The Unplugged Challenge: Do More, Pin Less

wedding details and it was all a dream sign diy

We’ve always had rules in our household about technology use. Bedrooms are technology free zones. No checking email from bed, no watching TV when you go to sleep. The table is the same way. Meals are unfettered by technology, please and thank you. But the truth is, we have a problem. More specifically, I have a problem.

The problem is that the lure of connectedness is following me wherever I go, and not allowing technology at the dinner table isn’t helping the situation. Not anymore.

The problem, of course, is dopamine. A recent Life Hacker article on why technology is so addictive explains, “We can develop a dopamine release from many kinds of addictive behavior. Checking email is one in particular. You may not like spending long amounts of time in your inbox, but you probably think about checking it pretty often. When you hear that ding (or vibrate), you know there’s something waiting for you.” An article from The New York Times series Your Brain on Computers explained it this way: “The lower-brain functions alert humans to danger, like a nearby lion, overriding goals like building a hut. In the modern world, the chime of incoming email can override the goal of writing a business plan or playing catch with the children.” In short, I’m increasingly feeling like I’m missing parts of my day-to-day life because I can’t hear it over the hum of technology addiction.

I’ve had something of a slow slide into technology use. I grew up without a single screen in my house, which is a fancy way of saying we didn’t have a TV (personal computers were years away). We weren’t a Waldorf family, we were just something of a lazy, slightly hippy family. My parents didn’t want to have to bother monitoring our TV intake, so they didn’t get a TV. We got a (actually kind of usable) personal computer somewhere around 1994, along with dial up internet. In 1996, I moved beyond AOL chat rooms, to the beginnings of my more modern relationship with internet, in the form of Ani DiFranco fan sites. (The internet has always functioned a bit as portable counterculture for me). My graduation gift in 1998 was my own (huge) computer to take to college, which I mostly used to write my papers, and check email once or twice a day. And then, in about 2003, I got a laptop. That, of course, was the beginning of the end. With a laptop, I checked my email…whenever I was home. I resisted iPhones for quite awhile (much to David’s dismay). I’d tell him, “The last thing I need is more internet. Internet on the bus? No thank you.” But in 2010, I gave in. Since then, things have moved pretty quickly downhill.

My parents, of course, were right. The problem with technology is that when you have it, you have to limit it. And limiting it is really really hard.

Last month I was in the car, listening to an NPR story about the national day of unplugging, digital shabbat, and the slow tech movement.  I kept thinking that I really needed a space for a tech Shabbat in my life, but was unsure if we could pull off unplugging for a day. That, frankly, was embarrassing.

But that isn’t what made me snap. A few weeks later, I was downstairs in our garden on a mid-day break, and had that feeling of seeing double that too much screen time brings. I looked around and had the crushing realization that I had what I wanted, and I was missing it. I had the superficial wish listy things that I’d wanted since I was a little girl: wood floors, vegetable garden, and one recently acquired hammock. But beyond those physical things, I had an awesome partner, a job I loved, a great community of friends, and one hilarious and amazing tiny baby. It had been a long road, and life was still glorious in its imperfections, but I had so much goodness around me.

And I was still pinning things to my Pinterest boards.

Pining and Pinning

I have a great Pinterest board for our garden. It has hammocks and Adirondack chairs and bougainvillea on it. I also now have hammocks and Adirondack chairs and bougainvillea in our garden. But instead of being out there every single sunny moment that we could, far too often I was inside, pinning new ideas. When I was playing with the baby, I was also instagramming with my phone. (He’s really cute, you guys. Such things must be documented.) I was missing out, and I was increasingly aware of it.

The problem, of course, is that so much of our lives are now tied to the computer. There is the mundane stuff: looking up where a restaurant is, emailing for an appointment, shopping for…hammocks. But there is the good stuff too. As I sit and write this, I’m looking at a screen, doing a job I love. My life is filled with real-life friends I’ve made through the internet. The blog-o-sphere has enriched my life for a decade, and I’m so honored to get to give back to it. Tamera of Verhext has called the internet “The fog layer on the real world,” and that’s it. The internet can be an amazing place, but it’s not, in fact, the real 3D physical world.

I’ve found so much good stuff online. I found my people, my style, and half of my best ideas. But the problem is, I wasn’t drawing a line. Since work and play are so intermingled on our screens, I wasn’t demarcating where all of that stopped, and offline life began. And God knows it’s not just me.

Digital Shabbat

Two weeks ago, I finally hit a wall. It was Friday afternoon, it was beautiful out, and I was about to go get the baby. I’d had a great, super productive week at work. And I looked at the screen, and realized I wanted out. At five pm, without any advance warning, I pulled the plug. And the second I did, I realized that if I wanted to break this addictive behavior pattern, even for a few days, I had to give into the fact that I couldn’t be trusted. I couldn’t go online to look up our bank balance, because I would then quickly check email, and Google+, and the blog, and it would all be over. For me to pull the plug, I had to pull the plug completely. No internet for two days.

The first twenty-four hours were hard. I’d think, “I just need to check…no.” “I just need to sit down at my desk…no.” I’d compose tweets in my head, but not write them. I’d take pictures on my phone, but not instagram them. I felt jumpy.

Troublingly, this is our new normal. Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco told The New York Times, “We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do. We know already there are consequences.” The New York Times further pointed out, “While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress. And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.”

My problem wasn’t so much working in front of computers all day. My problem was the way my brain was reacting off of computers. My old, less jumpy brain was what I was missing. I missed that unspooling reel of thought. I missed writing longhand and not wondering if an email had come in while I was doing it. I missed staring up at the leaves on a tree and thinking about nothing in particular. And these days, I had new things to miss. Cuddling the baby without a thought for anything but his wriggly little self. Long conversations with the kiddo where I focused on his new little sounds (the new B sound is pretty adorable, with its tiny spit bubbles). I missed time with David, where our undivided attention was on the moment.

In the instant classic New York Times article “The ‘Busy’ Trap,” Tim Kreider posits, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.” And even as I watch myself, and those around me, cramming our days with messages to check, alerts to read, and Pinterest boards to fill, I know those actions are not really our goal. We’re reading blogs because we crave smart conversation and connection. We’re pinning things to remind us of what our lives could be. We’re finding places online that we fit, to remind us of who we are. But at some point you have to stop pinning, and start doing. Sure, those pinboards of party ideas are great, but what’s really excellent is lying around the deck with your friends eating cake, not thinking about doing it.

When I unplugged, I picked up my needlepoint for the first time since the baby was born, because I needed to keep my hands busy. We finally got that hammock. I cleaned out our basement. We spent hours and hours in the garden, weeding with a pitchfork all slathered up in sunscreen. We threw a party. But mostly I just focused on what was right in front of me: my partner, my kid, my friends. After all that work I’d done to shape a life I wanted, I let myself live in it. I climbed in the hammock, instead of looking at a picture of one.

That first weekend seemed three times longer, possibly because I had to think about each moment, instead of just mindlessly filling the empty ones with web surfing. On Sunday night, I realized that I felt like I’d been on vacation. The second weekend was even better. And the third weekend, unplugging finally started to feel normal. My brain was jumpy for an hour after I pulled the plug, and then reading a novel in the hammock, or doing needlepoint while the baby kicked next to me, seemed to pretty clearly be the way to go.

Or as the author of “The ‘Busy’ Trap” says, “I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love. I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”

Screw it. Let’s do it.

So here I go. I’m going to publicly commit to spending every weekend unplugged for a whole month. I know that habits take time to create, so I need to sign on and hold myself accountable. (I want to unplug every night as well, but I’m taking this one step at a time.)

As embarrassing as I find my technology addiction, I at least know I’m not alone. So many of us have been blindsided by the lure of that email ding, and we are not sure how to shake the habit. So this is where I ask you to join me. I’d love for some of you to commit to spending the next month unplugged on the weekends. The exact rules are yours to craft, because you know where your dopamine traps lie. I let myself text, but not touch the internet or web-surf. I sometimes Instagram a picture, but don’t let myself catch up on my Instagram feed. Your rules for yourself will be different. For those of you that join me, I’d love for you to notice how unplugging affects your relationships. Notice, and report back next month.

And then there is one other thing. Those Pinterest boards? I dare you to take one idea you pinned, and actually follow through with it. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it, but at least you’ll have bitten the bullet, taken action in the real world. Because that’s what those Pins are there for, right? To remind us to change our lives, not to catalogue the things we don’t have.

Who’s with me?


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  • I am totally in.
    This is so hard… it is an issue. As in… if I can’t sleep at night, or wake up early in the morning I come to the couch and put the computer on right away. It goes on and on and it makes me feel so drained, but it’s an addiction.
    I used to be such a reader. The kind that would not, could not, put the book down,. Lately I have noticed my attention span / ability to focus is just off. I am reading, and then I keep thinking of doing something else (doing something else being an euphemism for checking gmail / facebook / etc). I can not just sit and enjoy.
    So I will try this with you. And the pin it do it challenge to .

    • Another Meg

      It’s hard! Your brain is a muscle, and there’s a specific part of it that does the “deep reading.” As a former Lit major, I have shelves full of books I no longer have the ability to read. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not going to be enjoyed again in this house until I get that part of my brain back into shape.

      My partner and I go to his family’s cabin for about a week every July, and you can’t really use a phone there. I turn it off and leave it in the glove compartment, which is….amazing. No internet or phones, just checking my voice mail once every couple of days in case of family emergencies. It really does make it more of a vacation. I think I need that feeling more often.

      I’m going to try this, too. I think I’ll try one night during the week plus weekends and see how that goes.

      Now I’m getting excited! This was the perfect time of year for this. Woot!

      • meg

        I think trying one night of the week might be the perfect way to start. In my case, I might just pick a night where I feel caught up. The work from home, now with kid thing means, that I rather suddenly have to leave to get him at 5, and if the work isn’t totally done, it can be hard to unplug and get my brain back at night. I need to slowly make progress on that (which also has to do with using time more efficiently during the day… which of course relates right back to how the internet messes up our liner concentration at work as well.)

  • This is great – I have found switching off the notifications on my phone a big help but still end up checking emails, facebook, instagram far too often. I’ll give it a try but with 3 weekends til the wedding I’m not sure if I will manage!! The phone isn’t coming on our 7 week honeymoon though!! Maybe going cold turkey will do it for me xox

    • Switching off notifications has helped me SO much. Without my phone constantly lighting up, I do think I’m checking it less. That Instagram “like” can wait.

