In a world dominated by electronic devices, it seems impossible to do without. Yet somehow, in the 90’s, we managed. We had a phone that couldn’t leave the house, yet we managed to meet with people perfectly. We could not play Candy Crush or GTA Online, yet we were perfectly able to have fun times anyways. We could not check Facebook every minute, yet didn’t have the feeling of missing out on anything. I wondered, could I get this feeling back? Even if it was just for two days? Or would I be too attached to my screens these days? Maybe I’d get mad without them! There was only one way to find out. At the beginning of the month, I unplugged myself for two days.
Preparing for the apocalypse
No TV, computer and no smartphone comes with a few technical difficulties. For starters, I didn’t own a clock hanging anywhere in the house. But it would be nice to be able to tell what time it was without having to look at the sun every time. I had bought a clock a couple of years ago, but I thought the ticking was too annoying. So it ended up somewhere in a drawer, without any batteries. Who needs batteries anyway these days? Okay, shopping item no. 1: batteries.
Bringing my clock back to life didn’t solve the second problem though: waking up in the morning. My phone has been my alarm for years. It has a soothing, calming melody, waking me up gently, as opposed to the annoying shrill beeps of alarm clocks. So without my phone, I could not set any alarm. Shopping item no. 2: a digital alarm clock. Funny note: I decided to sleep in on the days when I was unplugged, so I didn’t need the alarm clock after all.
The last difficulty was that I had to choose my two days wisely. I cannot unplug myself just anytime I’d like. I need my computer to do my work. Certainly, I could write scenes with a pen, but I doubt that would satisfy the actors having to read them. And how would I share my blog posts with you? By snail mailing the entire planet? Conclusion: going unplugged would only be possible on a weekend or a week off. I decided to do the latter. I took the week off and in the middle I planned my unplugged days. And Ruud decided to tag along!
Expecting the worse
I was looking forward to this experiment, but at the same time I was dreading it. I expected to get mad over those two days. I am quite the Facebook addict. I catch myself checking for new messages every spare mine I have. It annoys me, to be honest, but for some reason I just keep doing it. I could only imagine not having Facebook would drive me completely mad.
But what I expected to miss even more, was not being able to play Lego Harry Potter on my PS3. It’s something Ruud and I really to do lately. Now we could not even play it during our vacation!
The thing I was dreading most of all though, was not having my music. Obviously using Spotify was out of the question, since it requires either my smartphone, my computer or my TV to operate. I could not even replace it with a regular radio station, since I don’t own a radio anymore. In order to listen to the radio, I have to turn on my TV (or my car, but that would be a bit strange just for the music, wouldn’t it?). I had to resolve to my old CDs.
What I was looking forward to though, was to experience how much extra time I’d get by not being online all the time. And to see if I’d get more energy from not staring at a screen constantly.
The actual experience
In the end, going unplugged was nothing like I had imagined it would be. I didn’t miss it for a second! Yes, it was a bit weird at moments, but that was all out of habit. There was not one time where I really missed not having my devices. In fact, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done!
I kept a log sheet during these two days. This is what I wrote (on paper, don’t worry):
3:16 Going unplugged.
3:23 Where the H are my phone and iPad to take upstairs with me? Oh, right.
3:25 Lets create a log. Fuck. How do I know what time it is? Oh, yes… Bought an alarm clock.
3:32 Wow. It feels like my vacation has actually finally started for real now!
08:23 *Waking up*. Hmm, what should I do now? I’m still tired, let’s just lie here for a while then… *Sleeps for another 1,5 hours*.
12:54 Well, this morning went well. Actually, I loved not having my devices around. Waking up was so peaceful. I could fully enjoy reading a book. It felt a bit like those Sunday mornings when I was a kid. Waking up in peace, knowing there would be no obligations, just listen to the birds outside… The only time I missed my phone was when I felt the urge to take a picture. Rikku had come snuggling under the blankets and had her head and paws sticking out of it like a little hoomin. It was the cutest thing.
Having an alarm clock is amazing. It feels so nice getting to know the time in one quick glance, without being attacked by all these notifications, pushing me to go on social media. I might keep the alarm clock installed after this experiment.
14:10 *Need to know the date to fill in a form*. Shit… What’s the date? It’s in my phone…
14:12 I feel restless. I’d like to relax now by numbly checking my phone, it it’s not possible. What to do then?
17:00 well, that’s it for the music. The media player says ‘upgrade’, which means we’ll have to turn on the TV. No upgrade, no music. What happened to the good old-fashioned CD players? 🙁
17:05 apparently, we have music again. No idea what went wrong (or right) there, but it’s fixed. Yay! These unplugged days would have been a lot harder without any music.
17:20 A peace has come over me. It’s hard to describe, but it’s amazing. I’m crafting, Ruud is reading a book and there’s music playing. We’re alone together. For real this time. Facebook or video games give such a disturbing feeling, apparently. Never realized that it was this much.
