Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]
Social media is a powerful and useful tool that can quickly become a nuisance if not kept in check. Everyone’s relationship with the tools of social media progresses as follows: from initial excitement at their potential, to a struggle with their use, to an eventual mastery, to the desire for ‘more’ tools, and finally to complete sensory overload.
It is even worse if you are a blogger; the data influx can be numbing. Between the 300 SMS notes that I get a day from Twitter, my separate monitor for TweetDeck, 6 tabs open in Chrome at all times just to handle team communication and news gathering, not to mention around 1,000 updates a day from my RSS reader, plus email and gchat, and now Facebook groups, Buzz, and Twitter lists, life can be hectic if you live and die by breaking information.
Sometimes you need to shut down and go into offline mode, but the more dependent you become on social media and real time information the harder it can be to actually unplug the Cat-5 cable from your forehead, take out all your USB IVs and actually breathe in some out of date information and non social air.
I’ve been struggling with this task for quite some time, and after making actual progress wanted to share what I have learned.
The first and most important step to removing yourself from the digital rat race is to get up from your desk and go into a room where you have no computers.
Secondly you need to plan something ‘analog and IRL.’ If you have any non-tech friends (worth the effort) get them to your house and barbecue. That’s just an example, but you get what I mean. If you don’t force yourself out of the online bubble for at least an hour, you will slink back to your desk “just to check something” and never get up.
Alternatively, go to your favorite bar, and leave your smartphone at home. That little sucker is just a little computer and if you bring it you are going to use it instead of talking to people. Make the calls that you need and then leave it at home.
Your iPad can only be used to play music while you cook if you are trying to disconnect. It’s important to note that the harder the recipe you are working on the less you are wondering if that rumored acquisition has gone through, or how many @s you picked up on Twitter. Go crazy.
Unplug your TV, you don’t need it. Finally, make a damn strong foo-foo drink, and read a book while you sip it.
The trick is to employ your mind enough that you don’t miss being plugged into the lives of so many other people, and into the news of the world. Information is addictive, and like any other addiction it is potentially harmful. Cut back just a little, and you will reap the benefits the rest of the week. Pick a day, for me it’s Saturday, when no one at work can get a hold of you in any way other than a phone call. I don’t read text messages at all on Saturday, it’s my Fortress of Solitude.
You and me have access to information that people would have literally killed for just a few hundred years ago, and that makes us lucky. We just can’t let it run us completely. Do yourself a favor, pick a day in the next week to turn off. Plan ahead, go grocery shopping and cook for some of your friends. Fret over the wine, and worry about the weather. After all, nature is still the best app of all.
So tell us, what do you do to switch off?
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