Am I the only one who sees the terrific irony in a video about putting down your phone going viral on social media? You know the one, the poem that goes like, "Put down your phone and you will see, the world alive for you and me" or some nonsense like that. It's not nonsense, I completely agree, but people are literally watching and posting this video from their own cell phones, thus using the medium decried by the message to boost the message.
Again, I completely agree with what this guy is saying. We miss so much of life while we're staring at screens. But for so many of us, staring into screens is essential to our work, and our work bleeds into our life, and our life is how we live, and ooh, an email from Old Navy! My job requires complete device connectivity at all times. I work in a small office as part of a nationwide company, so the bulk of my assignments and directives come from people in Toronto or Vancouver or Moose Jaw or wherever. If lost access to my email for an hour during a workday, I could justifiably be docked pay for that hour (if my bosses were cheap and miserly, which they are not). In fact, my job is such that I sometimes wonder why I don't work at home. I could provide the same press releases and sales announcements in my jam jams with the added bonus of a 30 second commute from my bed to my desk. But the point is, I am "plugged in" for at least eight hours every day.
It's easier to unplug outside of work, but it's tempting not to. Social media, for all its "What character from the Flintstones are you?" is fun! There are people I almost never see in person anymore that I quite enjoy catching up with on Facebook. There are people on Twitter I have never met that are hilarious and reading their tweets is free access to the best comedy club in the world. But I do worry about virtual connections replacing real ones. I fall back on the idea that we don't have a lot of friends here yet, and going out and doing things is a lot harder than staying home not doing them, but that's a self-fulfilling prophecy that will soon see me with one of those headsets, and a wrist brace from carpel tunnel mouse clicking, and a weight problem. Not how I'd like to spend my life.
Dream: Unplug, at least an hour a day, every day.
Goal: Achievable. By unplug, I mean no cell usage, no internet usage, no television, no ipod. That should not be hard, but sometimes it's stupidly hard! I never thought I was that attached to my electronica until Jon pointed out that, when one of us takes a bathroom break from a television show we're watching, the other will open his laptop. How pathetic, really! We can't sit for two full minutes while our loved one pees? An update that Susan is "sooo frustrated FML i don't wanna talk about it tho" is that worthy of our time? Come on.
Plan: Continue to recognize my compulsive behaviour in an attempt to curb it. Also, fill more of my free time with constructive pursuits.
An hour a day to unplug is easiest if I go swimming. A walk or the gym doesn't count because I have my stupid ipod in. In the pool, I can only hear my own watery thoughts. I'm going to try to use my ipod less during walks and workouts, though. Yes, fast music can increase your pace and alleviate the inherent boredom of exercise, but how many times do I need to hear Talk Dirty? Thankfully, I don't have an iPhone, because I can't imagine being able to text, play games, and listen to music at the same time. Occasionally, though, on my morning commute on the train or bus, I'll be listening to my ipod and staring down at my phone in my lap, like I've got my dick in my hand. And while I occasionally get a text coming home from work like, "Pick up milk", I never get a text on my way to work like, "Office exploded, take the day off." Never ever. Also, I should mention that I don't know how to get internet on my phone and thank god for that. I Facebook and Tweet from my home computer, like the pioneers used to. Anyway, all of this is to say that I should either swim every day or leave more stuff at home when I go out.
Also, it's vitally important to remember that the people I'm desperate to keep in touch with via email and social media don't have any information that can't wait until tomorrow. It impacts me in exactly zero ways that you had roast chicken for supper. Likewise, I need to resist the impulse to weigh in on everything. Beyonce's sister Solange attacked Beyonce's husband Jay-Z in an elevator, and I tweeted about it conservatively 5000 times, and weighed in on other people's impression of the incident. Who gives a shit? But at least I'm hilarious. The sanctimonious preachy post gets a lot of attention, too, and I try to limit those to just 10 times daily #Kony2012.
What doesn't make me feel hilarious, or sanctimonious, or otherwise important, is socializing with another me, who can't stop looking at their own phones. I know of a boyfriend and girlfriend a few years younger than me, for instance, who seemingly spend all of their time together messaging other people, and all of their time with other people messaging each other. Doesn't that sound exhausting?
An hour a day is so little time, really, considering I only work 40 hours a week and don't have children. Lately, I enjoy going to bed obscenely early to read. Tucking in at 9.30 with a book when I don't have to be up until 7 the next day is absurdly luxurious. The scary thing about dependence on this kind of technology is that you can literally determine how much your time is worth. You can figure out how the charges in your various data plans amortize over a given period. If I pay x dollars per month for all my services, then spend all day between my internet, cable, and phone, I can measure my sloth in dollars and cents. My time spent unplugged is my own and it's free. One hour is a good starting point, but I hope to keep adding to it, little by little, until my life is mine again.