      • Jessica B

        My 3G network didn’t connect on my phone for about a week, and I noticed that I didn’t look at my phone as much (like, once an hour instead of 4 times an hour sort of difference). I needed it back on because of the GPS feature, but I’m thinking I’ll start shutting it off when I don’t need to find my way around. While it was off I actually read an entire book.

      • marbella

        Thanks for this nudge, I’ve been thinking about it for a while and just turned off all my email and FB notifications on my phone. I’m one of those who hates to see unread messages and I feel compelled to check them as they come in now because I hate the little message sitting on my phone. Here’s to a new beginning!

    • Rachelle

      Agreed! When I first installed the Gmail app, I let it send me notifications (my regular mail only checked for new mail when I told it to) and it drove me CRAZY! I’m pretty good about unplugging and I’m online much less than most people I know, so constantly having my phone vibrate was incredibly annoying! Sorry Banana Republic sale, I’m not going to interrupt my dinner to save 30%.

      • Not Sarah

        Priority inbox has been super helpful with this for me! I only even get the notification icon now if gmail thinks the email is “important”.

    • What a great idea. I get so distracted by my phone. I think a good first step will be turning off notifications!

  • littleone

    I am an APW lurker, so far yet to come out into the sunshine. I’m also an Orthodox Jew (by choice, not birth). I wish I had had this article when I was trying to explain the concept of Shabbat to my parents.

    Sometimes the luxury of technology, which allows us to “save time,” really takes time AWAY from the projects and people that deserve it most. It’s incredibly hard to break the cycle, but once you do, that little unplugged period eventually becomes an oasis. Thank you for writing so beautifully.

    • Caroline

      I’ma conservative Jew by choice and nearly everyone (except my mom) I explain Shabbat to says “25 hours unplugged? Man, I really need that.” I don’t know how I survived without Shabbos and that weekly break from tech (I guess it was less pervasive).

      As a student who needs to do homework on Sundays (with the Internet often), I don’t think I can go all weekend without tech but maybe I can continue the no Internet in the evening after havdalah on Saturday. I’ll think on that.
      I’d love to institute a no-phones in bed ban (I say as I lie in bed reading APW on my phone). It’s so bad that the first thing I do every morning is check email and blogs.

    • meg

      I recommend The Sabbath by Heschel to EVERYONE, Jewish or not. Someone gave it to me on the occasion of my conversion celebration, but it’s really just an excellent thought piece, particularly for the current age.

  • Aurélie

    This is a wonderful idea… Though I’m not sure to be capable of it right now (because of work, because of life).
    But this is really inspiring and I’m going to try and take a night off every week.
    Beginning slowly… But yes, let’s do it together.
    Thank you so much for showing the way! :)

  • Lauren

    As I sit here with incredibly greasy hair from a Pinterest idea gone oh-so-slightly wrong, (Coconut oil conditioner! Will try again tomorrow!) this sounds like a great idea. Pinterest is such a great place for ideas and it makes my irrationally sad that more people don’t actually do the things they see there, while also having the semi-serious fear of people saying to me “You got that off of Pinterest, didn’t you?”

    • Sorry! Meant to reply, not report! I made some deodorant off of Pinterest. It worked really well to control odor… it also scraped all the skin off of both of my armpits and left them raw! OW!

      • Lauren

        Yikes! I’ll stick with purchasing deodorant for now. Did you know Tom’s of Maine has a new deodorant made with recycled aluminum…? (off topic, but interesting!)

        • I’m such a hippie in most ways, and the ONLY personal care product I use that isn’t all-natural and/or chemical-free, etc is deodorant. I cannot find one that works to even a mildly acceptable degree, Tom’s included.

          It kind of bums me out to see my little stick of Dove in the mornings, knowing that out of all the cleaning, personal care, food, etc stuff that we have in the house it’s the lone hold-out.

          Tom’s works fantastically for my husband, and he loves it. But I’ve tried everything I can get my hands on, and zero joy. :(

          • Lauren

            Once again, sorry about making this thread about deodorant!

            The new Tom’s has aluminum (aka the active ingredient that makes anti-perspirant anti) which weirds some people out, so I get it. But it is a) recycled aluminum, so that is a happy hippy thing and b) all the other ingredients are naturally derived. I have used it for a few days *in unscented* and my fiance said he can’t really tell a difference. The only thing stopping me from loving it is the extremely high amount of aluminum in it. YMMV, but it’s a decent alternative for me!

            ETA: Here’s a link!

          • Kathleen Shannon over at jeremyandkathleen has tested a bunch of hippie deodorant options and sings the praises of Soapwalla. I’m only just jumping on the all-natural deodorant train, myself.

          • granola

            Natural deodorant has been an ongoing process for me but I thought i’d share the highlights i’ve learned.

            I’ve found that mixing shea butter with a little baking soda controls odor better than anything else. The rash that you may get on your skin is less from the deodorant, in my experience than from the wetness because you’re not using an anti-perspirant. so i try to put lotion on my underarms after showering, which helps a lot. and if i think i smell bad, i’ll use a wet paper towel in the bathroom to wipe my underarms and it’s usually fine. i think that i notice it most because i’m paranoid.

            also, i think it’s the aluminum that turns your clothes yellow, so another benefit of switching is that i don’t ruin my clothes as much

  • Jen

    A couple of things have struck home with this piece:

    1) I’ve got a job where from 9-6 I’m multi-tasking contstantly, with about 50- 60 projects on the go all at the same time, with various different stages of complexity. I’ve been finiding it impossible to concentrate on a novel or my knitting when I get home, or even finding the motivation to begin a longer project at the weekend, and been getting myself down because of it. I now realise it’s because my brain has been wired for 40+ hours a week to do short, sharp tasks, and I’m not giving myself time to do the switch-over.

    simple but obvious- I’m not going near the internet at home from now on!

    2) I’m happy to make that resolution, but what about my partner? He uses technology much more as a sustained leisure tool than I do (blogs, Football Manager etc), and I’m a bit more outdoorsy than him (though we both enjoy hiking), and while I don’t want to ban him, I do feel there’s too much TV/ web going on in the house. any advice on how to manage that?


    • I thought about your second point after reading this as well. I think I’m going to send this to my partner and ask him what he thinks, as he is an avid gamer. On the one hand, I don’t want to tell him how to entertain himself. On the other hand, I don’t understand the allure of his games.

      We both like to hike and love to read, so I think it comes more down to being intentional with our time. How do we really want to spend this Saturday afternoon? Some days, zoning out will be an okay answer, but only some.

      • Getting my fiance to unplug is really, really difficult. He’s one of those “have the iPhone out at the dinner table” guys, and was happy when I finally got one, because we could *both* have our phones out, rather than me asking him to put it away.

        I do put it down in the category of “things I knew going in, that probably won’t change”, but it would still be nice to be able to carve out more non-digital “us” time here and there. Which means that I guess I do want it to change. Hmm, perhaps the category should be “things that I would like to influence towards change, but will also accept if they don’t”. (Is that possible?”

        • I think it’s possible. And it’s definitely something to talk about in terms of how you each communicate best and how you value different types of communication. It’s one thing to say “That’s annoying because it lights up and makes noise” and another thing to say “When you have your iPhone out, I feel like my conversation and my company isn’t enough for you, or that you don’t value the thoughts I’m trying to communicate.”

          It probably will take compromise, depending on his point of view. But it’s possible!

    • LALA

      I, like your partner, uses tech much more as a sustained leisure tool than my husband who, like yourself, is more outdoorsy (he loves bike riding). If he tried to ban me or limit my use of technology, I’d feel resentful, particularly since it’s not like I’m going to try and limit his leisure activities (bike riding, etc). If my husband wants to limit his own tech use, then fair enough, I’ll support his endeavours. However I draw the line at having it imposed on myself.

      My advice is to simply invite your partner to join you in various non-technology activities you find yourself wanting to do. If your partner doesn’t want to do it this time, then just ask next time. Just because your partner doesn’t want to do something doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself.

      • KateM

        While I agree with you, and we are all adults who have to make our own decisions about these things, there is a communal element to this. I may want to sit and read a book in the evening, but if my husband is watching tv it that much harder not to. Going into another room feel incredibly anti-social when there are only two of you. Your partners choice of entertainment does effect family environments.

        • Marina

          We don’t have a TV but do watch significant amounts of TV on our computers. So it’s slightly easier for me to ask my husband to turn his laptop away from me and put on headphones than it would be with a TV. But still… could you rearrange the TV so you can sit somewhere you don’t have to look at it?

          • Yes to headphones.

            I know a couple where the guy likes to watch TV, the woman likes to knit. The way they hang out sometimes is to sit on the couch together, but he plugs his headphones into the TV so she doesn’t have to hear it. It works for them.

        • Alexandra

          Perhaps the key is to sit and watch TV with him then? There’s a difference between “just watching TV” and “watching TV while browsing the internet on your phone while reading this article during commerical breaks.” In fact, in the past week me and my fiance have been sitting down to watch Torchwood every evening during dinner (and I do some cross-stitching when we’re done) and it feels much more focused and intimate than our “normal” routine where the TV is on, but we’re both on the net doing completely different things. I don’t have the same fractured attention span when we’re both sitting down watching TV together.

          Though I mean, if you want to read a book and he wants to watch TV, and you find it distracting, there’s nothing to say you can’t leave the room. You’re both adults and you don’t need to be joined at the hip. And book reading isn’t exactly a social activity in the first place.

      • This is how I usually approach it: inviting him to do things with me that don’t (and can’t) involve being plugged in, like long bike rides. I also try to limit my “please turn that off” when it is actually interfering with our interaction. I don’t care how important it feels to be plugged it, surfing Wikipedia while we are out to dinner is pretty rude.

        But I’m not going to say, “Hey, you should turn off the video game and read a book” because that is his choice for leisure time. It’s about finding the balance.

    • I was thinking about #2 as well. I kind of think it’d have to be an “all in” thing, wouldn’t it? Well, for me it would, at least. I think the computer would have to be physically unplugged for me to avoid it on the weekends. But it can’t be unplugged if he’s using it…

      • meg

        Oh! I should add. The one helpful thing about him not being totally unplugged is that I make him look things up for me online if we really need it. He manages to do it without getting sucked in, if I ask him to do one specific thing. And we turn off our desktop (though he tends to leave our laptop on). But if we need something in particular, I just turn it back on, and off again. I did that to order bras this weekend. The point for me isn’t to be dogmatic, just to set myself up to be successful.

