Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Struggle to Disconnect

On Monday (Labor Day), I turned off the wireless internet on my laptop and silenced my phone. I even put my phone on the countertop face down, so I would have no chance of seeing the little green light on top that flashes anytime I have a new text message, email, or Twitter or Facebook update. I did this for just two hours, so I could write and focus without interruption. I succeeded and it felt good, but also a little strange.

I am almost 28 and in my lifetime I have gone from very little personal technology to relying on technology to do everything. I actually wrote one of my first stories on a typewriter. I remember when no one had cell phones and when they were only those large bulky things you saw on TV from time to time. Remember: I was born and raised in the Midwest. Now, everywhere I go I am expected to be connected. People grow very concerned or angry if you don't respond to a text message promptly. Did you die? Do you hate me? Why are you ignoring me?

This expectation of connection has always been my greatest fear with technology. I don't like being trapped by it or bound by it. I sometimes like disappearing into the world and not having to answer to anyone. Does this mean I no longer like you? Of course not, but sometimes I want to just be with myself. Recently, these days have vanished. Last April, Dustin finally talked me into getting a smart phone. While I have enjoyed it more than I thought, I also fear it as I know I am becoming more and more attached to it.

On Monday when I was trying to focus on writing, I kept having the urge to check my phone. Why? Did I fear I would miss the witty thing one of my friends said on Facebook? Or miss the exact moment someone asked me a question or attempted to make plans for the weekend? Guess what, all of that stuff was there when I got done with my two hours of solitude and no one was pissed or sending a search party. As it turns out, this technology is making us all feel more important than we actually are.

What I hate is that I can feel my focus slipping away from me. Once upon a time, I was a very focused person. I've never been a huge procrastinator, but now I sometimes find myself too distracted to write and that makes me crazy. I feel I should be doing five things at once. There are days I wish I could bury my phone in the ground, have my internet cut off, and spend days just writing and writing, but that's not a 21st century world.

All of these advances in technology are meant to connect us to each other, yet I feel more disconnected from myself and I like myself better than a lot of other people, so this is a crisis. Do I really need to watch another stupid Youtube video (which actually I don't do very often because I rarely find them funny)? Do I need to look up some stranger's pictures of her wedding or baby or party with undetermined theme? And does any of this make us truly more connected? Yes and no. I have seen the benefits of much of this connection, but I also know that a lot of it is breaking down our ability to truly and effectively communication with one another.

My new goal, my fall goal, is to disconnect more often. I have to or I'm going to slowly melt into my phone or internet search engine and I'll never write again or everything I write will be 140 characters. Don't get me wrong, I love lots of technology, but we have to be careful how we use it. When I think of how much my relationship with technology has changed in just 28 years (almost) it scares me.

As I'm finishing this post, my phone is buzzing and flashing green and everything in my body is telling me to pick it up, but I'm fighting the urge.

-Stephen (Offline)


  1. I understand where you are coming from. I find myself on facebook and other social sites just blowing time over doing what I should be doing (writing).

    I have enjoyed this post and I am going to follow you so that I can read more as time permits for me. Great piece.

  2. K.D.,

    Thanks for the comment. I think this is an issue we all face and struggle with. Thanks for reading!