Left without my own Devices

25 Mar

So if you follow me on Facebook, you know that this weekend, I participated in the Unplugging Day – this is a day, promoted by a website, ShabbatManifesto.org, a Jewish site, that promotes the ideas of celebrating shabbat given the speed of our modern world by “unplugging” – stepping away from the devices, the connections and computers for 24 hours.  I like it.

I had been thinking about it a lot lately – the political noise on Facebook has ratcheted up to a fine screech, and well, of course I’ve contributed to it, and it seems like more and more and more, everywhere you go, people have their noses in their phones, their iPads, etc. etc.  Yes, I contribute to that all the time too.  I read about this on Friday morning and decided I’d do it.   And, I decided to go whole hog – no laptop, no phone, no iPad.  I reserved the right to read books on the Kindle app on my iPad but that’s it, and went so far as to shut off the WiFi function on it in case I decided to read.   The phone went on my clock radio starting at 5:00 PM Friday (I have a docking clock radio), the iPad went on its charger and the laptop was shut off and put on its charger.
Friday evening, we had dinner with friends Leslie and Mike, Ira and Jill and Bill.  I had posted that I was doing this on my Facebook wall, and both Leslie and Bill immediately replied that they were going to frisk me when they arrived at our house for our pre-dinner cocktail hour.  And Leslie did!  And she didn’t find a phone on me – surprises of surprise.  Going to the restaurant was pretty sweet without the phone in the pocket – and I was stunned by how often and how widespread it was of folks looking at, fiddling with their phones in the restaurant.  Every table, pretty much all the time had at least one person with a device up and open, whether they were looking at something online, checking a date, showing pics around, etc.

I do have to admit to using Leslie’s phone briefly during the evening – we were talking about the resort Robin and I are going to this summer for my birthday celebration, and I showed her pictures from our previous trip, which are hosted on Fotki.com.  But only briefly – and Leslie wanted to blackmail me with the photo.  She did not, thankfully!

Saturday morning, I got up and left both devices on the chargers. This was going to be a bigger challenge.  I’m an early riser and my normal weekend routine is to have my phone, my iPad, my newspaper, and often, my laptop, all arrayed around me in my big easy chair while I enjoy coffee, read the paper, read other media online on my iPad, and post or blog using my laptop.  Robin jokes when she sees me like that that “I’m hanging out with all my friends.”   So, instead, I cleaned the kitchen, folded and ran laundry, cooked up a bunch of bacon for the family breakfast when they all woke up, went out and picked up  bagels and took the dog for a walk around the block.  All before 9:30 AM!  As the day got rolling, I got more busy and ran errands, did projects, etc.  All in all, a productive Saturday.   Didn’t touch the gizmos at all.

Officially, my “embargo” was over at sundown on Saturday, but I decided to extend the Facebook break until Sunday morning (this morning).  I spent about 20 minutes reading FB posts and finding it all to be the usual pointless noise, and gave up – I made one status update and one political post, and that was that.  I had a bunch of work to do in prep for my business trip today, got that done, and then the only real device time I spent was a bit of back and forth on two FB topics, and I finished a book on my iPad.

So, will I do this again?  Absolutely – in fact, I think I’m going to try to do it every Shabbat as much as I can.  At the very least, being “unplugged” from the computer and iPad forces me away from Facebook for 24 hours, and that’s good.  While my business is very much focused on social media, and therefore, I’m on FB all the time for business anyway, it is a welcome break.  Honestly, it forced me to evaluate some of the things I participate in on there and well, it will likely result in my culling my friend list quite a bit or at least doing a lot of unsubscribing.

Now, I can see the value of keeping my cell phone around – there were a few moments on Saturday when I was out running around where it would have been convenient to have my phone – I think if I repeat that, I’ll maybe bring the phone in the car, and instead of leaving it in the bedroom on the charger, will instead have it in the kitchen or family room, playing music – I did miss a few key text messages that would have been timely to see.

But moreover, it allowed me to actually have a little bit of a Shabbat-like focus on life without all the noise.  Shabbat is a time for inward reflection not outward broadcasting, for building the soul versus building the career and for studying Torah and taking a spirtual journey, rather than other activities.  In other words, it felt good to be a bit more Orthodox, a bit more of a Luddite – and park the gizmos for a day.

Last summer, when we went to Cancun on our vacation, the phone stayed locked in the safe, all day, every day.  We took them out once daily to call home, and I did check the weather on mine a few times, but other than that, I was disconnected.  And it was wonderful.  Yesterday felt like a miniature version of that.

So, give it a try.  I triple dog dare ya.

As you were,

Stew

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