        • Alicia

          Oo! You ordered the bras :)

    • meg

      I decided I wasn’t even going to bother pushing David on this one. He probably uses technology more than I do, but I already call the shots on limiting TV, and tech in bedrooms, etc. I didn’t want to make this a STRESSFUL experiment for me, and trying to get him to do that was going to make it stressful.

      Funny story though. With me unplugged he was waaayyyyy more unplugged. If we’re out in the hammock or in the garden, you’re unplugged by default. And if I’m not sitting there surfing the internet, and I’m chatting, he is too. (Because I DO say things like, “For gods sake I’m talking to you, put that thing down.”)

      However. I have NO guilt about setting basic ground rules that we all follow, like no tech in bedrooms. It improves everyone’s quality of life to read in bed at night, and there is no way I’m going to read next to a scrolling iPhone. We established those basic rules ages and ages ago, and they are super helpful, because they are habit forming, so we just don’t break them. Without this new unplugging experiment, bed was still where we did most of our reading, sometimes for a solid 45 minutes. (Bed for everything else, breakfast table for the paper, which we get in print on purpose.)

      • Rachelle

        “For gods sake I’m talking to you, put that thing down.”

        I do this all the time! It makes me so mad when I try to have a serious conversation and he keeps his laptop open, even if he isn’t looking at it. I make sure I get the seat facing the TV at restaurants/bars for the same reason :)

      • I’m presuming you do most of your reading in books or magazines as opposed to on your phone. It can be hard to limit checking email or Facebook when using your phone, but since 75% of what I do on my phone is read books, I’m thinking if I’ve got the self control to not go anywhere but my kindle app, I won’t unplug entirely since I’ve pretty much stopped reading physical books for the time being and rely solely on my phone.

        • meg

          And THAT is one of the many reasons I read on paper. The thing is, reading is supposed to be a long form exercise in thinking about one thing only. It’s really really hard to do that on a device connected to the internet.

          Hence, I recommend the library ;)

          (Also, if you’re working on unplugging, you actually do need to get away from a glowing screen, because it effects the way your brain works. I should have dug up that research for this article…)

          • I’m going to research the glowing screen biz myself because honestly, I have no problem reading entire novels on my phone. I actually read an entire book yesterday on my phone and I even wrote over 50% of my first novel on my sidekick so maybe I’m a freak in the sense that I can focus on reading or writing only on my phone and the tiny screen doesn’t bug me at all.

            But I am concerned about my eyes and brain whether its too much to look at the screen so continuously. Although it would break my heart to not ever read a physical book again, e-books are just easier. You can even get library books on your kindle. And unlike physical books, they never get lost or get mildewed or have pages fall out.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m a book lover at heart, but life circumstances have kept me on an all digital book diet for a few years now and I can honestly say that while I’ll continue to buy physical books obsessively, I’ll probably do the majority of my reading as e-books.

          • In response to Kristen, I remember hearing research about glowing screens, too. They certainly do affect your eyesight negatively as well. Kindles are different (at least, my second generation one is) because the screen doesn’t light up- I don’t understand how they work, but Kindle calls it “electronic paper.” You can’t read it in the dark, but you can read it more easily in bright sunshine, like physical books.

          • meg

            They also screw around with your sleep cycle. And yes! The Kindle non-glowing screens are way way better for you.

          • Kestrel

            I just wanted to mention that any kindle/e-reader with e-ink will help – some of them (like the kindle paperwhite and nook touch) have a light function, but that’s more like a book light than a glowing screen.

            But the other day I started re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire (books that Game of Thrones is based on) and it was so nice to just read and not have the computer constantly on. As someone who was a voracious reader (broke all the school records for # of books/pages read) I forgot how happy it can make me.

        • It doesn’t solve the glowing screen v. your eyes issue, but you could turn your phone onto airplane mode if you want to read without the temptation of email/instagram/internet/twitter etc

  • I love this idea. I’ve been spending less time on the Internet on the weekends, kind of weening myself off, and I think it would be good to go all in. (But is it okay if I’m kind of afraid to go all in? Because just the thought gives me the shakes!)

    • meg

      It gives you the shakes because of actual brain chemistry stuff. Crazy, right? It’s improving as I go, but I still get a little shaky in the hour or so after I pull the plug. Dopamine withdrawal, I assume.

  • Hintzy

    Internet high fives! I love your story about learning to unplug :) I picked up the hobby of medieval reenactment years ago, and have watched ipads and iphones and droids creep in to baskets and linen pouches… one of my favorite aspects of reenactment has always been the retreat-like aspect of being away from technology, but its gained on me a bit.

    I’ll have to discuss with FH the idea of deciding on a weeknight and putting down the laptop/smartphone for that evening and hanging out together in our house – I think it needs to happen, we’ve been half watching buffy on netflix and half being tech zombies on the couch for a while now.

    And I promise I will take those food cans that I’ve been saving, find the tools, and punch holes in them and spray paint them for those cute little pinterest lanterns.

    • meg

      No shit. I grew up this way, but before there were cell phones to creep into baskets.

    • ZOO

      As a fellow re-enactor (SCA), I have to say that one of my favorite camping event rituals is to violently chuck my phone to the back of the tent once we’re set up. If it’s a 4-5 day trip, I’ll usually check it once to make sure no one has called to say a family member is in the hospital or something, but other than that the damn thing stays OFF (and usually buried under a pile of linen, wool, and underwear).

  • kgoesgallivanting

    Meg, thank you for writing this! It is soooo important to have thoughtful conversations about the hold technology has on our lives. I don’t mind when my friends use it to find directions to someone’s house or a new restaurant for us to try out, but it bothers me when the phone is glued to their hands the entire time we’re together. As a senior in college, I see smart phones EVERYWHERE. People use them in class, sporting events, concerts, I can’t seem to escape them.

    My friends have tried to convince me to dump my 4 year old phone (Impossible right?! Nope, I just take good care of my things. :P ) and purchase one with internet, but I don’t want to get to the point where I’m always connected. I would prefer it if I didn’t have to use technology every day, but the nature of the world we live in is to be connected. Most of my homework assignments require the use of the internet, and it is so easy to slide away from research and onto sites like Pinterest or Facebook without even being fully aware of it.

    This was one of my favorite parts of the piece:
    “And even as I watch myself, and those around me, cramming our days with messages to check, alerts to read, and Pinterest boards to fill, I know those actions are not really our goal. We’re reading blogs because we crave smart conversation and connection. We’re pinning things to remind us of what our lives could be. We’re finding places online that we fit, to remind us of who we are. But at some point you have to stop pinning, and start doing. Sure, those pinboards of party ideas are great, but what’s really excellent is lying around the deck with your friends eating cake, not thinking about doing it.”

    As soon as finals are finished in two weeks, I’m taking your challenge Meg. I’m going to try to go technology free every weekend this summer. The hardest part is the first step.

    • My old Razr was 6 years old before I finally moved on to an iPhone. Hurray for making your tech last!

  • It’s so easy to fall into that trap. I didn’t realize how attached I was to everything until I changed my email and facebook passwords ages ago and suddenly the notifications on my phone stopped, because I hadn’t updated things. The freedom from the constant notifications and updates was so profound just in the first few days that I never bothered to update things in my phone.

    • Lauren

      I deleted my social networking apps from my phone, so if I want to check them I have to go through the effort of typing the URL, typing my username, typing my password and THEN trying to navigate tiny buttons on the touchscreen. I have found it really helped cut down on mindless browsing because of all the “work.”

      • Caroline

        Great idea. Thanks. I’m going to try this. I do so much
        mindless pointless let me check Facebooking.

      • Similarly, I started logging out of social networks on my laptop before switching tabs. It’s not fool-proof, but it allows for one more gut-check of “Do you really want to check facebook again? Is there really anything new there?” before I dive in.

        It’s amazing what those small things can do!

    • meg

      Ha! I don’t even have those alerts set on my phone (I never have). The idea of how much worse my life would be with them is terrifying. I hadn’t even really realized that I didn’t have these alerts set till reading this thread. My phone only buzzes for calls or texts.

    • Man, I have never been so glad to have a work provided blackberry with no social networking ability. I mean, sure, it flashes when I get a work email, but those are so rare I normally leave the phone on a different floor when I’m home in the evening.

  • Mer

    I think this is the real reason I don’t have nor want a smart phone (also I’m cheap). The instant access, while convenient, is too much of a temptation for me. So I’ve resisted and so far, I think it’s the right choice (though I seriously may be the last person under 30, I’m 26, that does not have a smartphone). When I’m out there’s no email, no facebook, no nothing. Since I don’t have that instant access, pinterest, instagram and twitter are somewhat impossible to participate in.

    At home, I physically have to open my computer and sign-in to my email to check it, which means I have to be stationary and sitting. So if I’m bustling around cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, reading or whatever, I won’t be interrupting myself to check email. Going to another room and all the signing in business is sort of a hassle. Laziness always wins out with me.

    But… I still think I check my email too often. And facebook. Oh facebook you suck my time away. And Netflix. Does that count in this? I love me some West Wing but am totally willing to give it up. Maybe I’ll just delete my Netflix account all together. Save me money and sanity and most likely make me more productive. Sounds like a win to me.

    • Hlockhart

      I, too, have a dumb phone and I’m under 30! Mostly it’s the cost, but I’m also worried about what constant internet access would do to me.

    • yes!

      this is what i always think of when i try to justify (as if i need to) not having a smartphone: the day a friend was teasing us for needing *directions* (just look it up on your phone!), after which conversation we went to a restaurant and were seated next to (presumably) a couple, both on iphones, who did not share a single word for the duration of our very lovely little date.

      i love my dumb phone. and i love those days when i look at it monday on my way to work, only to realize that i missed a call on friday evening. it always makes me feel like i spent my weekend well.

      • Yes! My phone was actually discontinued back in 2006…that’s how old it is! It supposedly has internet access (and a camera!) but I’ve never ever used them. It does, however, make phone calls. And while I know people who spend hundreds of dollars every month on data plans and such, my husband and I combined barely spend $10 a month on our phone bill. We do all our talking face to face and we love it.

