It was a lot like a colonoscopy. You hate it, but you feel cleaner afterward.
Yesterday was my first Wednesday offline. In fact, since I know I can’t be trusted, I avoided my computer completely. Figured I’d go deep. How would it feel? What would I learn?
The rule was that I could read the morning papers with my coffee but after that I had to shut the thing down. And I did, but I will confess that I peeked at my email several times yesterday on my Android. How can you not? You go to answer the phone or a text comes in – yeah, should I have avoided those, too? Lets not get ridiculous – and you can’t help but see the little icon that says you have email, and I just glanced real fast, without answering or anything. Okay, I did forward ONE email, but it was important.
But other than that, I stayed off the computer. I turned it off at 7. It wasn’t too difficult at first. I spent all morning in my critique group so wouldn’t have noticed any difference, but the rest of the day I felt deprived. I had to do everything offline, off-computer. It was like when your electricity goes out and you read by candlelight. I even hand-wrote a draft blog post. How ironic is that?
You know how when you meditate, you kind of hope you get a vision or something? That didn’t happen. I read a whole book, okay, not a really long one, but still. It was called It Chooses You by Miranda July, and in it she says something eerily prescient for someone who didn’t know about my experiment:
“…I feared that the scope of what I could feel and imagine was being quietly limited by the world within a world, the Internet. The things outside of the web were becoming further from me, and everything inside it seemed piercingly relevant. The blogs of strangers had to be read daily, and people nearby who had no web presence were becoming almost cartoonlike, as if they were missing a dimension…In twenty years I’d be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered.”
I think this experiment was valuable in that it unhooked me from the joy juice for a lot of hours, allowing my veins to calm down and my heart to resume its normal rhythm. Not as much fun, but soothing somehow. Like a nap. No, like a nap when you’re five, and you don’t want to take one but your mom insists. And you feel energized by it. But with more email.