Less can be more - have an Internet Sabbath

The last few months I have been embarking on a quest to reduce my screen time (computer, mobile phone, TV, etc).
I got inspired to do so after reading Hamlet's Blackberry by William Power which explores the benefits and problems of our increasing electronic connectedness. Luckily Powers is not an all or nothing type of guy who recommends leaving it all behind in order to retire in a hut in the forest. He sees the advantages of our new connected lives, but also pleads for more person-to-person interaction. It is interesting to read how he finds insights from seven unlikely philosophers - Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Franklin, Thoreau, and McLuhan.
Last but not least, Powers suggests something very concrete, an Internet Sabbath. The idea is being disconnected over the whole weekend (by physically plugging yourself out).  Given that I write this on a Sunday you can see that I am not quite there yet ;-) However, I managed to reduce my connected time a lot, especially the time I spent connected via my smart phone. I have an HTC Desire which broke down only after three months. It took four weeks to get a new phone which made me initially upset. Now I see that this helped me to wean myself from my smart phone addiction, where I was spending ways too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.
After the 4 weeks detox I managed to not fall back into old habits and that feels good. Now I can laugh about my obsession to log each of my steps on Foursquare just to earn a mayorship. But the reward centers of our brain work in miraculous ways. Listen to Tom Chatfield's TED talk if you want to know more.
Another thing happened during my 4 weeks detox. Before my phone phone broke down, I started to bring more oder into my live by experimenting with various organization and note taking tools. Nothing felt really right though and typing longer texts remains a tedious job on a smart phone. So I switched to a good old paper notebook - a moleskine (also party inspired by Powers). Paper offers a much richer experience and it doesn't blush. I can not only write, but also add drawings and scribbles. I can go forward and backwards and once a certain idea reaches maturity I can transcribe it into electronic form.
During my work, I am also trying to walk away more often from my screen when trying to solve a programmatic problem. Sitting infront of your computer screen is the worst possible environment for problem solving. To solve the really hard problems you need off screen time. Listen for example to Rich Hickey's keynote from the recent Clojure Conj.
The new year is approaching fast. Maybe some more people should think about a 2011 with less screen time. Just a thought :)


Old comments

2010-12-13Fredrik Rubensson
Definitely worth trying. The feeling of missing something important is a devious one cause we surely are missing so much stuff all the time and there is nothing we can do about it. A more relaxed attitude towards the info stream would certainly be good for society.

Just wondering though when I will get time for the fun stuff. When working in a chaotic place for pay there is a need for a couple of side projects going on in parallel. At my previous assignment I opted to work only 4 days a week spending the 5th on fun stuff and leaving the weekend for other things. I also have been trying for quite a while to not get stuck with just surfing around but rather get stuff done while at the computer. Pomodoro helps me a lot with this. TV was removed from the diet a long time ago apart for the occasional movie and some sports. As for the smart phone - for me it is rather a tool that helps me to not spend that much time at the computer. The mail box is cleaned and the twitter stream read while on a boring meeting or on the bus. And the geocaching app makes it easier to do some outdoors geocaching spontaneously!

Anyway - thanks for the reminder. The weeks before christmas normally solves themselves with all the christmasy activities (shopping and eating) but there are a boring january to come afterwards.
2012-09-13Lychee Diets
It's an amazing piece of writing in support of all the internet people; they will take benefit from it I am sure.