The following is written in response to an article out of The Verge – where one of the journalists employed there took a one-year absence from being connected to the internet – a rigorous absence, absconding from any digital connection to the outside world, after being “burnt out”, feeling overwhelmed by the constant pings of information to his mind and soul. He describes the experiences made and the wisdom gained, or not gained, respectively, in an essay recently published in his employers magazine. Read the full article here.
Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for what you have accomplished. For someone as affiliated to the internet as you seem to have been, it must have taken quite a piece of discipline to go offline and stay offline for as long as you did. Secondly, I appreciate that someone took up the task: doing a socio-psychological field study on oneself that I think will be valuable to a lot of people . What you have done I have often wondered about – and now I can lean on your experiences and be as lazy as not to have to take up the challenge myself.
Also, I appreciate the somewhat dramatic feature of your past doing. Instead of trying to cut down to a degree, or successively dwindle your internet activity, you made it all or nothing. Probably, the clear cut makes the whole thing more interesting and exploitable from a writers perspective, but in terms of the subject, I think it is the wrong approach.
If you think that now I will offer up some deep piece of wisdom, playing on the human soul and its aptitude to adapt to the era of global connectivity, I will have to dissapoint you.
There just one simple, plain, seemingly trivial thing you may want to consider: get rid of your smartphone.
As you say, the internet is not to blame for your trouble. It seems like there is no easy solution, since being connected or not, the same problems seem to emerge anyway. Usually, I would applaud the non-monotonic reasoning that you take away from your self-test: there’s no easy cure, there’s always just you and the responsibilities of caring about yourself, and the multi-colored decision making that comes with it regarding the various choices in daily life, of how and when and how long or if at all – using the internet.
This time, however, we can, and we should resort to monocausal reasoning. Being connected all the time may be responsibles for many troubles you have experienced. At least, it was certainly the reason for mine, which were quite well comparable to the ones you described.
By being able to connect to the internet all the time, which is kind of the purpose of a smartphone, one’s simply overcharging one’s life with connectivity, exchange of information and contact to other people.
I don’t need to explain any further, I believe. And I don’t need to cite any more causal chains than the above. That’s it, plain and simple. You don’t even have to work up the disciplin to being not connected for a while – just get rid of your smartphone. When you reason to go online, take out your laptop, sit down at your PC, get out your tablet. A laptop you can close, and it doesn’t ring when a new e-mail comes in. A PC you can simply get up and walk away from. Even for a tablet it is unlikely that you carry it with you all the time.
But with a smartphone, it is likely you have it turned on every waking minute, and carry it with you everywhere you go. All the nice little apps on it are designed to suck you in, make you focus on them. All the rings and updates cry out for your attention.
Kill them all by giving away the device. It helped me – and without disregarding the discrepancy from another one’s personality, likes, and habits to mine, i.e. with the feel that what I am describing is a general trait of human nature – I think it will help you.