Although I took my Mac Book along to Newport Beach last week, I left it in the case for four days.  That’s right – I didn’t look at email, Facebook, Twitter, or any blogs.  I read the newspaper with coffee each morning (USA Today was left outside our door), and other than casting a glance at my husband’s I-Pad every now and then, my fingers did not touch a keyboard from Sunday until Thursday.

So what? you’re asking.  What’s the big deal about staying off the computer for four days?

For me, it was quite a big deal.

Lately I’ve come to the realization that the computer has become far too important to my ordinary existence.  In the weeks leading up to our planned trip to Paris, I was completely fixated on  internet news stories related to the strikes and social unrest.  Thanks to the World Wide Web, I was able to call up some new sensationalized version of what was going on over there every fifteen minutes if I wanted to .

And boy, did I want to.  Those internet reports just fueled the flames of my already smoldering fire – the one of worry, unease, and agitation.

But by the time I got to California –  after many frantic emails with my friends who were already over there, and then trading in my Paris airline tickets, booking a hotel, and renting a car –  I suddenly realized just how much the internet had influenced my decision.   Why, I might never have known about the strikes at all if I hadn’t seen it online.

And it isn’t just internet news…Facebook, Twitter, blogs – I find all of these commanding my attention several times during the day, and I inevitably find myself going down some rabbit hole or other, resulting in major time consumption.  At which point I jump up, realize I’m way behind schedule for doing what I was supposed to be doing before I got online, and then scramble around for the next couple of hours playing catch-up.

My computer consumption has started affecting my life and my mental health like a bad relationship.   What I seem to have lost is my ability to focus on things that matter without feeling this persistent pull toward the myriad distractions in cyber space.  What I crave is a return to simplicity, a greater appreciation for simple times and small pleasures.

My computer and I had a trial separation period during those four days in California, and it felt really good.  So I’ve been making a conscious effort to wean myself from the computer.  Not give it up completely, but ration my time with it.  This is my first time online today (it’s 5:00 pm here), and I’ve been much calmer and more focused on the other tasks at hand.

Sometimes too much of a good thing really is too much.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

How about you?   How does your relationship with your computer affect your daily life?


7 thoughts on “Weaning

  1. I understand what you mean. I get the shakes when I’ve been away from the computer too long. I finally broke down and got one of those smart phones… I tweet a lot more now. 🙂 I recently interviewed a “yogi” for an article on balance and I love what she said: The world is moving at the speed of our minds. Everything’s moving faster because we want it too. We have all this intelligence available to us, and we need to learn to be more intelligent with the intelligence.

    I was paraphrasing there… but I loved that she didn’t advocate unplugging– just being smart about it.

  2. My truly obsessive use of the computer comes during the height of hurricane season. I KNOW that tropical storm isn’t going to do anything in the next four hours, but somehow checking on it makes things better. It’s something I can do. And when a real storm develops, it’s a godsend.

    But generally, I’m pretty much at ease with my use of all things cyber. For news, I click onto the Drudge report morning and night, and have the WSJ, NYT and NPR “headline feeds” on my desktop. Five minutes is all I need to get the parameters for the day, and at night I spend an hour exploring issues that seem important.

    Since I left Facebook and LinkedIn and use twitter only to publicize my blog posts, I don’t really even count that Twitter time – maybe 15 minutes a week.

    My time sinks are writing my own blogs, research, reading other people’s blogs and commenting – both on my blog and others. But those are most important to me, and whatever I’ve “lost” by getting rid of the social media and chatrooms, I’ve more than gained in writing satisfaction.

    I think it would be much more difficult to deal with if I were in a “corporate culture” – but when someone starts telling me I must be on Facebook or Digg or Stumble or Link, I just laugh. As long as my readership is increasing without all those gimmicks and I can develop relationships with my readers without them, I’m better off spending my time elsewhere.

  3. That’s terrific, Becca. I find the same–and I also find that when I get back into the habit (discipline) of no computer until later in the day, it’s amazing how much different my day is. But not today! LOL.

  4. Dear B, One of the reasons I go for several days without posting anything in Blogworld, is because i get home from work which is PC intensive and I avoid my own dear little laptop. Don’t even want to walk past it. Know that once I open it, I’m sunk. Time will fly. I will read blogs, feel bad if I haven’t commented, feel bad if I haven’t posted! and feel bad if no one has stopped by. Too much feeling bad! that’s not the idea.
    And I use the laptop for myriad other things that sometimes just don’t get done, like sending emails, updating fitness routine and writing fiction. (yeah, I do fiction here but should swtich to longhand.)
    Anyway, I get it – the freedom of NOT using it.
    Which is somehow kinda backwards.
    And I have fallen back in love with paper and pens and the portablility of notebooks and journals that don’t ever require having to plug into anything

    But I can’t leave blogworld.
    Ah, there are so many great things to do online.
    Now, if the work day could be compacted into 4 hours rather than 8, what am I saying? rather than 9 or 10 hours, why then we really have something!

  5. I can’t live without it, it’s always near me. But as long as I have many other activities: walks, choir, yoga, diving, work, …. I don’t worry about overconsumption. For me it’s an essential way of communication & information

  6. Down the rabbit hole — isn’t that the truth. I just got my high-speed at home late last week. Everyone teased me about not having it, but not doing so for such a long while was a conscious decision and one only parltly influenced by the cost. I spend all day on my computer, sneaking in a blog here and there or staying late to work on a post. I was so very afraid I’d flal into that rabbit hole, too. What happens to reading books, doing art, scanning the piles of photos on my stack, cleaning up the garden or even more critical, the house.

    I’m still afraid of that. While it became necessary for work, and in some ways for my sanity, it has its downside. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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