the importance of disconnecting

by

As written Wednesday night, 1/18 at 11:30 p.m:

unplugI’ve spent the past 54 hours disconnected from the world save via my phone (which is a dumb phone, so no web access, thank JC). Posting a Motivational Monday blog post, I disappeared from the World Wide Web for more than two days, and must say it was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.

No Facebook + No Twitter + No email = A Little Slice of Heaven

In my limited experience as a feeble human being on this raped planet we call Earth, I have had the good fortune to not always be ultimately reliable upon the internet, search engines, word documents and online porn. It is through this experience that I have come to realize the benefits of disconnecting from the online world. I understand this is not a new concept, but stick with me on this one.

Think of how often you’re texting on your phone when you’re out with friends or family. Think of how often you’re surfing the web on your smart phone for something that can wait til later. Think of how many miscommunications we have via these channels because the receiving end misconstrues a word or phrase, not being party to the intended inflection and body language. We have become slaves to immediate gratification, losing one of the most important (and undervalued) qualities in the world today: patience. In a paraphrased quote from Einstein: “Our technology has exceeded our humanity.” (and that was before the World Wide Web)

microcosms

Straight up: Communication technology, while having its benefits, is virtually destroying our ability to effectively communicate, while simultaneously killing our appreciation for the world around us.

Some examples:

1. A couple years ago I was on a first date when about an hour into it she told me how thankful she was that I hadn’t brought out my phone once. Sad, but true.

2. I have a very good friend who has nearly all of her important conversations with potential partners via text message. Whenever she says, “So I was talking with so-and-so the other day…” my immediate response is “Talking or texting?” It’s nearly always the latter. And she wonders why she gets into a lot of arguments with these people. . .

3. People get into heated arguments on Facebook and then let it carry over into real life when they next see this person. I used to be like this, but I sought help. If you find yourself in similar circumstances currently but are unwilling to change, I have a loaded glock and a full bottle of sleeping pills – take your pick.

4. When I worked a white collar job, I would walk in every day to at least 50+ emails of varying natures. I know people who walk in to many more than that. Information overload and more than half of it is white noise.

5. About a month ago on a freak day in the midst of a Cleveland winter when it was 50 degrees and sunny, a girl was walking across a cross-walk in a major intersection with her phone in front of her face, either texting or surfing the Web. Just as she stepped out, an SUV was accelerating toward the walk and almost hit her. The driver was also on her phone, except talking. The walker called the driver a cunt, and the driver, window down, shouted profanities.

For me, all of this serves as a fruitful definition of insanity.

A final note: My main concern is with communication technology – not necessarily information technology (although I understand the lines between the two are more and more blurred every day). While I think there is still value associated with hard copies of Britannica, one cannot deny the effectiveness of search engines and information sharing on the World Wide Web. And I also understand the value of these kinds of communications in emergency situations – I have no doubt it has saved many lives and helped to avoid harmful situations. But, like anything, when taken to the extreme it can do more harm than good. Another fitting apothegm: “Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”

Maybe the next time we’re on our phone, texting or surfing the Web or even talking, we should stop, put technology away, and take in what is around us:

real life

.

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6 Responses to “the importance of disconnecting”

  1. Wade H. Peery Says:

    Yet another superb post Hirz. The more I read your stuff the more I am impressed at your line of thinking and your logic. Your stuff is going to be a NYT bestseller someday and you can take that to the bank. So many people can relate with this prose it’s amazing.

  2. Rich Says:

    I agree – we have let the virtual become the “reality”, and ignore what is real around us. The lack of the non-verbal cues in our communications causes many problems at work and at play. I make my living working from home supporting large-scale technology efforts…all via phone, email, and IM. Being effective via that model vs the face-to-face interactions is a very different model to work with…and many fail to overcome the limits of the channels available.

    • Jeff Hirz Says:

      Hey Rich – if you make your living working from home then you have to encounter this situation WAY more often than most people. Any tips on how to be effective using technology like you mentioned above as your primary communication channel?

  3. motivational mondays – the amish project « livin' like a freebird Says:

    […] my Facebook wall – I’m assuming it was in response to my post from a couple weeks ago: the importance of disconnecting, but I could be wrong. The link took me to a story about a 24-year-old college student named Jake […]

  4. Media Free March, a challenge for the soul. | Mom of Awesome Says:

    […] you don’t want to disconnect for a month, that’s fine. How about one day? Spend some time with an old friend. Have a […]

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