18:15 Omg, look at the time! It exists! And I’ve got some of it left before we have to go to dog school!
19:25 Five minutes before we have to go. Don’t know what to do with this time.too short to start anything new. Would have been a perfect moment to scroll Facebook for a bit.
01:40 I am amazed at how I do not miss my phone at all. Sure, sometimes I wanna check my messages because I’m used to it, but I don’t feel a real craving of any kind. In fact, I just had the best day in years! I filled my day with doing things I love, I had plenty of time in my day and Ruud and I really connected today. I finally felt I could relax, which is something I have needed for such a long time now. I am determined to make this a monthly thing, to u plug myself for at least one whole day. I am really recharging my own batteries now, which I haven’t been able to do properly for years.
0:00 I have not missed my phone or the TV for a second today’s! I had breakfast with Ruud at the dinner table, during which we had an actual conversation, instead of staring to an episode of some series. We played The Catan card game twice, I read a book, we had dinner by candle light, I listened to some of my old CDs and I wrote two letters to my pen pals. A peace has come over me these two days, it’s amazing. I am not even looking forward to turning on my devices again tomorrow. It’s surprisingly rewarding to disconnect yourself from the world from time to time. Yesterday I said I’d do this monthly from now on. Why do it monthly? I want to do this every week if it’s possible! And I also want to start using my devices less in general from now on. I think I will turn off all notifications. I’ll check social media when I want to, on set times, not when they tell me to.
13:00 I did not run to my phone this morning to turn it on, although I was allowed to. I just wanted o enjoy the peace a little bit longer. If I didn’t need to check whether my theater group will meet early today, I might have stayed unplugged just a little while longer… But now I’m plugging in again…
So, what did I miss? Apparently 95 Facebook notifications, 5 Facebook messages, 38 personal emails, 6 work emails, 7 WhatsApps, 4 Pinterest notifications and a LinkedIn notification. Oh, yes, and 2 Wordfeud notifications. I had expected Facebook to explode, so no surprise there. But it is quite shocking to see it like that. My phone couldn’t even handle all the big numbers and stopped counting at 40. To be honest, quite a few notifications were tags from my pen pals, who were trying to give me as much notifications as possible. Very funny, guys! But even without those, I apparently have a shocking amount of Facebook updates I am reading everyday. I mean, normally I even comment or post myself, which means I’d get even more notifications! That is shocking. And disturbing.
I was very surprised at the few WhatsApps, though, especially because I am in a couple of WhatsApp groups, which can explode very easily. I just chose a peaceful time, I guess. Anyone who is still asking themselves why I am so bad at replying to emails: Apparently I get 19 emails a day, without even emailing myself. I realize this might not even be much compared to some people, but to me it is flooding my brain.
So I missed out on 95 Facebook notifications and 38 emails and a handful of other stuff. But what did I really miss? To be honest, nothing! I had some weird moments the first day, where I wanted to grab my phone but couldn’t, but in the end it didn’t feel like missing out. In fact, when I got more used to it, it felt awesome! The only thing that made me scared was losing my music. Luckily, that didn’t last very long. Perhaps on future unplugged days I will allow myself to listen to Spotify through the tv. Although hearing my old CDs was pretty nice for a change as well.
What didn’t change, sadly, was my energy level. I had hoped to be a bit less fatigued during my unplugged days, but that seemed to be unaffected. Oh well.
Did I change?
Yes, I did! I have kept my promise of turning of my notifications for social media and email. It makes my days so much more peaceful! I still think I check my social media way too often, but at least I don’t feel the urge every minute because yet another little red number appears on top of my icons.
I can find more peace in doing stuff without having to check my phone every few minutes now. I am able to focus more during crafting for example. I noticed however, that it sneaks up on me slowly again. I am checking social media more often every day. I think I really need another unplugged day soon!
Ruud and I ask ourselves where we eat every time now. We don’t just automatically go sit in front of the TV, but discuss it first. And sometimes we do end up there, which is totally okay. But then it is a conscious choice. Half of the times however, we decide we’d prefer eating at the dinner table instead. Which leads to more conversations and probably a calmer way of eating as well.
A change that I hadn’t expected before at all, was my use of camera. I always tended to take a quick snapshot with my phone. It was just so much more convenient then taking the actual camera and having to upload the pictures onto the computer afterwards. Obviously, during my unplugged days, I had to use a real camera. And I notice myself using it more often now! The pictures it takes are so much more better than my phone ever could. It’s worth the extra walk to the computer. I still take pictures with my phone as well, but my camera has my absolute preference now.
I haven’t unplugged myself after the experience yet. So the once a week thing doesn’t work quite yet. I still want to, though. I should really plan a few of those days soon. I feel like I could really use the peace already.
Have you ever tried going unplugged? If not so, just try it out one day! You’ll be amazed by the effects! I’d love to hear about your experiences.