      • MDBethann

        I am all about the dumb phone and so is my patent examiner (techie) husband. We’re on our computers all day and he works from home. Why do we need “smart” phones? We can just look stuff up on the computer when we need to. And our new car came with built-in GPS, so we don’t need it for that. If I’m going somewhere new, I write down directions before hand. The only time I ever wish I had a smartphone is when I’m stuck in hellish traffic and need to find a way around it that also doesn’t involve hellish traffic.

    • meg

      We watch shows (we’re former theatre professionals, we LOVE our well written shows). But we watch one show a night, now after the kid is in bed. It’s nice, it’s relaxing, and it’s organized. It also gives me time to unspool that reel of thought. Watching an episode of Mad Men makes my brain work pretty hard… and in a non jumpy way. Add a glass of wine, and that’s a pretty good life to me ;)

      But everyone’s traps are different. And back when we were watching more TV than that a night, it wasn’t good. Now, however, we have a tiny wiggly ball of unplugged, that we want to play with till he goes to sleep. Which helps. Unexpected upsides! Who knew?

    • can i add a plug for watches, too? i lost mine, but it was the *best* to be able to check the time without getting my phone out (probably 90% of what i use my phone for in public).

      • Lauren

        I’ve been trying to buy my dude a watch for YEARS because it drives me bonkers when he uses his phone to check the time. Because that turns into blog-reading, game-playing, friend-texting…

      • Absolutely! That’s one of the best gifts I got my partner. Not only is it a professional, dapper accessory, but as a student, he could watch the clock in class without pulling out his phone mid-lecture. Not exactly on the unplugging theme, but another benefit, nonetheless.

    • Caitlin

      Another 26 year old with a dumb phone here! Despite not having the instant access of a smart phone I still feel overly plugged in. My problem I think is mainly from watching shows on my computer (Heeey Netflix). I grew up living in the middle of the woods with no TV (my parents still had dial-up until last year). For the longest time watching something or even just being inside while it was daylight outside went against my grain. Now technology has slowly crept in to the point that I’ve totally spent a whole sunny day here in Hawaii inside watching TV and putzing around on my computer. Mainly ’cause once I get on my computer it’s so hard to get off again. I always feel really gross afterwards too.

      Off to brainstorm my own personal unplugging rules….

    • Kestrel

      Heck, I’m 23 and I still have the dumb phone I’ve had for 6 years. I also am nervous about ‘giving in’ to the smart phone.

      I don’t have many ‘gadgets’ – I have my flip phone, a kindle keyboard (so it’s really just something to read books on) and my laptop. I don’t own a TV, or any gaming consoles or anything like that. I still spend 12+ hours on the internet. Granted, I have to be on the internet because of grad school, but it’s ridiculous!

      I already have enough problems with just my laptop!

      • grace b

        I too have not gotten a smartphone yet and I really have no intention too either. I actually “downgraded” two years ago from a phone with a keyboard to just a simple flip phone. My boyfriend has a flip phone too and his is so old it doesn’t even have a camera! He is very anti-technology and rarely uses a computer.

        I got a laptop a few months ago but decided not to get internet in my apartment and it was the BEST decision I’ve made (and I don’t need internet for work). Now I physically have to leave my apartment to get wifi. While my tv-watching (we don’t have cable, so I watch shows on dvd from the library) is up I am also reading way more books than I was a year ago. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is sitting in the library reading all of the magazines I’m too lazy to subscribe to.

        Today I went to the ear doctor and when he took his phone out of his pocket to see who was calling him (which he was very polite and apologetic about) I was psyched to see it was a flip phone! A doctor with a flip phone! Loved that.

        My boyfriend would love to get a landline and ditch our cell phones but we do really need them for texting the bus when we have to get around since we don’t have a car.

  • Hlockhart

    I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a long time–thanks for the impetus to figure it out and do it! I’m a grad student, and I need to work on the weekends (and I often need the internet for work), but the fact is that I spend way too much time on the blogs/checking my email/etc. and so forth. I’m going to figure out exactly what sort of digital activity I’m allowed on the weekends, and try it out for this month.

  • I love this! I always find the times where I “accidentally” unplug (ie leave my phone in another room while I’m busy with something else) give me such a free feeling when I realize I haven’t checked anything for hours. I have often toyed with the idea of actually quitting texting for an extended period (a weekend or full week) but I admit I’m scared that people have gotten so used to not using a phone for phone calls anymore that people would just stop contacting me because they couldn’t be bothered to switch to phone calls.

    • I kind of share this fear. Also, I think my sister would be terrified if she didn’t get a text from me for a weekend. Instead of trying to call me (she’d most likely assume I couldn’t get to my phone) I’m worried she’d take more drastic measures!

      Does anyone have advice for what to tell people when you take a break from technology? Do you tell people? Or do you just disappear for a while?

      • I went off Facebook for 6 months, about 3 years ago, for a variety of reasons. Mostly because it was taking up too much time — it felt compulsive, as Meg describes in her post. I emailed a few close friends beforehand and told them I’d be going off Facebook, and would prefer to email, call or text them for the next few months. And it worked well!

        I’ve seen friends send a status update that they would be off Facebook for a certain amount of time. I’ve also had friends contact people before going on an email-hiatus, just as advance notice.

        I have to say, while social networks and technology can be great, there’s nothing like a one-on-one phone call or in-person date with a friend.

        • I fantasize about leaving Facebook, or abandoning it for awhile. Then I have a hard time getting past thoughts of missing out on the little things going on in the lives of friends and family.

          But, you are so right; if they’re important we can call and write.

          As for myself, I’m a rare poster and I have a blog that I can use for sharing, even though I rarely do. Maybe taking weekends off and then perhaps nights will be an easier way to break the addiction, for that is certainly what it is.

          • I know. I think about deactivating my account too. But the ability to be updated on many people’s lives is so… attractive.

            The months when I was off Facebook, when I just called/emailed close friends more, made me realize how impersonal most “social” networking is. Facebook isn’t a place where I (usually) share real feelings. One-on-one conversations, is.

      • meg

        You can set away messages both on email AND text. Part of the idea of that is simply to train people that you are not going to respond right away, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to respond.

      • Marina

        If it’s for more than a day I’d tell people. I freak out when people I know “disappear”, I’ve known too many people who did that and then weeks later I’d find out they were genuinely hurt or in trouble. Horrible feeling. :( Auto-away messages are awesome.

    • I think that communication varies from person to person- some of my friends, I generally stay in touch with through email, some primarily through text, some primarily through facebook. For me, texting still qualifies as direct communication with someone, but if I wanted to go just to phone calls, I’d let everyone know who usually gets in touch a different way, then turn up the ringer volume on the phone and leave somewhere central in the house, as if you had a landline.

      Most people I reaaalllly want to hear from have my phone number, and are close friends. And if someone couldn’t be bothered to call me (assuming I’ve made effort to contact them), then oh well- more time for hammock laying.

  • The technology addiction is certainly a filler for me. I’ve realized just this week that I keep waiting for someone to tell me, via loudspeaker or published schedule, that it’s “time” to do something. “Time to go workout!” “Time to write!” etc. And while I wait for that disembodied “someone,” I kill time on the internet.

    For me, the first step to unplugging is bringing back some control and some intention into my life. Instead of being bored and hopping online again, go to the gym already! Stop wondering whether it’s time for an activity and just start it. This weekend was a great start- the beautiful weather made it easy to choose outdoor activities, and to spend lazy, slow time biking, reading, and chilling out.

    And finally working full time in front of a computer for the past year has killed my attention span. I can hardly finish an email without switching screens. So focusing on the task in front of me is another step towards unplugging. After all, the more focused and efficient I can be at work, the easier I can leave it behind me.

    • Sarah, why not set reminders for yourself? That way, your calendar will be that someone who tells you that it’s time to do XYZ. The downside is that scheduling a weekend can kill spontaneity, but if you get more accomplished, is it worth it?

      • That is a good idea, and I do have my favorite yoga classes scheduled in my calendar. I do best with an idea of something to do on the weekends, even if it’s just “clean up the yard first, then do whatever.”

        Right now I’m working towards switching my internal dialogue from “Ugh, there’s nothing to do. What should I watch? When will P be home?” To “Nothing pressing at home, let’s go to the gym for a quick workout” Or “P is working late, so let’s eat early and go write down at the cafe.”

        And yes, I tell myself “Let’s” so that all my personalities come with me :-)

        • Hey, ‘let’s’ makes things sound like an invitation instead of an order. Of course you’d prefer that!

  • Laura C

    I’ve been trying to decide if I need something like this. On the pro side, there I am, checking my phone all the time and I don’t read as many books as I used to. On the con side, I read a lot of long nonfiction articles online, and the most wonderful part of my Sunday was probably getting a long email from my best friend (who lives in another country, making it expensive to talk on the phone) and taking an hour to read it and write an equally long reply, time I wouldn’t have had if I’d waited until a work day to see the email. So I think I’m still in the place where, on balance, I feel like I have a fairly healthy relationship with the internet. But it’s something I’m keeping an eye on. And I’m working on getting back to reading more books.

    • meg

      I think it’s helpful to set very very clear limits. Like, I’m going to check for that email Sunday morning, write a long reply, do nothing else, and then log off.

      (I also HATE reading long articles online, so I tend to print them.)

    • Rebecca

      I’ve started using Evernote to send long articles to my Kindle, which I don’t really count as the same as a computer, since I use it almost exclusively for reading. Bonus is the articles are actually much nicer to read (since the word wrapping is more book-like) and you can take them outside with you.

  • As someone who was living in a rural town and struggled to find friends and THEN moved onto the road with her husband and dog, the internet and the people I’ve found there have became a lifeline for me. (Incidentally, that lifeline turned into real friends that I care about. Some have hosted me in their homes, others have met me for hikes in far away places, it’s amazing.)

    Like you, Meg, I have most of the things I’ve always wanted and some I didn’t even know I did. It’s so difficult to draw the line between the life that’s her and the life that’s there online. Interestingly, travel has helped a bit. I don’t have a smart phone so my internet access is limited to when we actually STOP for internet. I’ve discovered that my internet friends are still there and that I have more time to think for myself. When we stop traveling though…I hope I’ll be able to keep this up!

  • We don’t own a tv (though really, the internet more than makes up for that. Our netflix membership gets quite a workout), and we also keep the bedroom and table “media free” zones (media = screens in our house, printed materials allowed in the bedroom, but not the table) but even so our phones have been infiltrating even those sacred spaces lately.

