Has a day gone by where I haven’t composed a text message? Not really. And the Internet is an integral part of my life, an undeniable dependency for work, recreation or contact.
“The Internet buzzes in the background of my life, comforting — always there to entertain me, to feed me information, to connect me to my grid of friends and family and to writers I follow,” Lisa Shanahan wrote in her personal narrative about an ‘unplugged’ vacation with her husband. “It percolates my day like a high tech coffee pot, brewing a stimulant that smells good, that tastes good – a companion that I need, like a cup of coffee. I could live without coffee, but it would suck.”
I recently spent a weekend away, deciding to go ‘off the grid.’ Now, it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that sounds because I was based in New York City and not the wilderness, but I did abstain from phone and Internet usage. And you know what? I felt rejuvenated.
My senses were heightened, my mind was clear, and my attention was solely focused on the moment. I ogled at the shops on Bleecker Street — cheese, records, books. I absorbed the quirky scene in Washington Square. I focused on the modern art in a museum. I breathed in the beautiful colors of sunsets and the wintry scene in Central Park. I savored the company of who I was with, without checking my phone every so often.
An article on Psych Central discusses how excessive use of technology can affect cognitive development. When one becomes accustomed to habitual entertainment, attention deficit issues may surface.
“I have often thought that this constant need to be stimulated may play a role in the soaring number of individuals being seen for problems with attention,” said author Michelle L. Brennan.
She also explains that too much time “plugged in” can foster unawareness; a state of distraction.
“Technology has some wonderful uses and can be beneficial in countless way,” she noted. “However, when I read the news article about how technology distracted those individuals on the train, oblivious of their surroundings and safety, I was shocked. I began to think about the long-term effects this problem can have on the mental health of individuals.”
An article on Lifestyle Updated talks about how to detach from technology. The article suggests limiting hours spent on social media, turning our phones off once in a while and immersing ourselves in activities during our spare time, sans tech devices.
“We aim to avoid the clutter, free our mind from routine, trivial matters, and yet by relying on too much technology, we find ourselves going against our goals, creating more clutter, imprisoning ourselves deeper into the routine, stacking our mind with trivial matters much more so than before,” the article stated.
“Social media becomes intertwined with our reality and sometimes replaces real life interactions,” my friend said. “Unplugging, even for a short period of time, is refreshing. There is something calming about not posting the picture instantly, or not updating your status as you do something. It is okay to do things and not post them, or to have parts of your life remain undocumented. Unplugging for a weekend, month, or longer often allows oneself to reflect alone and create a sense of self — separate from an online persona.”
While I’m not personally tech-savvy (nor do I drool over the new gadgets), I’m not anti-technology — its positive characteristics are numerous. Sometimes, though, it’s restorative to detach from it all — to purify, to cleanse, to pay attention, to seize awareness of the present moment.