I have spent many years fantasizing about a total escape from the digital world; chuck the smartphone, delete social media, not even bother with Google. Unplugged, disconnected, completely offline. I still fantasize about it, although it has become more of a distant longing. It would be nice, sure, but reality requires something else of me. That’s just life, I think. Instead, I have learned to appreciate the little moments I get to spend away from the internet. Like most mornings I spend reading and journaling, workout classes, with not even a Fitbit on sight, Friday evenings spent tucked away at a bar for a weekly gin and convo session with a friend. When I’m feeling really fancy, I put on music and do Suduko puzzles for hours; I know heaven.
This past weekend I got lucky and spent it away from email and browsing. It was accidental. Friday evening, finally getting around to thinking about the weekend ahead, packing for an out of town visit to my friend, and planning my route on the bus, I considered making my dumb smartphone smart again. What if… but I had to be honest with myself. The chances of something going wrong that weekend and requiring a Google search were 0.1 per cent. The chances of getting an important email that required an urgent response was even less; about zero per cent. But, the chances of me spending hours checking email unnecessarily and scrolling through reddit won at 100 per cent probability. What if I kept my phone dumb and enjoyed a weekend away from portable internet? It was a good idea.
I won’t bore you with the details of a weekend filled with tequila, belly-laughter, delicious Ethiopian food, and heart-felt conversations; it was a grand time. But I will bore you with the same ol’ realizations I have whenever I unplug for more than 5 minutes.
I. FOMO is fake news.
There is nothing you should fear missing out on; nothing good, of quality, or importance anyway.
When I finally got home mid-day Monday, I immediately opened my laptop to check email. 100+ emails awaited me, and none of it, not even one, required my immediate attention, neither Saturday nor on Sunday, or even Monday morning. Every time I come back from a digital break, whether it’s after an hour of reading, a whole day spent out and about, or a weekend disconnected, I’m faced with the simple fact that I rarely miss anything of importance online, not one thing, and nothing to grant how much time I spend on the internet most days anyway. The emails are mostly newsletter subscriptions and the internet remains filled with the same recycled content. What is good, of quality, and important is often offline, and what we should all fear missing out on is on the real life around us while plugging away (hehe) at the endless digital noise online.
II. You will always find something else, and better, to do.
Stuck on a 2.5 hour bus ride, I read, and read, and read. It was important I picked a book that made me laugh-out loud; I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t look at my phone at all Saturday afternoon and evening well into the night until we needed to call Uber for a friend past 2 in the morning. Tequila and belly laughter helped. I admit, I spent most of Sunday vertically watching TV, but it was a background noise while my friend and I chatted it up, cracking jokes, real talks and everything in between. I felt more present in the moment than when my phone is tugging at my attention to quickly glance at it.
III. Whatever you do will be enjoyable when the alternative is doing nothing.
Just because you have unplugged doesn’t mean you will magically find yourself with super fun, authentic offline experiences. In fact, real life, just like the online space, is mostly mundane, boring, and repetitive. Still, there is something about being offline- unplugged, away from the noise, in your own world, that is far more enjoyable than being on social media. Being away from it all for two and a half days was an important reminder of how much one can enjoy the simple pleasures of the offline world by simply choosing to immerse one’s self in the moment, without the phone constantly hijacking our attention.
Although it was unplanned, and I have no future plans to make it a thing, I enjoyed spending a whole weekend away from the internet, email, Google and my phone. It reminded me of how luxurious, delicious, and totally rejuvenating it can be to spend most of my time in the offline world. It really is the simplest pleasure in our digitally-caffeinated world: All for $free.99.
Until next time,
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