Unplugged

 

I’ve become increasingly aware over the past year just how incredibly plugged in I am. It was only 2009 I had bought my first smart phone that I still have today. An IPhone 3GS. Last year I bought an IPAD2. These devices along with a variety of social networks, email, txt, voice and IM combine together to form a giant communication juggernaut. All of which greatly appeal to my OCD. I compulsively checkin to every location I can with foursquare, track my entertainment consumption with GetGlue and frequently update friends and family with inane details of my day to day life via Facebook and Twitter. Also, I use a variety of apps to track diet and exercise. I am a data porn addict.

 

All of this is a real change for me from just a few years ago.

 

12 years ago cell phones were just becoming omnipresent in our culture. I had refused to get one. Thinking they were annoying, why do I need a cell phone? If I’m out with my friends I don’t need any other distractions? If anyone needs to get a hold of me they can leave a message for me at home on my land line. (I don’t even have a land line now)By 2003 I was now a senior resource at the help desk. We had a high turnover and there were many new faces coming through every day. All junior entry level and cheap. All needing training. In addition to helping train the noobs I still had my own job to do.  Between email, phone and people walking up to my desk, I didn’t need another way for people to interrupt me. Then they wanted me to start using IM. I resisted. What happened to that guy who was trying to have work-life balance? Back then you didn’t have to be a genius to see that all this technology could be a liability as much as a benefit if not managed properly. Now in 2012 I have MS Lync on IPhone and Ipad. I am very reachable. Always available and most certainly stressed. I have significantly less hair than I did 12 years ago. Most likely genetics, but I like to blame work and Tamara.

 

I like where I work but sometimes they have an issue respecting boundaries.

It was August 2011 and it had been a very busy year and there was no sign of slowing down. I had two weeks of vacation and two weeks of TOIL time in the bank. It was decided to request the month of December off for a much-needed break. I had no plans to go anywhere. It was just me at home with Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Batman Arkham City. During this time off I had a real issue disconnecting from work and could not resist checking my work email. It’s a good thing I did, the disk on one of the systems I monitor filled up and was dangerously close to shutting the system down. In addition, my main client was experiencing a major meltdown that resulted in a few phone calls to clarify some things.  I had nothing but confidence in Brendan and Bryce to resolve my client’s issues, which they did very well.  Despite making efforts to ensure Brendan was prepared by updating some documentation and coming in on my first day off vacation to get them up to speed, I still had management calling me to make sure I would be in town until the issue was resolved. Would have sucked if I was out on the ski hill enjoying myself and they couldn’t get a hold of me. Not that I could have helped anyway. Compared to Brendan I am borderline retarded.

 

I should recognize that approaching this vacation my management made no special requests of me. It was the first time in two years I had not been asked to be reachable or bring a laptop with me. That was appreciated, but to ensure neither my mgmt. or myself would be tempted to contact me or check email I decided to unplug completely. My goals for this vacation were simple. Hang out on the beach and read a few books. My Ipad is heavily leveraged as an e-reader of both books and comics. There were a few books on my shelf that had been given to me as gifts that I had been meaning to read for a while. This is analog. I would be banishing myself to a digital black hole where 1’s and 0’s could not escape.

No Ipad, IPhone or internets. No social networks, games or podcasts. Total blackout.

 

The first thing I noticed at the airport waiting to get on the plane was how I kept meaning to reach for my phone to check something, then realized I didn’t have it. It was reflex. I had become accustomed to using my devices to distract and entertain whenever boredom struck. When we arrived I became accustomed to the fact that I had no device and would take checkpoints throughout the first few days of what I felt I should be doing. Foursquare checkin on Kaanaplai beach? I wonder if there is a mayor yet? Quick easy Instagram photos to quickly post and instill jealousy of all our friends? I had instantly decompressed on this trip and quickly entered vacation mode much quicker than if I had some technological attachment to home and work. I was more present without the constant digital static.

The other benefit was I didn’t have to be concerned about any extra charges that may be incurred from using my cell in the United States. One time in SFO a few years ago we had been forced to use google maps and GPS on Tamara’s cell when we were lost. And another day Tamara had thought she was connected to Wi-Fi while waiting for a plane coming home. We came home to a $300 plus cell phone bill. Anyway, I will never take another vacation again with my devices.  Technology puts up walls in our life. It’s a tether to something or someone else that is not there with us at that current moment. That can be a great help, but many times we really don’t need the interruption. This interruption has become expectation and habit. I would encourage everyone to try this. You don’t have to be on a tropical island. You just have to be stressed and a little fed up.

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