Stories From Beyond The Plug

There's a lot to be learned from taking some time away from the Internet. Here, some of the best lessons.

This last week, we've been walking you through the process of unplugging from your devices. We've even provided you with a printable guide to unplugging. Now, we're looking at some of the lessons and benefits to be gained from a digital detox, should you be considering one.

Author and comedian Baratunde Thurston did a 25-day digital detox, and by just the end of his first week he says he was "less stressed about not knowing new things; I felt that I still existed despite not having shared documentary evidence of said existence on the Internet … I was reading long books, engaging in meaningful conversations, and allowing my mind to wander and make passive connections I had previously short-circuited with social queries, responses, interruptions, and steady documenting and sharing of unripened experiences."

Levi Felix, founder of Digital Detox, a company that offers tech-free retreats, says the process is "always a transformational experience." People who leave his retreats "literally question their entire relationships with technology."

Here, a few post-detox revelations from Thurston and other unpluggers:

We are addicted to information: "Only when I dramatically reduced my connectivity did I realize how addicted to information stimulus I had become--and that I did not need to sustain that constant high to live well and happily."

We share too much: "…I spent an inordinate amount of time documenting, commenting on, and sharing experiences. In the process, I wasn’t fully having those experiences, since it was imperative that I tweet something relevant before they were even over."

We are addicted to ourselves: "Never before have we had the ability to microgauge our own rhetorical value to the world. I was judging my oversharing of uninhabited experiences. Since the break, I look backward far less than before and I’ve tried to create more discrete moments for checking email rather than maintaining a constant level of inbox awareness, anxiety, and guilt."

We need more downtime: "Will the concept of downtime have been a temporary blip in the history of civilization? The greatest gift I gave myself was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness. I don’t need to fill every time slot with an appointment, and I don’t need to fill every mental opening with stimulus."

"This amazing thing happens when we unplug: Time slows down … I look over at my husband and I'll ask what time it is and he'll be like, 'It's 8:30 in the morning!' It makes Saturdays, which is of course the one day of the week you want to feel long, it makes it feel like it's 4 days in one. It's changed my life. I think my films have gotten better, I think I'm ultimately more productive, I'm a happier person, I'm more balanced, it's just absolutely changed my life." --Tiffany Shlain, digital filmmaker and founder of the Webby Awards

Technology is disrupting our families: "We didn't have these types of conversations before because we are on the computer," says Kord Campbell, who recently participated in a digital detox hosted by Camp Grounded. He unplugs with his family on a regular basis, and says it has significantly improved his family relationships.

It's also disrupting our business relationships: "I realized that disconnecting – as in really ‘losing myself’ - every once in a while makes me exponentially more in-tune with my work and employees. There’s a huge business benefit to truly disconnecting. It allows people to de-stress and decompress, and leads to a fresher, motivated and even more productive teams. " --Rebecca Tann, VP of marketing at Regus USA

Unplugging improves productivity: "A writing project that had stumped me before the break suddenly appeared to have endless possibilities." --Thurston

"It was like, oh my god, I can be so much more productive if I actually let my brain have a little downtime," says Campbell. "When I get up in the morning I'm very sharp now. I can do things much faster. I'm much more focused. I feel much fresher. I feel like I used to feel before the Internet was popular."

Oh, and one more lesson: "I bought a bicycle," Thurston says. "Turns out it’s easier to ride the thing when you’re not trying to simultaneously check your Twitter."

Have you ever done a digital detox? What did you learn, and how did you rejoin the Internet? Tell us here, or use the #unplug hashtag.

[Image: Flickr user Max Wolfe]

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5 Comments

  • KaelVarnson

    I agree that it can very valuable to unplug from all the electronic stimulation occasionally, but your use of the word addiction is troubling, and particularly in the context in which you've used it. 

    "Addiction to ourselves?" "Addiction to information?" You may not have intended it this way, but this amounts to a vicious attack on individualism, happiness, and life itself. Human beings need information to survive and thrive. And they need that information for themselves ("ourselves"), as individuals.