Friday, April 29, 2011

My Screen-Free Week

I wasn't able to meet my ambitious goal of no Internet at all during the week. In fact, I didn't last very long thanks to a post at the Corporate Babysitter that I couldn't help reading . . . or responding to.

I quickly realized that using the Internet was so ingrained in my work that forgoing entirely wasn't going to work. So I loosened up that rule and decided that I could read things and visit sites that were truly work-related. Making that delineation was easier than I anticipated, and I'm proud to say, I didn't stray into non-work related sites all week.

The other part of my Screen-Free Week plan was to avoid all screens when not at work. This part was an unqualified success. The first couple of nights felt strange with the computer not on, but it was very easy to get used to screen-free nights. I was more focused during my time with my daughter, not only because there were no "quick" email checks, but because without even the possibility of going online I was more present when I was with her as well.

After she went to bed, during what it is almost always Internet time for me, I read. And I went to bed early. And easily. For whatever reason, it was much easier to fall asleep after reading something tactile than after my usual routine of reading online. And like Shara, my dreams were pretty awesome!

The weekend wasn't as much of a challenge as it might have been because we visited friends and family in New York. The only hard time was when both my wife and daughter took a nap on Saturday and I really wanted to go online. And if it was just between me and the screen, I probably would have; "No one will even know," a voice kept telling me. But the knowledge I was doing this with others was really helpful. I forced myself to go for a walk and, once I was outside in my old Brooklyn neighborhood on a beautiful afternoon, I felt positively foolish that cheating had even crossed my mind.

There were other hard moments, mostly related to not being able to check blogs or news sources. Whether it was the protests in the Middle East or the budget wars, I didn't feel on "top of things," not that I'm sure I could define what that means. It felt strange not to know that Bradley Manning had been transferred to another prison until reading about it in the paper the next day. If it hadn't been Screen-Free Week, Twitter would have alerted me to the transfer as soon as it happened and then I would hit the blogs for analysis and, by the time I picked up the paper the next day, it would have felt like old news.

So if I had one major insight during the week, it was that my need to constantly consume news and analysis is about more than simply keeping informed; there's something clearly compulsive about always having to be "connected" to the events of the day.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that I swore I was a changed man, I've slipped very easily back in old habits this week. I found it much easier when I had strict limits. I fear the next challenge -- learning how to use the Internet in moderation -- is actually going to be much harder than going Screen-Free.

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