In honor of Earth Day, and for the sake of my own productivity and peace of mind, I've decided to take an entire week off from digital distractions. Due to my academic obligations, I cannot quit all forms digital media, but I have decided that starting Sunday I will make an effort to unplug from all forms of distracting media for a week. I'm trying this as sort of an experiment on my productivity, but also as a way to recapture some "fresh air" in both the literal and metaphorical sense. I miss the days of being able to truly breathe in the world. Just 15 years ago, I remember coming back from class freshman year, going to the coffee house with notebooks and textbooks, and watching everyone there simply read a book. There was no wi-fi, no real cell phones, no kindles, and no facebook. People talked, people laughed, people played scrabble, people enjoyed life. On campus today things are very different. All this week I've taken times to simply stop and observe the undergraduates and it sincerely makes me sad. If I stand on the beautiful grass-filled quad near the steps of the Old Main Building here and look around, here is what I see: I see dozens of undergrads all walking aimlessly while looking down at their phones. Everyone is plugged in. Everyone wants to talk to everyone else EXCEPT those that are right next to them. Most of the time these students are scarfing down an unhealthy snack, wearing dirty sweatpants and shirts, and aren't watching at all where they are going. They are zombies, with more of their "life" inside the confines of a small an imaginary world that exists inside of a smart-phone. It is so easy to get caught up in it though and I'm just as guilty. Just 5 years ago, I wrote my thoughts down with a pen inside a composition notebook. Now, just like everyone else, I put them on blogger.com. I'm sure there is some sort of happy medium in all of this, but I do now acknowledge that the world is evolving to a more digital one....this is unavoidable.
I think back to one year ago on the Pacific Crest Trail and how easy it was to go without all of these things. Sure I had a phone, but it was almost always turned off (except for the 20 minutes a night where'd I'd write a journal entry). I didn't care about websites, or emails, or television....and it was spectacular. In Antarctica, I had no access to anything except very limited email....and it was also spectacular. Now, back in my digital corner of life, the distractions are right at my fingertips, and so easy to get sucked into. Well, I need to prove to myself that I can go without just like before. I like a simple life, so why shouldn't I make it happen?
And so, I'll see how it goes. Who knows, maybe I'll do so well that I'll do it for more than a week.
For those that want it spelled out, here's what this all means:
I will/may still,
- Check school email (simply can't avoid this until this summer when I take off for short vacation)
- Keep my phone on for calls only
- Work on research related data and writings on my laptop
- Use internet connection to download scientific papers, and pertinent research materials.
- BUT, will keep internet usage to an absolute minimum.
- Listen to music on iPod
- I might still update my running database (but only immediately after completing a run)
I will NOT,
- Watch any television
- Use phone for texting or surfing
- Surf any sort of websites not related directly to schoolwork
- This means no blogger, no news, no social media, no trailjournals, no youtube, etc...
- Play any sort of online or computer digital/video games (I almost never do this, but am listing anyway)
- Use GPS or digital mapping software. (atlases are still just as good)
- several others I'm forgetting
- Probably not do DVDs either...hoping to turn off TV completely. Might consider still going to see a movie with someone.
- So basically, any non-school-related digital distractions
Things I look forward to doing that I have missed:
- Spending more time with people (both specific and in general)
- Playing my guitar more
- Reading real books
- Talking to, and having conversations with real people
- Sitting on my outdoor deck with real lemonade
- Taking time to make a good meal
- A true feeling of freedom
- Actually enjoying my runs
- Riding my new bike more
- Simply getting out more
- etc etc
I realize this all sounds a bit cliche', but it's something I want to do for myself. I hope to breathe in a little of that fresh air again.
So, here's to unplugging this Sunday!