When I lived in Oberlin, Ohio, I owned a high-backed, wing chair that my mom had upholstered in a blue check for me. Beside it, I had one of those tray tables that I’m always trying to store so that I can actually get them out when need be. On that table, I set a small lamp, and then I had a stack of books – a journal, a book on writing, my Bible, and some book on faith.
Every single morning during the week, I got up, made coffee, and went to that chair to read and journal, pray and think. This ritual took me about 45 minutes every day, and I never missed it – getting up early enough to spend this time each morning.
I still remember the sense of peace I had in that ritual.
Now, I get up and while the coffee perks, I scroll through my screen. When I get to my desk, I have email to clear out and notifications on Facebook to peruse. My ritual, now, involves quick bits of information and responses.
I don’t appreciate this ritual as much; in fact, I don’t like it at all. It’s too quick, too shallow, too much taking in and not enough digesting. Too much “doing” and not enough “being.”
Last year, Neil Gaiman took a sabbatical from social media, and I have considered doing the same. Gaiman said “the problem isn’t the amount of time spent using social media; it’s how it spreads into every cranny of our existence.” And my oh my, do I know that feeling?
When I’m tired, I turn to my phone. When I have a few minutes of downtime, I flip open the computer. When I have a question, want a joke, want to chat, I go to technology. I’m fairly certain this isn’t healthy, and I’m also fairly certain we don’t yet know how unhealthy because all of this is so new.
This constant state of being tapped in is making me tired and agitated. If I’m not checking, I feel like I’m missing out – but not missing out on a friend’s smile or the news of my neighbor’s engagement to his sweetie at 70. No, I’m just missing out on BuzzFeed lists and images of Brian Williams in historical scenes. Why do I even care?
Gaiman is back on Twitter (and he’s a good person to follow – wise, witty, informed), and I don’t feel like I can really step away – after all, I don’t have Gaiman’s fame, and I do appreciate having food to eat. But still, I need to make some choices, to take some space, to allow some air to come into my day instead of pixels.
I don’t yet know what my choice will be. Will I go back to those mornings of readings and trust that everything else will wait a bit? (Oh, that word “trust” – that’s the hard part, right?) Or will I turn off my phone for much of the day? Will I choose to declare certain hours “data-free?”
I’m going to sit with this one a while, to fight my culture-fed impulse to decide quickly, and come to a plan that seems right and wise, at least for now. I have a feeling my choice will involve some time in the recliner each morning.
One thing is for sure – I will be off-line more than I am on. I just have to figure out how to make that happen.
How do you work with online in your day? Do you have specific online and offline hours? Do you turn off data on your smartphone, or not have a smartphone at all? I’m not necessarily looking for advice here – to be frank – but I’d love to hear what you do.