    I’m in. Just emailed my husband about it, and he agreed that we are unplugging when we leave work every night this week, and will stay media free all weekend.

    I’m excited! (and already twitching).

  • Class of 1980

    All so so true.

    My challenge is that our business is online. We need to print stuff at intervals and answer a phone all day, yet it doesn’t ring constantly most days. So what do we do during all that time the phone isn’t ringing?

    Surf the Internet!

    I keep saying we ought to ditch the one part of our business that keeps us bound to the screen and printer, and keep the part that only needs a phone, because we could go on day trips and still run the business via phone.

    Still haven’t convinced my biz partner though.

  • Moe

    Every weekday morning I commute by train to downtown Los Angeles and my favorite engineer will make the same announcement everytime as we leave the hillsides and enter into the LA basin he says “beautiful morning, beautiful view” and every time he says it the passengers stop looking at their phones, kindles, and newspapers to take in the scenery.

    It’s a small reminder to me to take in the world around me even if it is the same sights every morning.

    What a great challenge to unplug, I’d like to see if the husband would try it with me.

    • I think I used to have that engineer sometimes! <3

      Followed up by my favorite bus driver who'd let us off with: Have a wonderful day! Don't let nobody steal your joy today!

  • also, yes to this whole article! i *love* being unplugged – but even as someone who can accidentally not check email for a solid 2-week vacation, i find myself online in the evenings so often, even though i often don’t want to be (how’s that for an addiction). (“honey, the internet is eating your brain”)

    it’s such an ingrained part of our world, it’s hard to even remember that i don’t like having tech around all the time. like how after living together for 4 years, i just this weekend realized that having the tv on makes me uncomfortable in my own house even though i don’t watch it – the noise of it feels like a tech invasion of my space.

    i’m excited for the challenge…now to decide whether it is friendly cool-article sharing or passive aggressive to send this to the wife =)

    • LMN

      On the topic of TV noise feeling like a tech invasion of your space: with you there. I do watch TV, but when I’m not watching and my partner is, it’s impossible for me to focus on anything else over the noise. Same thing if he’s playing video games. I can’t screen it out. My partner’s solution, to keep me from repeatedly saying, “Can you please turn that down?”: wireless headphones. Sony makes great ones. It’s a nice way for one person to have their quiet space without feeling like they’re dictating what the other person can do with their down time. (Also, nice for nights when I have insomnia and watch MST3K into the wee hours without waking anyone.) I think that tools like this can help create compromises in a partnership where one person may want to be more unplugged than the other person, or where your schedules are just a little different. By using the headphones, my partner is respecting my desire for quiet space and unplugged time, even if he happens to need some plugged-in time at that moment.

      • Caroline

        It’s so interesting how we all negotiate these issues differently. I often ask my partner to take off the headphones when playing games. It makes me feel more like tech zombies if we are both sitting there so plugged into our own little worlds that we can’t hear eachother. I’d rather listen to his games and feel less disconnected. (I usually play games with the sound off unless it’s really relevant.)

        • LMN

          It is really interesting, Caroline! I can definitely see what you mean. We’ve made the choice not to use the headphones when we’re sitting on the couch together. They’re reserved for when one of us wants or needs to do something totally different (nap, phone call to the parents, etc.) while the other wants to watch TV/play games for a while. For us, it has made living in a very small apartment more comfortable–it lets our place feel a little larger, like we can have our own space to do different things when we want to.

        • that’s what my wife suggested, lmn! i can see it working both well and badly (as caroline mentioned), depending – but isn’t that always the case.

          but i do think it will help – i’m one of those who grew up with very little tv, so i have zero capacity for it to be “in the background” – if i can see or hear it, it is all i can focus on. (very similar to all of what sarahe said)

          • LMN

            I am exactly the same as you and Sarahe. I grew up without much TV, and I *cannot* tune it out. If it’s on, my attention is pulled into it, whether I want it to be or not. My partner grew up with more TV and is able to block it out. The headphones have been a really helpful tool for that reason. Best of luck figuring out your own compromise!

      • When the tv is just background noise we tend to gravitate to the news. Which can’t suck you in too deeply (most days), and the 24 hour news channels seem to rotate the same 4-5 stories all day long anyhow.

    • I know just what you mean. While I don’t often have this happen living with my partner (though I do get sucked in to watching shows I don’t even like, just because he has it on and our apt is so tiny), this phenomenon threw me totally off-kilter with my roommate in college. She became and still is my best friend, but she studies best with the TV on in the background. At that point, my TV was pretty limited at home, so it was always a feature, not a background noise. In four years, I never really did learn how to cope with having the TV on All. The. Time.

      Suffice it to say, we make much better friends than we do roommates.

  • C

    i’m totally in! I already have my phone on Do Not Disturb mode from 6pm to 6am, so I don’t have the temptation of hearing a ding in the evenings. My evenings are about spending time with my fiance one on one and taking time for me. Doing the same on the weekends as well sounds amazing. Let’s do this!

  • I wrote in my journal about this last night. Yesterday afternoon while we were waiting for the rain and while the sweet husband and the puppies were asleep, I kept feeling like I should be reading or I should be mopping the floor or working on that anniversary present that is now going on two weeks late or going on a photo walk so I can justify the cost of that new camera I want or SOMETHING. But I stayed glued to the computer. Because something might pop up and I might miss something.

    What I am missing is my life. It’s a pretty amazing one.

    So I’m in. The phone goes on Do Not Disturb Friday night when I get off work and doesn’t come back on until Monday morning when it’s time to go back in.

    • Question about Do Not Disturb mode (I have an iphone) can you still receive phone calls while it’s in that mode? I’m planning to go media-free as soon as I leave work this week, as well as all weekend, and this seems like a more elegant solution than going in and turning off all notifications, etc.

      But I have a weekly phone date with my mom, for example, and I don’t want to miss her call because I have my phone on Do Not Disturb…

      • I can set my phone to receive calls from people on my “favorites” list when I set Do Not Disturb. It means that I dont’ miss calls from my fiance, or parents, but my phone won’t ring or ding for anyone else.

        • Awesome! Thanks!

        • What Deva said. While on my anniversary trip recently, my bff was calling me frantically in the middle of the night (my phone is on DND from midnight – 8:00) because she needed help getting a flight out of Egypt. Now, her home phone, her husband’s cellphone, her cellphone, and her father-in-law’s cellphone are in my favorites. Whatever phone they were using…not so much. (it worked out for them. Even though I was asleep)

          It makes it really, really nice to be able to filter who I absolutely need to hear from and who I don’t.

          • Lynn’s point made me think of something else, too. Although in this situation we would all probably agree that it would have been nice to be able to answer that emergency call, I find it amazing what gets accomplished in spite of my not being available. It’s like “Oh, sad, the world doesn’t need me as much as I thought.”


            “Oh! The world doesn’t need me as much as I thought!”

            This realization has helped SO much as a clinical psychologist.

      • meg

        “What I am missing is my life. It’s a pretty amazing one.”

  • Sabee

    When I moved out of my parents’ house, I lived for two and a half years without a TV. For some reason, it doesn’t have the same pull on me as the internet. When I move out again, I probably won’t own one. Or at least, I won’t pay for cable. The internet, on the other hand!

    I’m over Facebook. I would delete it, if not for the messenger app. I don’t actually update it or check the news feed. It’s Tumblr that gets me. I spend so much time on that website, it’s embarrassing. And I check it compulsively, even more so than email. Pinterest, too. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have a smart phone. (I’ve only owned one of those for a year, and I can definitely see the effects of constantly available internet.)

    I’d like to unplug, but I may have to work around commitments. For instance, I just committed to writing every day. Since I’m so slow with pen and paper, I do it on my blog. And I’m about to start school in a few months. Two of my classes will be online classes, and the career I’m aiming for will have me staring at a computer screen eight to ten hours a day. And I’m not into Instagram (or Twitter) but I am planning on starting a 365 photo project in a few weeks. And digital photos = importing, editing, uploading. And then there’s texting. I don’t think I can do much more than give it up during class and work.

    I like to brag about the stuff I’m not hooked on, but the truth is I’m still a digital addict. Unplugged weekends still might be possible. Maybe. Hopefully. Let’s hope they don’t result in a Monday binge. :P

    • meg

      I said this above, but sometimes it can be about setting clear limits with yourself. Like, I totally get composing on screen (I do personal writing long hand, but actual professional composition needs to be typed, though I edit long hand). BUT. You don’t need the internet on to do that. Turn off your wifi and write in Word. Upload it to your blog later. Edit those photos with Wifi off. Set clear limits on what you’re going to do on the screen (without Wifi to pull you down the rabbit whole). And when you’re done, go do some 3D stuff.

      Most of us have a career where we are on the computer during the day, but I think that’s exactly WHY we need to unplug during other times. We’re basically voluntarily staying in the office all the time, and it’s crazy.

    • One More Sara

      Worth noting about the facebook messenger app, there is a similar app (an internet based service that allows you to text friends without using texts) called Whatsapp. It can see numbers in your contact book that also use Whatsapp. I got my friends back home to download it (free in Google Play, I think about a dollar in the App Store), and i LOVE being able to text them and send them pictures. If you use the facebook app to communicate with lots of people, this might not be an option. BUT you could maybe convince a small group to download it and get rid of facebook! huzzah!

      • Tango is a similar option to Whatsapp (which recently started charging, I think). I think I like Whatsapp a little better but they’re both useful.

      • Hypothetical Sarah

        Not sure if it’s available in the US yet, but WeChat is similar and AMAZING.

    • Rebecca

      Since you’re working on writing while fighting the great vortex of the internet, this blog post might interest you. The author of the post writes professionally, and she talks about the systems she uses to shut down distractions- both regularly and in mega-deadline mode. It was pretty interesting and she has some concrete tools that she uses (including some blocking software).

      • Sabee

        Oh my goodness! Thank you. That article is pretty awesome.

  • Hannah

    I think this is a powerful idea. My husband and I just got back from a weeklong vacation where there was no Internet and we didn’t watch the tv all week. The first day was kind of hard, but honestly, after that, it was just wonderful. I had my auto out-of-office reply turned on, and that was that. Yes, there’s a lot of work email to slog through now that we’re back, but the truth is that the world continues to spin on, whether I’m logged on or not. So I want to try this unplugged thing more often.

