Editor’s note: this is a guest post by T.S. Bazelli of Inkstained.
Do you suffer from Connectivitis*?
A common side effect of modern technology, that leaves one stressed when disconnected from the internet or parted from a cell phone?
Symptoms may include:
1. Anxiety when you can’t check your email.
2. Missing holes in time when you’re surfing the internet. There’s always one more article, one more email, one last tweet.
3. Panic if you’ve left home without your cell phone.
4. Compulsion to check the internet one last time before going to bed, even though you’ve checked your email an hour ago.
5. A need to have a computer constantly running, or you have a Blackberry/iPhone/smartphone with a data plan. It’s the first thing you turn on when you get home, oh wait it’s already on!
6. Sending texts while at dinner with friends, or in a meeting, or while in school.
7. Constant switching between browser tabs while working.
The cure: Internet detox.(Yes there’s only one cure)
This is my confession.
I used to go away for a weekend, off camping, or on holiday, and I would not feel relaxed unless I checked my email. Holidays were not fun. Something was ticking at the back of my mind telling me the quiet was wrong, that something was missing, and the first thing I would do when I got home was turn on the computer.
I didn’t even know I had a problem until I packed up, moved away to Greece, and had to make due with a borrowed computer and a 56k modem (sometimes). Every email took 3 minutes to load, and after a while I just gave up. I started checking my email just once a week. Man was that hard. I only knew one person in the city. I hardly spoke Greek. It was a very lonely time for a while.
The first few weeks were the toughest, but as time went on, for some reason the days started to feel longer. I would go out with friends, and there would still be time left in the day, even after school, after homework. After a while, the anxiety melted away, and you know what? I finally felt relaxed, for the first time in a long time.
When I came back home, I suddenly I found myself busy again, running around, complaining about a lack of time. How come the days felt shorter? Why didn’t I have enough time? I started timing myself on the computer. How much time did I spend checking email, blogs, Twitter, Wikipedia?
Honestly, I was spending more time than I realized. I had to take back all those times I complained that I was too busy to write. I had time, but I was wasting it!
I tried another an experiment. In the month of December, I decided to physically unplug the network cable when it was time to write. Unfortunately, unplugging wasn’t enough. My willpower really sucks, so I had to move my laptop into a room where the cable wouldn’t reach (thank goodness I don’t have wireless).
You know what happened? I used to write at a good pace of 1k a day, but in one month, I’d written 70k (I still can’t believe it). I got faster. I could sit and write for longer stretches of time. It surprised me too.
You know we’re all busy with life, with work, with all the other things. A little less stress and a little more focus, is not a bad thing. I never realized how much anxiety this constant connection caused until I stopped and unplugged. These days I enjoy my vacations. I think I am a happier, healthier person too. Here’s some things I learned:
- The world will not end if you do not check your email.
- The internet keeps on going even if you’re not there.
- You don’t have to be committed to keeping up. A weekend, a week, you can just jump back in after. Clear your feed reader. Start fresh. You’ll feel better.
- If it’s important it can probably wait until you get back. If not, someone will find a way to get in touch with you.
- People won’t unsubscribe from your blog if you go on vacation for a week. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break if you need to. If you’re going away for longer, you can always schedule your posts ahead of time. Remember, if visitors are reading your blog on a feed reader, they only get notified when you post something new, not if you don’t post. *Note, for disbelievers I have experimented with this too. You may not get new followers if you haven’t updated, but your old ones won’t just disappear that quickly.
Here are some tricks and tips to make it easier to unplug:
- Put your phone on silent, and even disable vibrate. Leave it in another room for a while. It won’t run away. I promise.
- If you are connected via a cable, unplug. If you have wireless, turn off the router if no one else needs the internet, or if you have a laptop there’s a button that will turn off the wireless signal.
- If that’s not enough, physically get away from an internet connection. Walk farther than your cord can reach. Find a cafe where the Internets not free, or there is none. What about writing in the park if the weather’s good?
There’s no reason to be scared of unplugging. Try it. You may be surprised at the results.
Do you have any tips for maintaining focus?
* Yes I made that up.
T.S. Bazelli is a technical writer by day, and writer of fiction by night. When she’s not plugged into a computer, you’ll likely find her with a nose in a book, making a mess with a sewing machine and scissors, or terrorizing the house plants. Ink Stained is her blog about genre storytelling and the craft of writing.
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