Rewired—My Week of Trying to Unplug

At 2pm on Friday, September 24th, I turned off my Blackberry. My goal was to keep it off during a one-week vacation.

The Blackberry Curve 8900
The Blackberry Curve 8900

Like an electronic form of heroin, I was addicted to checking emails, checking my blog, checking Facebook, checking Twitter, even while driving.

That meant I wasn't spending much time checking my surroundings, checking on my friends, my family, my marriage.

How'd I do?

For those suffering a similar affliction, here's one woman's story.

Friday 9/24: after turning off the Blackberry, I buy myself a small notebook in which to journal my week off the grid. "Every time I slow down in traffic," I write that first day, "I start to reach for it (the Blackberry). Nothing to reach for. Brain will eventually rewire." That evening I log onto the home computer and post my last Tweet and Facebook entry for a week. Then I go for a walk.

Saturday 9/25: I wake up and start devising "reasons" to check the device—what if my kids forgot I was turning it off for a week, and they were desperately trying to reach me? I ignore the fact that my adult children know the numbers to my personal iPhone, my husband's cell phone, and the house phone. Details.

So...I check the Blackberry. I already have 71 emails...AND ONE TEXT FROM MY DAUGHTER! I skip the emails and read the text. Turns out she just wanted to make fun of a lecture hall at school which had an old fashioned blackboard—"I feel like I'm in an old movie." Hardly breaking news. I sheepishly turn off the device and put it back in a drawer.

I begin writing in my journal, scrawling down observations I would tweet if I was on Twitter: "Sign of the times: Taco Bell doesn't put out hot sauce anymore that you can grab by the handful. You have to ask for it." "Can't believe I'm happy UCLA beat Texas." "Am I the only adult left without a tattoo?" Wow. I am LAME. What a waste of pen and ink.

Lesson one: not every observation is worth noting.

Monday 9/27: my husband and I head to Hawaii, and I intentionally leave the Blackberry behind. Out of sight, out of mind. I keep the iPhone (no work emails!), in case the kids need to reach me. I suddenly feel very free. Plus, I'm in Maui. You don't see a lot of people walking around Maui with their noses stuck in mobile devices. Who wants to look down when you can look up at some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet?

However, I don't completely disconnect. I occasionally use the hotel computer to stalk my kids on Facebook to make sure they're ok, but I don't post anything.

Lesson two: one does not need to speak to be part of the conversation.

Saturday 10/2: I return to Los Angeles to discover what I've missed: USC lost, Meg Whitman may be losing (only in California could Gloria Allred single-handedly swing the vote), and my plants lost their fight for life during the hottest day in LA history.

Lesson three: Maui is a really nice place to spend the week.

There were 800 emails waiting for me. I deleted all but 30.

Lesson four: emails are usually a waste of time. Let's stop writing so many.

Now it's Monday, October 4th. My hand no longer reaches instinctively for the Blackberry . The brain has been successfully rewired. I have Tweeted a few times, and I posted twice on Facebook in one hour, which my daughter declared "falling off the wagon". I don't think so. I no longer feel a gnawing desperation to say something, anything, to the world. I don't feel like I must dive into the global chatter, that I have to be connected. Instead, shutting up and shutting down once in a while is a good thing.

Let's see how long it lasts...

By the way, where do Hawaiians go on vacation? One woman told me "Las Vegas, for the fun. Beaches and relaxation—I get that every day." But another local, a waiter at a restaurant in Lahaina, said he went to the Gulf Coast this year, starting in Pensacola and ending in New Orleans. "Those people need our money, and I wanted to show my support."

And that may have been the only thing worth noting last week.

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