  • I did “The Artist’s Way” workbook last summer (highly recommended!), and for one week you’re not supposed to read anything. It’s like a reading fast, to get yourself out of other people’s words/heads and into your own. The book was written in 1992, so internet was not mentioned, but for that week I stopped reading blogs, social network sites or any emails that were not absolutely necessary for work.

    The first day it drove me crazy. I was really itching and desperate to read anything — even pathetic subway ads! But I kept myself busy with home projects, repairs, chores, tasks, anything I could do to keep myself from reading. I got so much done that week, including stuff that had been on my to-do list for a long time! It was amazing to realize how much free time I have when I can’t consume media.

    Of course, after that week, I went back to binging on blogs and Facebook again. I do see the internet as addictive, and don’t know how to moderate my use — like other addictions, it’s hard to stop once you start back up again. Though this weekend I did buy a print version of The New York Times and enjoyed leisurely reading time on my couch. It was lovely.

    • meg

      God. The print New York Times, you guys. Buy it on the weekends. It will change your LIFE. The Sunday Times takes about all of Sunday to get through.

      Back when we were super broke, I said that when we were not broke we were going to have the New York Times delivered to us every day. Now we do. That’s hands down the best luxury we’ve got going on.

      • Weekend delivery of the NYT was the first gift I gave myself after finishing graduate school and earning more of a living. I LOVE my Sundays so much that I actually get a little sad when I hold delivery for vacations. Reading the paper with coffee is so much more relaxing to me than reading online.

      • Rachel

        This is making me seriously consider swapping our Netflix subscription for a Sunday New York Times (and possibly also the New Yorker).
        I moved to a smaller city where they don’t deliver the paper until 3pm (why?!), and I really miss my Sunday morning paper.

        • meg

          The New Yorker is a must! Unlike the New York Times, magazines are super cheap to subscribe to. The New Yorker is $60/year for a WEEKLY mag. That shit is crazy. Lots of Magazines are only $20/ year. We get The New Yorker and New York Mag weekly, and I get Esquire monthly.

          Having paper subscriptions is a game changer, for sure. And SO relaxing. You want a magazine in a hammock, not a Kindle.

          • I had a New Yorker subscription for years, and would read it cover to cover. Then a lot of the down time that I used for reading it (between classes, on the bus, during mindless jobs that involved waiting around) disappeared and it started to pile up on my. I would feel guilty about the growing stack. Eventually, I had to let the subscription lapse. However: I saved almost every issue I got. Such a good magazine.

          • I’m replying to KAYJAYOH here — I agree 1000%. We had a magazine subscription and for a while, the Sunday paper. While I enjoyed sitting down and reading it all, I wouldn’t always finish. For some people that’s fine, but I am a cover-to-cover kinda gal, and eventually I found that the unread pile o’stuff ended up being more like a big To Do than an enjoyable thing. Which, I dunno, was kinda sad. I still have issues of National Geographic upstairs from a year and a half ago because they’re so interesting and I haven’t read them but I will! Someday! Wait, I could be doing it now! But I’m online!

      • Yes. It was a wonderful way to spend Sunday morning. I almost wished I had made fewer plans, so I could spend more of the day reading!

        It’s a simple, wonderful luxury.

      • ha. I’ve said the exact same thing! The last time we were not broke enough to subscribe daily we lived in a rural area where it wasn’t available. We’re moving somewhere where it IS available (only back in the broke category) and I cannot wait to have that luxury.

        • If you can buy it in a store where you live, depending on your level of broke-ness, you can get it once/month or every two weeks or so. Seriously, one Sunday NYT can take a full week (or more) to get through.

  • kayla

    Long ago, I read the advice that for productivity’s sake, you should keep work on one device (laptop/desktop, probably) and games/social media/leisure reading on another device (iPad, or whatever).

    There is good stuff here! Have one device for productive things. Have another device for all nonproductive technology usage. Store that second one in a drawer (lock box?) where you have to consciously decide to get it out. Whenever you’re done, put it back. Lock that shit up. Be done with it until next time.

    And anything you’re supposed to be doing with the nonproductive device? Take it off your phone. Temptation in your pocket? That is hard to avoid.

    Standard disclaimer applies. This advice does not fit every person, budget, or lifestyle.

    • I like that idea, and I think it could work two-fold: keep screen entertainment from becoming a default, and also keeping work at work.

    • meg


  • Kara E

    Can I add that you don’t have to make your technology Sabbath a full 24 + hours if that feels unmanageable? Even 3 hours, or dinner time, or dedicated game night sans technology will help.

    My walks/runs are always technology free, whether they’re with my husband or without, and it’s always a really good time to recharge. I do think I need to stop reading from the iPad though, since it’s always a short trip from one article to the next, to checking a blog, to… [and down the rabbit hole we go!]

  • kc

    When I started working from home, I didn’t have the budget for multiple devices, but… I set those “parental filters” to block the sites I didn’t want to use during work time. So if I drifted, I had to enter a password (possibly something like “do you really want to be doing this?”) in order to verify that it wasn’t just habit or mindless clicking. It worked surprisingly well, actually, especially in concert with a timer to demarcate boundaries.

    But multiple devices would be better. (and multiple accounts; if all your work email goes one place, and you can’t get at your personal email easily, then it’s a bit more straightforward to ignore the personal email until you have time for it)

  • When we run, it’s mostly techonolgy-free. We run with a garmin watch, because without it we pace too quickly and wear ourselves out early in a long run. We talk, sometimes, or push ourselves to our maximum.

    Over the past four weeks, we have watched as trees and bushes along our favorite paths have gotten buds, leaves, and flowers. We’ve watched the world turn green. We’ve taken it all in, and if we’d been plugged into iPods, I don’t know that we’d have done that.

  • This is kind of hard for me, because one of the things I love about the weekend is getting up, making coffee and then hanging out on my couch while the wife and I read our Google Reader list and check email and all of that. On the other hand, combine the internet with my love of sleeping late and sometimes it’s 2 or 3pm before we ask each other what we want to do today. I’ve been trying to find a balance, but it’s difficult.

    • I think compromise is totally ok in things like this. If this is a part of your weekend that you and your wife genuinely enjoy (as in, you are actively looking forward to it, not just mindless defaulting to it) than keep it! Maybe you guys could come up with a time limit? Coffee and couch-internetting for one hour–set a timer and everything–and then you still get to enjoy the thing you love without it taking over your whole day. YMMV, but I think that some tech/media/internet usage is totally fine and highly enjoyable. It becomes a problem when it veers into that mindless, ceaseless consumption. I say set up your own parameters!

  • ferrous

    Yet another well-timed APW post. I recently cut down on hours at work, so I spend more weekdays at home. And somehow, that extra time has been almost entirely filled with the internet (namely: feminist blogs, facebook, and Pinterest). It’s kind of scary, and–as much as I love the blogs–I absolutely think it’s a problem.

    I need to finish some knitting (I have one mitten done… Winter Is Coming back after all) and broach a stack of unread books, and I’ve been wanting to learn embroidery for over a year now. So I’m in, applied to weekdays when I’m not at work. I needed some kind of intervention, knowing that others are doing the same is helpful.

    • meg

      You know, a while ago we made the call that the APW mission was to help people make their real lives and real relationships better: NOT to help people forge and online community that stood in for a real life one. Interestingly, Pinterest has the same mission. They want you to find stuff to do and go do them. Facebook has the opposite mission: they want to keep you on the site forever.

      It’s one of those things that might not be obvious, but shapes the way you make small business choices.

      • I wonder if this is why I would happily ditch Facebook forever, but would be super sad to leave Pinterest.

      • kc

        I know Pinterest technically has that as their mission, but… I don’t honestly see it. Either in how people use the technology for the most part, or in how they’ve set things up (the setup *really* amplifies shallow over deep and picture-perfect over reality and the attention span of a squirrel).

        I guess I kind of wonder if that mission for Pinterest is like a makeup company having “real beauty comes from within” as a slogan… lip service, great marketing, making people feel better about themselves because they’ll do this stuff (or, more often, *have* this stuff) someday, but honestly not pursuing it (because it would actually cut into their business).

        APW is a fair bit different because the advertisers here are mostly more event-based, so you don’t *need* to keep peoples’ eyeballs coming back all day, forever, time after time, all the time, as much as possible. Also, not as large as Pinterest and hence hopefully don’t have to be pulling in as much cash. :-) It’s also more trust-based – as in, readers trust (to some degree) that recommendations are honest recommendations and that you care about your readers, so advertising works better than at a site where your eyeballs are really just a for-profit commodity and everyone involved knows that.

        • meg

          I don’t think so. The Pinterest founder (and the company) is in the SF Tech community, of course. And since they became what they are powered by the lady bloggers (SF Girl By The Bay and Oh Joy, namely), I see them at parties and conferences and such, and have an in person feel for what they’re up to. And that’s really what they’re trying to do. They’re not currently selling advertising even, they don’t need you there all day. (Of course the Facebookers are ubiquitous here too, and what that company is doing is very very different.)

          Funny enough, I have to pull in more cash than Pinterest. I’m not VC backed. But, that said, banner ads are becoming a thing of the past, when it comes to making money. The smart money is on awesome involved readers anyway, so GO GO INTERNET.

          (Side note: it’s interesting, having been really involved online since before most of the internet was monetized, to see the awesome things about the web being the very same things that are now the tools people can use to create businesses… and theoretically more awesome things. I like it. Fuck off, link bait.)

          • kc

            I had gotten a general impression (from a TED talk, maybe?) that they were really nice folks and that this was the sincere goal or at least they’re good at faking it… but seriously, it doesn’t seem like it’s *working* that way for 99% of people or like it really *can* work like that if it wants to make a profit (and VCs prefer things to make a profit or be sold). (the Pinterest copyright issues are another kettle of fish entirely) I guess, Pinterest seems a bit like marketing golf carts to solve obesity – yes, it gets some people out on the golf course instead of home, but the larger audience is going to be people who were already golfing but might have otherwise walked and will instead take a cart. (I’m very much not anti-Pinterest [or anti-golf-cart, for that matter]; just sometimes stated goals and the way the product will naturally push seem to be at odds)

            I hadn’t thought about them still riding on VC. I totally believe that the cash situation at APW is different due to a lack of venture capital. And I also don’t envy you the pull of needing to pay employees and, y’know, earn a living yourself vs. doing The Best Thing For Readers And Society, as I’m sure those are sometimes at odds (I don’t know if De Beers has ever called up offering cash for Meg-authored posts that say “wait, hang on, never mind on that ‘do what is right for you’ stuff, you – yes you, all of you – need a really big diamond or you’re not loved enough!”, but… I could see it being a tough two seconds before the turn-down if the pile-o’-cash offered was large enough and if you were running short for payroll?). :-)

            My business is freelance tech contracting work, wherein the goal is to do the best work for them possible and work myself out of a job so thoroughly that I then get referred to new and interesting projects, where I repeat the cycle, which worked beautifully (bonus: learn new technology All The Time!).

