Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one. As you may have read in my last post here, I have been detoxing myself from the internet. I began a 109 hour internet detox last Wednesday afternoon. The 109 hours (inspired by the folks at Punkt) just expired this morning so I thought I would share some of the experiences here with you.

PREP

To prep for the offline time and travel, I needed to get a few things in order.  I had a long drive out to Vermont on Thursday morning, so Wednesday afternoon I pre-downloaded some music and podcasts for the trip as well as all the directions in Google Maps. This allowed me to have my cell in the car, but all the data turned off. I also grabbed a handful of books on my Kindle to make sure I’d have plenty to read over the weekend. I picked up, “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us” by Nicholas Carr (suggested by the Punkt people), as well as “The Birds” and “Jamaica Inn” by Daphne du Maurier - was just finishing up here “Rebecca” on Wednesday. 

To be sure I wouldn't be tempted at all to cheat with my phone, I even uninstalled most of the apps, leaving a bare-bones Nexus 6 with no data connection.

THE DETOX

With everything in place, I cut off all access to the internet Wednesday afternoon by killing data on my cell and powering off the computers in my home. I had been doing nights and weekends without the internet for about a week, so Wednesday night was no big deal. Business as usual. But Thursday morning, I felt this disconnection a little bit. I usually grab my phone or an iPad first thing in the morning to check my emails (personal and work, daily), browse through NPR and BBC for the day's news and check in what my friends have been up to on Instagram and Twitter. With no TV or internet, I suddenly felt cut off from the world. So, I instead made a cup of coffee and grabbed my Kindle to read a little while sitting on the floor with Chief Brody's head on my lap by the fire.

The rest of Thursday was fairly easy as I headed out to Vermont for a photoshoot for a brand new album by Holly Brewer, wandering the wilderness with her and her cellist with hardly a signal to be found. Didn’t miss the digital life at all throughout the day. We walked, shot many rolls of film, chatted about nature, Shaolin Kenpo, Zen Buddhism, and good tea. (OK, we talked about much more, but those are the highlights).

Sadly, I didn’t get back in time Thursday night to make the midnight launch out to sea on the Rimrack with Captain Mike and Kelsea. They were going on an 18 hour grind and was really looking forward to being out with them - so I am rescheduling that fishing trip for later in the month, maybe after my maple farm shoot this coming weekend.

THE FEAR

The mornings are the tough time, as once again on Friday morning I found myself wanting to go through my routine online. Psychologists talk about the internet addictions and the fear of missing out (FOMO) on something in your social circles (and news for that matter). I can affirm that’s a real thing as I had these thoughts in my head Friday morning:

  • What if someone sent me a PM on Twitter or Instagram with an important question?
  • What if one of my film friends wanted to shoot this weekend but doesn’t have my cell - am I missing an opportunity?
  • What if I am missing an email with information I need to know right now?
  • Are there great conversations happening in any of my social circles that I am missing?

It seems odd, but I wrestled with these thoughts quite a bit on Friday morning - almost haunting my mind. I felt like I was also thinking up things I really wanted to look up online, or things I wanted to order ASAP on Amazon. I have a feeling that’s because I took it all away from myself. So, I wanted it more.

I got through it all by going on hikes and reading throughout the day. Occupying my mind was the only cure that worked to clear my mind of connected desires.
 

WEEKEND

The weekend really got better for me. I finished my second book of the detox Saturday night and began a third. By Sunday morning I was already forming a habit of not “needing” as much to check on things in the digital world. I came to the realization that if someone needed to get a hold of me, they knew my cell number and could call or text.

If you’re a friend of mine, you have my cell number.

I had a conversation with my good friend, Cody, over text message. We usually talk primarily through social media or once a year, face-to-face on photo-walks (proper Facetime). The good guy he is, offered to look up anything I needed on the internet so I wouldn’t “cheat” on my detox.  He’s good people.

I really knew I was disconnected when Linda and I picked up something from Craig’s List down on the seacoast. The guy we were meeting said to me, “Two feet of snow, this week, eh?” and I had no idea what he was talking about. Usually I am up on the weather, constantly checking my weather apps on my phone (I have 5 of them) all day long. But I removed them all during these 109 hours and had no weather reports, no news, other than my 5-day forecast weather station on my wall.

By the end of the weekend, I was finding my groove. And finished a 3rd book.

THINGS I (DID NOT) MISS

I found by the end of this experiment I did not miss social media and my need/desire to see what people were saying/posting was waning. Especially Twitter. The people I am most close to on social media are on Instagram - and though I missed a few of their daily stories, I knew there was nothing pressing that I "needed" to read.

I loved that I wasn’t bombarded with instant news alerts and was detached from what was happening in the world. I found myself heading to the general store for a copy of the local paper to get the headlines on Sunday. But I picked it up, glanced at them and decided I can go longer without depressing news. I think if I were doing a long term detox, I would get the local paper delivered. Getting headlines once a day is plenty - and I found that 24 hour news was adding to my overload of digital information.

One last thing I didn’t miss was email. Even though I have disciplined myself to only check it 3x a day as a rule - having 109 hours of not checking it AT ALL was awesome. Looking at all my accounts and hundreds of emails, I did not miss a thing.

CONCLUSIONS

So, this is just the beginning. I plan to continue my nights and weekends unplugged and plan to continue detox from the internet all I can. I plan to truly “dumb up” my phone. My eyes have opened up a bit more of how social media and the constant connectivity can get away from me and how stepping away is a wonderful mind-vacation. Social media and the internet aren’t evil by any manner, nor should they be viewed that way, but I feel they need to be checked every now and then. I can see my social presence becoming less and less, which frees up more time for family, hikes, and books.

“Facetime” needn't be a digital thing.

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