It’s spring in Portland. Image by Kristal Passy.
WOW. Wow, wow, wow.
I have to say, of all the MMMs so far, I think this one has taught me the most. Seriously!
First things first, some clarification is required. When I laid out this mission I set some unrealistic parameters. Specifically, I said,
Um, HA! What was I thinking?? I’m writing a book here, and I my paid work is also accessed online. Clearly, the computer was not going to “stay closed”. And because the computer wasn’t closed, I ended up checking email throughout the day. Not compulsively mind you, but “as needed”. And I’m fine with that.
“I’m allowing myself email, twice a day. Otherwise the computer stays closed.”
So, how did it go? Well . . .
I started out extremely disciplined. I closed the many tabs for all “my sites”, whittling my windows down to email and work. It was weird to look at.
Immediately, it became apparent how internet-focused my life is. The thought “Ooh, I should google that!” occurs to me, I kid you not, 100s of times each day. This was an interesting phenomenon to face. At first I thought, “Sure, it’s a lot. BUT, I’m seeking out information. It may “waste” time but at least I’m educating myself. It’s constructive!” But the more I pondered, the more I wondered – do I really need to know that? Is it actually necessary to remember the year the Berlin Wall came down (1989), or to confirm that lepidoptera is in fact the order of butterflies (it is), or to look up some random new word I heard (agrestic)? Is my life truly enriched by filing away these factoids? And more importantly, is it worth the extra time and distraction?
I think, when I objectively evaluate this, that yes – there is a proper place for instant-access information. It’s the age that we live in and expediency has its advantage. However, our incessant interaction with information can quickly interfere with our personal relationships. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves in check. I know that for me, the thought “I should google that” has become like a lush thinking, “I should have a drink”, in that it immediately induces a physiological response. Suddenly, there’s an enormous nagging need to know the answer, and the idea of not getting it . . . makes me very anxious, indeed. THAT IS CRAZY! Like a little addict, I’m twitchy and unsettled and fiending, desperately fiending, to find the name of that one actress from that one movie I saw that one time. Or whatever. Woah! Woah, woah, woah.
That was a wake-up call, and I feel like I gained a lot of necessary perspective regarding my relationship with electronic instant gratification. Honestly, I’d so much rather stay present, and smile at the spring daffodils, than to constantly be sidetracked and staring into my smart phone. So point taken. *Real Life* for the win.
But here’s the thing: I cheated.
Technically. A lot. I’ll give you some examples, and you tell me if you think it was fair (I do) :
- I did some online banking, when money needed to be transferred quickly. Mostly on my phone.
- I used Facebook private messaging in order to plan activities – as far as I’m concerned this is an extension of email, since I get the notifications in my email inbox. I didn’t go onto Facebook otherwise.
- I used the website meetup.com to check the info on a meet-up I was attending for the vegan families group. I just double-checked the time and location.
- I googled “measles Portland” and “measles Vancouver” every day for 21 days in order to track a possible outbreak (Waits is not vaccinated) (it ended up being a false alarm, thank goodness).
- I googled around a bit to learn about radiation, just to make sure I knew what I was potentially dealing with.
- I did a lot of Internet exploring as part of researching for my book/freelance writing jobs. This was unavoidable and I had totally forgotten to take it into account. But to be honest, sometimes I lingered a bit and let me “research”, um, wander . . . but never very far! (eek!)
Fair? You tell me. I’m comfortable with it.
Perhaps the most interesting observation of the month was this one: I watched a BUTTLOAD of television. I watched more TV this month than I’ve watched in ages. Why?
Because l needed to check out!
We all need to turn off and tune out. It’s totally natural, and totally necessary. And taking away the internet doesn’t change that! It was silly of me to think that it would.
So yes, I see how I was abusing the internet. Distance is great for that sort of big picture overview. But, I was also able to identify A) how my computer serves a very useful purpose: that it allows me to relax in a more engaged, more intellectual way. And B) that there are times when the internet is entirely appropriate.
For example, in the mornings while enjoying my coffee, I’m too sleepy to work and Waits is happily amusing himself. There is no reason not to enjoy this moment for a little free web surfing. This is a place where the Internet totally makes sense, and there are a number of other places (for various reasons) that appear throughout my day as well. Now I’ve identified them, and now I can utilize them (and only them).
There are places where the Internet is incredibly destructive. I got so much more work done this month. Why? Well, it used to be that if I had a 10-20 minute chunk of time, which I have A LOT OF over the course of my day – I’d think to myself “I don’t have enough time to get into my writing groove, so I won’t be able to get any work done now. I’ll just check my sites instead. . .”
WRONG! When I lost the ability to bum around aimlessly, my boredom drove me to giving “mini work sessions” a try. And you know what? I can *totally* catch my stride in 10 minutes. A couple of 10-minute chunks throughout my day adds up to a lot more work completed come bedtime.
This was a HUGE lesson and something that will change the way I view my time, forever after. Excellent.
As the month has worn on, I’ve become a lot more lenient with myself. I feel like I learned my lessons in the first few weeks, and since then I’ve just been implementing the important stuff . . . and leaving some of the stringency. Hence my Internet “research” wanderings. I do think that a full month away was necessary, and I have made it a point to stay away from any familiar cyber territory. I peeked at my Google Reader today and saw that I have over 450 unread items. OMG THIS WEEKEND IS GOING TO BE WILD!!! But along with catching up, I’ll be combing through and making cuts. It’s going to be an un-subscribing bloodbath up in my RSS feed. I didn’t miss a lot of this stuff, and I just don’t need to go back to it.
And what about you guys? I know a lot of you implemented less extreme versions of this mission, but tell me, what did you learn? I’m so curious to hear all about it!
I’ll be back on Monday with a new MMM, and I’ve got a ton of awesome posts lined up. It’s garden season guys! And the Farmer’s Market is back! The days are getting longer, and spring is in the air!