Since we all got smartphones do you remember a time when you completely hopped offline? Prior to the Christmas break I couldn’t. And I didn't realise how much I desperately needed to until December 25th hit. I went offline for almost two weeks.
I'd been entertaining the idea for a while. For every reason I loved being connected, there was also a side of me that felt that being constantly online, always available, became tiresome.
These days the social media space and the professional space are inextricably linked for me, and most people. My phone is the home for almost all communication. Except for real face-to-face connection and my love for old-school handwritten notes.
I wanted a break from the neck-tilted-downward-to-glowing-screen. Live life away from capturing it all. A break from filtering images, broadcasting, emails and the sometimes social media obligation I'm sure all of us feel - right?! At least sometimes.
So what happened? I went through a life audit.
I didn't anticipate to. But putting away the habitual action of unlocking my phone to check my email, Instagram, Facebook whatever - had me observing how I used the Internet and how others were using it around me.
Firstly, I knew that in 2013 I had wasted a heck of a lot of time online. Those moments where I got sucked away from something that's far more important in front of me, around me while I'm scrolling, liking, commenting. Even doing it in the presence of people I was spending time with and they'd naturally do the same. Ridiculous.
Over my break, I could see my pre-offline behaviour in others. Couples, friends, family members in cafes and restaurants all around me sitting in front of one another, by each other's side, physically there, but giving their attention to their mobile phone.
The result? I've finely tuned my manners in the company of others. I instantly worked out ways to be far more economical with time.
The scrolling, liking, commenting can happen sparingly. Shorter emails to everyone. Communicating with friends via long form emails - no more. Picking up the phone, FaceTime (for free), or Skype makes up for writing and re-editing written catch-ups. And when phone calls turn idle, it's okay to say, "chat next time."
Twitter. The news as it's breaking? Not necessary. For years the television hasn't been on in my house in the mornings because the urgency, the content - murders, kidnappings- was all something I found extremely stressful as I started my day. I get the business of news, the competition for sources to be the first to deliver information. I also know that I can play catch up with the richest sources of news when I really need to.
Then there's the benefits of being offline and fully present. No interruption. No streams of information coming at me from all over the world.
More time was spent completely engaged with every activity I shared with my family. That Peppa Pig Big Splash Show in Piccadilly Circus? I didn't take a single sneaky photo to blast to the masses about how awesome my afternoon was. I just told you waaaay after the event on this blog instead. Boom! Or the urge to quote-tweet Barry Humphries while he was thanking us patrons during his Farewell Show in London? I took in all his positive reflective talk in real time.
As we constantly share our lives through technology, my aim is to not allow it to take away from living in the moment. I'm sure many of us do it better than others, sometimes though, especially from offline mode I do see myself slipping into that world a little too much. So much so this offline mode is something I'm going to practice regularly. I'm talking chunks of hours in the day, most weekends and even whole adventure trips away.
All the people that I know online will all still be there when I get back.
Mostly written in:
My Home in Los Angeles
Chunks written in:
77-78 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 5JX
& on American Airlines Flight 137 from London Heathrow to LAX
Listening to: Jazz in The Natural Kitchen, London and silence
Image Credit: http://jayroeder.com