I discovered on Saturday that I had managed to miss National Unplugging Day; I think it takes place on the first Friday of March each year, but I had neglected to note it in my diary. Since I had been feeling increasing levels of anxiety from spending too many hours in front of my computer, namely watching stuff on Youtube and being in the virtual world that is Second Life, I decided I would make the effort on Sunday to switch off and “Unplug”.
Having time out from these things is quite difficult for me to do, not all dissimilar from water fasting, but thankfully I succeeded in my effort. Since I don’t use a smart phone, nor do I use Facebook, it seems strange to consider that I feel like I can empathise with those who are glued to their hand-held gadgets.
I started my tech-free day with a run, I caught up with some of my Encyclopedia reading, and then ventured round to my sister’s house for Sunday Lunch. Our routine at the moment is to watch an episode of Travelers, so I enjoyed this. I took a detour on my bike on the way home to collect some shopping and get some more fresh air. Later with my evening meal I did “indulge” in watching a 30 minute segment of extras from my Young Indiana Jones DVD boxset which I have been slowly working my way through for some years – this seems quite educational though, this part being about T. E. Lawrence.
The rest of my time I spent reading some of Rex Gordon’s Utopia 239 and I also did half an hour of yoga which did involve Youtube, but I ventured no further and felt no compulsion to watch anything else. I was quite surprised how my whole day managed to disappear; if I’d have spent the day in front of my computer I would have been annoyed with myself come bed time that I had managed to “waste another day” indoors and at my desk and not achieve all that I had wanted to; most of my reading time was spent outside though. Part of my pre-unplugging research had encouraged me to focus on the outdoors since I had landed on the Nature Unplugged website, and I this is what I did; rather than think of it as being about forcing myself to stay away from my computer I was instead “being with nature” by choice, where it was natural to be.
I noticed how quite often I would become distracted by thoughts of things to write about on my blog (such as this post) or things to search for or research online. I kept a notepad and pen to hand though so I could write such things down to act upon on another day if the mood still took me, but most of these things were fleeting and certainly not urgent.
I thought about why I was “Unplugging” as the general approach on the official day and website is to fill in the blank to: “I unplug to….” and I came up with a number of reasons, namely to “find myself” since too much time in front of a computer seems to make me feel distance from myself and make my head spin, causing my attention to flit from one thing to another.
Strangely, a topic on today’s BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show with Vanessa sitting in, was Burnout. I looked up the symptoms and they seemed to match closely with how I feel when spending too much time at my own computer, seemingly by choice; it seemed odd to relate this to burnout, perhaps more accurately some self-inflicted stress:
- Anxiety, depression, and/or irritability
- Cutting back on leisure activities
- Increased feeling of resentment
- New or worsening health problems
- Difficulty concentrating
- Neglecting other responsibilities
The Jehovah’s Witnesses had recently come to my door with a leaflet/invitation which included a few things which they aim to help with:
- Find supportive friends
- Become a better person
- Draw close to God
Not that I can see myself turning to a religious organisation to help me with these things, all of these things seemed relevant somehow to what I felt the internet was preventing in me, and while their phrase “drawing closer to God” always seems an odd one to me I kind of related on this occasion, since too much computer time made me have a sense of drawing away from “Truth” or what was supposed to be real to me or my path in life. My time sitting outside certainly helped me to regain some focus.
Coincidentally the JW.org site has a topic promoted on their homepage to Burnout. It includes technology as a reason:
With smartphones, tablets, and other devices, we are “on” and available nearly 24/7—a fact that can make us stressed-out and, over time, burned-out.
“…never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Each day has enough of its own troubles.” – Matthew 6:34
I get so much done if I don’t switch on the computer until late afternoon.
A very Stoic end quote there. I approve.