On 20th September, I wrote a short piece titled ‘Denying Digital Demands’. This is the follow-up.
If possible, once a year, I attempt a break from the demands of online life. Usually, it coincides with a holiday away from home. Breaking free from both the everyday and the unending demands of constant connection can refresh the spirit and allow re-engagement with the natural world. It allows the mind to dwell on topics for longer than it takes to send a tweet.
Is it worth it?
I returned to 894 emails, 98 Twitter notifications, endless missed FaceBook notifications and much else that was neglected whilst away. And all this had to be dealt with. Generally, I take two or three days to get back to a normal situation; three days of intense concentration and dedicated work. This time, for a number of reasons, I was unable and unwilling to devote that sort of effort. It’s really only today I’ve come more or less back to normal.
Amongst the barriers to a rapid recovery were the fact that Valerie’s laptop died just before we left and had to be restored to life, we’d made a start on a fairly demanding garden project that was weather dependent, and I felt reluctant to return to the slave-like existence we all accept as normal as we bow down in worship to the unending demands of digital living.
Whilst away, I’d read ten books and written reviews of each in a notebook carried for that purpose. These had to be posted on my blog. Two or three are yet to appear as I write this, because I didn’t want a block of reviews on here, so spread them out. I’d also made notes of places we visited and activities we undertook, so I could do reviews for TripAdvisor. The site helps me, so I reciprocate. And I also generally produce a blog post of my time away, so others share and possibly visit those places. The album I place on FaceBook is another way to share the sights with those interested. This time, I’d taken 494 pictures during the fortnight. All had to be edited and the selection made. So, I came back to quite a lot of work. But was the break worth it? Yes! I returned relaxed, re-invigorated, refreshed. And vestiges of those feelings remain even after my quite concentrated restoration.
Would I advise others to take a similar break?
You bet! In fact, I’d go further. For the sake of the mental and spiritual health of everyone, I’d like to see all phone contracts include a mandatory two-week exclusion period, when no phone contact is possible. Extreme? Perhaps. But people are generally unable to deny the constant demands of their phone addiction and therefore rarely escape its pernicious influence.
It’s actually very beneficial to be out of contact for a short while. You get to see and experience the real world around you, talk face to face to real people, watch the world through your own eyes instead of the interceding phone camera. I sent two texts whilst away, both to let our daughter in Australia know we’d arrived safely. That was it. The only other digital contact I had was with my Kindle, to read, and my camera, to record our experiences. No Wifi, though it was available at the hotel. No computer use. Can’t imagine living that way? Perhaps you should try it. If nothing else, it’ll give you a different perspective on constant connectivity. Do you really want to be forever at the beck and call of everyone who cares to contact you by phone, text, email, social network? Do you really want your boss to contact you when you’re supposed to be on holiday? Are you that insecure in your job? Or maybe the work ethic has persuaded you you have no life outside your work and must dedicate your entire life to earning money for whoever employs you.
So, there it is. I had 16 days free of the constant demands of our digital world. And I loved it! Try it. Go on; give it a go. The worst that can happen is you’ll miss what Brian had for tea, what Bridget wore to the club. Oh, and those endless pictures of cats, of course!