As a great fan of and subscriber to Adbusters magazine, I’ve become increasingly aware of toll the digital age takes on us in many ways. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my computer like I love my feet, but that amount of time I spend sitting in front of it, or my work laptop, or my iPhone, or the television, is bordering on obscene. There was a great article in the spoof-newspaper The Onion a couple of weeks ago titled, “Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles“. Even though the article is joke as far as the “science” behind it goes, it made me think about the amount of my life spent “staring at glowing rectangles”.
Every year, Adbusters promotes a “Digital Detox Week” (also called “Mental Detox Week”) where they challenge all of us in the digital age to unplug for one week. This past year, Digital Detox Week was April 20-25. At the time, I was unwilling, or unable to take a week away from the my iPhone and the television, and with my job, I didn’t think there was any way to get away from my computer any more than in the evenings. So, I’m making this week, July 19-25, 2009, my own personal Digital Detox Week.
I’ve got one big plus in my favor- I’ll be spending the week at Tybee Island, GA with my family, so I don’t have to worry about normal work duties. Maybe this is kind of cheating the purpose of Adbusters’ week, but its the only way I think I can pull it off. If I can make it through this week, I may try it again in a few months during a normal work week, with a few exceptions.
- I’m leaving my laptop at home and am making a pact with myself not to borrow the laptops of anyone in my family (there will be at least three people in my family bringing their computers).
- I will have my iPhone with me in case of emergencies but plan to keep it safely in a drawer and not look at it- so no Facebook, no Twitter and no compulsively checking my other apps.
- I will watch nothing on television, with the exception of watching movies with the whole family.
- The other big sacrifice for the week will be my iPod. (Oh my precious, precious iPod!) Yes, that too is, in some ways, toxic to my mental environment. I will bring it along so my parents and I can listen to podcasts in the car, but for the next 7 days, I will not put earphones on my ears or have the constant background music of my computer. That’s right, no last.fm, no iTunes. Also, I usually fall asleep listening to podcasts, but this week, I’m going to try to fall asleep to silence.
Obviously, I don’t think music, or podcasts are bad (I mean, seriously, have you read this blog?). I do however think that spending some time reconnecting with the sounds of the world around me, especially when I am somewhere as ambient as the ocean shore might do me some good. My hope is, that by taking myself away from the music for a week, I’ll be able to hear it with ears when I return.
Honestly, I’m not 100% confident that I can pull this off, which is kind of sad. I really am tethered to all of the technology and social media in my life and it will be hard to break the habit of twittering every few hours or checking Facebook or compulsively checking my email. We’ll just have to see what happens. I’ll be bringing along a paper journal to write in and I’ll write down my observations of a week without the digital world. If anything interesting comes out of it, I’ll be sure to share.
Also, don’t fret: I’ve written a new piece, My Top 5 Albums of 2009 (so far) and it will be published incrementally while I’m away.