            But most internet-based companies can’t exist sustainably like that – they need to sell more or get more eyeballs or at least retain their subscribers, not redirect their users to Real Life so well and so completely that people aren’t visiting their site anymore, even on phones…

            (and yes, Facebook is a totally different critter. Eeew is all I can say to Facebook. I know there are some nice people working there, but… when the users *are* the product, you’ve got some serious conflict of interest going on there.)

            (and with your last parenthetical and also having been online for… a while…, *really* curious as to what you’re thinking of!)

          • kc

            (also: how does one actually build a business around awesome involved readers? I agree that actual useful/engaging content is the way to go, ethically. But the money to keep the lights on has to come from somewhere, and the traditional forms have been subscription/donation (give a cheer for distributed patronage of the arts! but which many people can’t/won’t afford, especially in this interesting age of “if it’s on the internet, it’s free”) and advertising – and now there’s the additional model of selling data from your users so that others can make money off of them in creative-but-not-always-ethical ways. So I’m curious as to whether additional ways have been found.)

      • ferrous

        This surprises me somewhat (that Pinterest is meant to get you off the internet), but even though that hasn’t been my practical experience I can see how that would be the intent. It’s nice to hear that people are out there trying to be a tool and not a lifestyle (looking at you, FB).

        Also, to be fair to myself, I am both wedding planning and in the process of buying a house. So I am actually Pinning with purpose. Still, today was not so successful for staying off the computer… This is going to be interesting.

  • YES! Started doing this last month, when a series of super busy weeks, and a bunch of travel coming up seemed overwhelming. I started with a weekend of unplugging the router and setting my phone to Airplane mode, and it was incredible. Funny how actually cooking is way more fun than looking up recipes, and actually gardening is way more fun than reading about it. Yesterday I did my first one – day version, which wasn’t as successful, but still less plugged in than I otherwise am. The hubs and I are trying to do Sundays as unplugged days all summer, we’ll see how it goes. Both of us struggle with this, but man, it’s totally worth it.

  • I’m in! I hope I can do it, but it is nice to imagine a group of other folks who get it trying to do the same thing. I can be very patient and persistent with some things, and with others, like the Internet, I just stumble. So after posting this I’m off for the rest of the day (my weekend is Sunday and Monday). I don’t have any ties to Pinterest; I’m more of a blog reader. So I will make one recipe or craft from a blog. I really have so many things right here at home that I already love doing, that don’t get done enough: gardening, knitting, cooking, reading, painting and going for walks. Good luck to everyone riding the tech-free wagon!

  • I’m in!

    Since my husband and I got back from a long vacation, we’ve stopped working on the weekends, and I’ve (mostly) just kept that laptop packed away all weekend. My email is on my phone though, so I haven’t been fully disengaged from work – but it’s great to get in on Monday morning and see all the calendar reminders from the weekend of fun things we did. This is the next step though; I definitely over-browse on my blackberry and my kindle – in bed, too, and I hate that I do it but I keep doing it anyway! I’m definitely signing up for this, Meg!

  • Meg, as always a beautiful piece. Please never stop writing. I love reading your pieces and as usual, they have perfect timing in my life.

  • Amy March

    What I like most about this idea is how intentionally it fits into your life. My job explicitly requires me to monitor email on weekends, so I can’t do a total unplug. But what I’ve been working on lately is letting myself be bored- 45 minute commute, yes I’ll be reading a book. 5 minute wait in line? I probably don’t actually need to pull my phone out. It’s hard, but it feels good for me.

    • Cleo

      “what I’ve been working on lately is letting myself be bored”

      so important! I will purposely run a 5 minute errand (e.g. picking up lunch from a place around the corner) and not take my phone. It’s both unsettling and refreshing to let my mind wander

  • I love this post for many reasons, but one that stands out is the intentional-ness behind it. We don’t have to be unplugged all the time. We can appreciate what the internet has to offer. For me the trouble comes when the quick check becomes an unintended super long episode. That is, my original intent turns into something totally unintentional like missing important things in my real life or sitting with terrible posture hunched over on the couch because I accidentally got sucked in for 90 minutes.

    This post helps me remember how important intent is for the internet, for TV watching (which we do practice because we don’t have cable), and for phone use. At first, like a lot of things, it takes some retraining because our busy minds have been used to buzzing all the time. But then, maybe it becomes more natural and we start to appreciate the internet as a tool for connecting and learning and creativity, but not as a place for living.

    • I agree! You nailed it for me: “we start to appreciate the internet as a tool for connecting and learning and creativity, but not as a place for living.”

      I mean, APW is an example in and of itself of how the internet can bring more knowledge and richness to your life. But multiple tabs and high-speed processing have made multi-tasking and short attention spans a way of life.

      Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve really tried to resolve to be more intentional with my time. Do I really want to watch so much TV, or do I just want to be close to my partner? I can separate the two, and we could talk or read together. Is there really anything new on the internet, or am I just being lazy about finding a way to entertain myself?

      • Heather G

        YES! Exactly! What is the intention behind what I’m doing? And more importantly, what am I missing out on?

        • My fave is “Is this really what I want my life to look like?” Because sometimes, yes, snugglefest in front of TV all day. Most of the time, no- I want activity and culture and adventure.

  • DEAL. I’m so in. I need to think about how to work this best to fit our lifestyle, since I usually need to do some research on Sundays for a writing gig that has a Monday morning deadline. Maybe Friday night to Sunday afternoon would work. (Or, you know, I could just get my sh*t together and do it on Friday instead, but let’s not run before we can walk here.)

  • DrSmooch

    I have to be in bc I swear you are in my head! Just last night my dad asked how much we’re enjoying the hammock I’ve been dreaming about for 2 years, and I was ashamed to say I hadn’t laid in it for more than a test drive! The only challenge will be getting the new husband to agree to stay off his fantasy baseball app to comply. Then again, how can he resist swaying in the GA sun next to me in our hammock, books in hand, while our little furbaby runs around chasing squirrels?

  • I love this idea… the problem I run into is that I am one of those people with a day job while I work towards pursuing a writing career in my “spare” time. In general, screenwriting requires a computer. I could technically do it longhand, but it would be much slower going so it would eat up way more of my time and get less done. I keep struggling to come up with a balance.

    For me, the Internet seems to be the real problem. That’s what seriously sucks my time, destroys my productivity, and puts my brain in a weird place. I actually already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, because I found I was literally checking it any time I had a spare couple of seconds… and I felt like that was a little crazy and unnecessary. So, now, I only let myself check Facebook via computer… although I still feel like the internet (and social media in particular) eats up way too much of my time.

    Maybe I could cut myself off from the Internet on the evenings and weekends, but allow myself to use my word processor. Or have one day/evening where I have to write longhand instead just to readjust my brain. Hmmmmm…

  • While I’m sure I’ll have a more meaty comment after reading this whole post, I had to stop for a quick note first: the first line of this post just affirms why I love APW. That is all for now. :)

  • Yes!
    We are definitely not hyper-plugged in and I actually get really tired of it. But I have been guilty of pinning without doing BIG time.
    I’m thinking of playing around with making natural products (lotions, sunscreens, soaps)…with the intent of filling wedding welcome bags, mind you…and this has really expanded into some other ideas.

    Only problem is I have to start doing it. Hive mind!

  • Laurel

    I definitely need to unplug from the internet on weekends, and I fully sign up for that unplugging.

    I’m going to keep the tv plugged in though (save for the weird thing it’s been doing where you literally have to unplug it or it turns itself back on). I don’t know the last time I watched a tv show or movie without my laptop or iphone in my lap. Just taking the time to really focus on a good movie will be good for my soul.

  • Awesome! I’m in. And I thank you for the smart conversation that I was craving this morning.

    I turned off the ding! email notification awhile ago on my computer and it made a big difference.

    May, no computer or internet on weekends for me. I may write an email rule in there… have to think about that. (something like it is okay to email Mom back on Sunday mornings).

    Thank you for such great posts!

  • I love this idea and while it’s not that hard for me to unplug, I just hope I can convince my husband to do the same. I grow tired of constantly hearing his phone buzz or beep or level up depending on what kind of notification he’s receiving. It would be nice if we could just stay focused on our family and not look at a screen for an entire weekend. I’m going to see if he’s up for the challenge!

  • Back in January, my friends & I had a Pinterest party where each of us crafted a project we had pinned. I made a Valentine’s Day card that I’d pinned over a year ago. It was so much fun! We haven’t done it since :-( Hopefully, we can get the pinning party started again.

    As for unplugging, I’m in! Good luck everyone!!

    • Hannah

      My friends and I do this too! We call it “crafternoon”. So fun! It’s been awhile since we’ve done one either..

  • I spent a week (might have been two) completely avoiding all social internet sites once. It was amazing how productive I was.

    And I love it when I manage to turn the computer off at dinner time. I have a more relaxing evening, I get to bed sooner, I sleep better, and I have time to read or knit.

    I need to get better at doing both of those things again.

  • Rose in SA

    Meg – is this why Saturday Links disappeared suddenly? I miss it

    • meg

      No, though that’s part of it, I suppose. Mostly it was just a good feature on a bad day. It was turning into a ton of work for me to create, and then it was sort of lost to the wind on Saturday (plus, I do NOT need comments to moderate on the weekend). We’re working on finding a new home for it.

  • Meghan

    This is an issue my fiance and I have been discussing a lot lately, and it actually resulted in us going Seriously Unplugged. As in, we have cancelled our cable AND internet services at home.

    That’s right. No TV, no WiFi!

    It seems a little crazy, since we are planning a wedding right now – but we think we’ve got all our needs covered. If I need to do research for my writing, I’ll need to make a library date or *gasp* check out real books. If we want to make a certain recipe, we’ll need to print it at work or the library or work from a physical book. Email, Facebook, our fave blogs etc. will be limited to break times at work OR we’ll have to use our phones, which are terribly tedious for any web surfing (thus limiting our time by frustrating the hell out of us). If we need to look up something in an emergency we can still do it (user’s manual for the smoke/carbon monoxide detector when it malfunctions at 4 in the morning, strange symptoms the cat is exhibiting, etc.) but we won’t be able to while away hours on the internet like we used to.

