt, water to be drunk, books to be read, and all sorts of wonderful offline activities in which to partake.
Expect an announcement within the next few days — of course, it may not be much different to my blog readers, but my friends list and Twitter followers will definitely notice my absence.