    This post has given me something to think about in terms of a new way to keep the tech from taking over – adjusting the notifications on our phones and setting up Do Not Disturb! I’m going to experiment with this and see how taking away FB and email notifications changes my use of my phone. It might be frustrating for my friends and family when I’m not as immediately available as I used to be, but I think it’ll add weight and value to my communications with them – I mean, you’re less likely to have useless, poorly thought-out or overly emotional communications if you have to wait to send them, right? I think so.

    Thanks for the food for thought, APW!

  • never.the.same

    If you (have a Mac and) want to get work done on your computer (photo editing, writing, whatever) the single best thing you can do is spend $10 on Freedom.

  • I like the idea of weekend free of Internet. I’m going to try that!

  • Stephanie

    Do people pin without actually doing the things they pin? Interesting…seems pointless to me! I actually use my Pinterest to plan parties, sort recipes, and keep my birthday/Christmas wish list!! Sure, there’s stuff for “someday,” but I think it’s okay to pin stuff for your future house, when buying the house is a good 10 years off. ;)

    And actually, although I have an iPhone, I have no problem disconnecting. I ignore my emails as long as possible. I forget to call or text people back. I go on Facebook maybe once a day or so… it’s too boring. I’d rather read a book…on my iPhone. ;)

  • I’m sitting in Sebastopol right now at my parent’s spread. We’re here for 5 days, sadly for the funeral of a dear family friend.

    I’m in the middle of a grueling project that has had me so strung out and overly internetted for the last 3 months and will continue to do so until the end of May. I haven’t gone offline for this time (obviously) but being here has been a bit of calm and respite in the middle of the storm of life.

    There’s been a lot of visiting, eating, crying, laughing, wondering what the f•ck it’s all about (the death was by suicide and the person was young), hugging, talking and quiet. A memorial service really reminds you that not everything is to be tweeted or instagrammed. It was the first event I’ve been to in a long time where people were not fiddling with their phones and actually talking and ‘visiting’ with each other.

    In some of the in between moments I’ve started thinking about how this is real and all the other stuff is noise. Not all of it, but much of it.

    I won’t be able to unplug on the weekends until June, and I might only be able to do it on Sundays because I’m such an addict, but I am so with you on this. Beautifully said.

  • Sara

    My parents always had a “no screens in the bedroom or at meal time” policy that I’ve carried on into my own life. I am very easily distracted by tv, computers, and my phone that I need to put some sort of boundaries into my contact with them. When I got my smart phone, I was CONSTANTLY on it checking email, facebook etc. I have since removed the notifications and some of the social media apps, and the ones I do keep, I don’t put on the main screen to make it harder on myself.
    The biggest thing that changed my relationship with electronics though is when I killed my laptop. I melted some graphic chip inside it somehow (I don’t know much about computers but the repair guy was impressed/confused at how I managed to do it), and it was the third laptop I had killed in my lifetime. So I decided to go to a all-in-one desktop with an external hard drive since it was cheaper and harder to kill. I now spend so much less time on my computer – I don’t carry it from room to room, or use it while watching tv, and sometimes don’t even bother turning it on during the week. My laptop was basically an extension of me – I brought it on vacation or to my parents all the time. Now when I leave home, I have my phone to check email and that’s basically it.

    Anyway, I’m all for unplugging!

  • One of the blessings of having finished grad school is that I am ABLE to unplug for the weekend if I so choose — now I’m working on picture-taking. IE, just enjoying moments and not feeling the urge to document them all. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting better at it.

  • Not Sarah

    I have the rule around no computer in the bedroom, but I think I need to also start turning off wi-fi on my phone in the bedroom.

    I keep data turned off on my phone at all times, which is a huge help when I’m out. If I’m out with friends, I should be present. I don’t need to be checking my email while I’m at a bar or a concert! I also don’t really need to get emails while I’m walking from home to work – they’ll appear once I’m there.

    And I don’t get my work email on my phone. Not at all. Sometimes I do while traveling for work, but when I’m in Seattle, nope.

    Oh and I have no Facebook on my phone. The app was terrible anyways. And the only vocal notification is for calls/texts (and recently, gtalk IMs), but not for email. Priority Inbox in Gmail is key – I only even get the notification icon for “important” emails, not all of them.

    • I didn’t even know Priority Inbox was a thing! You mean I don’t need to get a notification every time Old Navy is having a sale, but maybe just when my husband emails me?!

      I love Team Practical. You guys improve my life.

      • Not Sarah

        I have an even better suggestion for you!!

        Set up a filter for all your Old Navy sale and the like emails and then you have to go hunting for them on your computer too.

        1) Click on the arrow next to the reply one.
        2) Filter messages like this.
        3) Create filter with this search >>. Check all of:
        a) Skip the Inbox (Archive it)
        b) Apply the label (create a new one like sales)
        c) Never mark it as important

        Bam! Your life is now way less notification-y and a gazillion times better. I’ve done similar things for everything from bank statements to online shopping order confirmations to stuff I can’t seem to unsubscribe from (it auto deletes) to bill notifications. Then, I just check up on that label once a week.

        I get APW notifications as important though ;)

  • I didn’t even get to your challenge before making my own commitment (though it is smaller than unplugging every weekend.) We are good about having dinner together at the table with no distractions pretty much every night we eat at home. But after dinner, the computers are back on. I don’t have a job here, so I tend to stay up much later than Raj, who gets up around 5am. Most of that time I spend on the internet. Last night, I started reading your post (it was around 10pm Okinawa time) while Raj went upstairs to go to bed. And you really made me think about the choice I was making. So halfway through reading, I closed the computer and went upstairs to get into bed with my real life dream come true. In a few months, he’ll deploy and I’ll stay up far too late killing time on the internet to put off getting into the sad empty bed. But until then, I’m committing to unplug in time to go to bed with him every night until he leaves. Who needs dopamine when there’s oxytocin to be had? (This is not meant to sound like a sexy time related promise. I really just mean going to bed together, though increased sexy time may be a bonus side effect. Mostly I’m motivated by wanting to go to sleep with him spooning me instead of finding him already asleep in the middle of the bed.)

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  • I started unplugging every Shabbat. So once the candles are lit, no internet/phone/TV. We have a box we put all our devices into on Friday night (so iphone, ipad, laptop, etc) and put the box away. We have one cell phone that’s on do not disturb except if someone calls us twice- then we know it’s an emergency. But we let our family and friends know basically by them not being able to get in touch with us. With my photography clients, I have an auto-responder that states I’m not checking electronic devices till sundown on Saturday….and clients LOVE that! They fully support it. So you can unplug and work for yourself (a la Meg).

    Besides honoring Shabbat, I have no email notification/twitter/Facebook etc. all week. It’s just too much. I get into that horrible loop of checking.

  • We do something similar at several points during the year. During lent this year, I gave up Twitter and my blog reader. Next year, I might try all social media. We also don’t use our phones or internet while on vacation – mainly because it’s international or national parks where those things don’t work. And it’s fabulous. Also a few blogs I know run Pinterest challenges that have been a ton of fun wherein you choose one of your pins and make it happen! Fun.

    I think about this in terms of how I want to raise kids eventually. We had an old 13″ TV growing up with bunny ears. There wasn’t a lot to watch and we probably watched more hours of baseball than anything else. I value the time I spent playing outside, learning and reading. I want the same for my kids. Not sure how I feel about giving tots iPads … but I hope that I have enough control over technology in my life to set a healthy example.

  • Gina

    I’m in! This made me think of how refreshed I feel after a weekend backpacking. Of course it’s because of nature and physical exhaustion, but I really do think a big part of it is not touching my phone or the internet for a couple days, too. It’s so important to give your mind time to appreciate your surroundings, daydream, and appreciate the sensory experiences of life.

  • Oddly, I’m reading this after starting week 3 of a year-long challenge to give up TV. We’re easing the transition with DVDs in the first few weeks but it’s really wonderfully liberating. Although, hard to explain to people without getting funny looks.

  • CG

    Are you referencing 10 Thing I Hate About You? Because if so, awesome!

  • Hannah

    Oooh I love this idea! I’m definitely in (although it scares me!)

    I am without a doubt technology addicted, and I do think it’s made my brain jumpy. I can’t focus on a single task for more than 1 minute…even while reading this fairly short blog post I had other thoughts running through my mind, “are the pictures from bridal fashion week up yet?” “anything new on pinterest? (in the last 15 seconds…)” “oh hey, you should check you bank balance” etc etc. I feel scattered and cloudy at the same time. I miss my old brain that could sit down and think!

    So I’m in, although I think my version will have to be internet/social media free weekends. Quality time watching TV with the fiance is one of my favorite weekend rituals! Computer games with our friends are okay too, because it’s the primary way I get to talk to them these days. But no endless blog surfing! No pinterest! No instgram! (I’m scared already…)

    • Hannah

      Had to add this. Have you seen the episode of Parks and Rec where Tom is addicted to technology? I was watching this with my parents and they kept saying things like “omg, he is so pathetic!” Meanwhile I was thinking “he is exactly like me!”

      When your life looks anything like a sitcom it’s time to reevaluate things, haha.

      “Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. Instagram.”

  • I’m SO in for unplugged time. We’re moving this week, and I put my computer in a bag since my desk is packed up, and I’m trying not to sign on at all in the evenings (at least until the move is done). I also took the Facebook app off of my phone, and that’s made a huge difference. Ever since I got an iPhone last fall, I’ve felt that I’ve become too obsessed with checking it all the time, and I’m worried about what that’s going to look like in a few years.

    I made a pinboard (because technology does have its merits…) called “Unplugged Summer” that has a bunch of projects I’ve been wanting to try. I’m going to learn needlepoint and make jam (I know how to make jam, I just haven’t done it in a while). Our new apartment has 3 bedrooms (unheard of in NYC! Yay Astoria!), so I’m going to have my own office/craft room. I’m planning on using it.

  • I’m going to certainly try this out! It’s a daily struggle but so worth it! I just posted about this challenge and my willingness to take it; thanks for the inspiration!

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  • This has been on my mind more and more lately. As a first tiny personal step, I turned off notifications on my phone this weekend – totally liberating.

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