How many times today have you texted or emailed while talking to someone else? How often do you sit with someone and engage with your phone rather than the human being across from you? How frequently does a glance at your inbox inject you with a fresh dose of anxiety?
At our recent panel at SXSW Interactive on women's online "performance anxiety," we talked about the pressure women feel to present their ideal selves online, but the conversation ultimately turned to the enormous amount of time the Internet occupies. While author Susan Orlean said she feels like she can be herself on Twitter, she admitted that social media "occupies mental space. It's on your ongoing mental to-do-list." The other panelists echoed this sentiment.
Bianca Bosker, HuffPost's senior tech editor, said she addressed this issue in her own life by making a 2012 New Year's resolution to not "check in" digitally when she could be making eye contact with the person across from her and not to tweet when doing so would interrupt a conversation. (Read more of her tech resolutions here.) Then filmmaker Tiffany Shlain shared why and how she and her family actually take a technology Sabbath every week -- and yes, she really does it.
We were impressed. What would it be like to go a day without the Internet? Would we wither under the force of our own tech-induced ADD? Would we be oblivious to major events elsewhere in the world? How would we let everyone know what we were doing at every moment?
We think those are questions worth answering -- and we hope you'll join us (well, those of us not running this website). If you're not ready to spend a day every week away from the Internet, why not start with one day? Just one. Saturday, March 24 is the National Day of Unplugging. In what the site Sabbath Manifesto describes as a day of "tech detox," you spend a whole 24 hours without screens of any kind -- including TV. (You can take the pledge here.)
If that still feels a little extreme, here's a modified Unplugging Day plan we've devised just for you:
Step 1. On Friday night, put an auto-response on your email saying you'll be out of contact Saturday, March 24.
Step 2. When you wake up Saturday morning, do not go on the Internet. That means no email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Pinterest, Google, YouTube. No Internet. That's the point.
For the sake of safety and making your brunch plans come together, we're not asking you to stop making calls on your phone, but keep the texting to a minimum. Whenever you're with another person, put the phone away until you're alone again. We're also not asking you to go without TV -- baby steps, right? -- but try to limit your tube time as much as you can. Everything you DVRed this week will still be there Sunday.
Step 3. Keep a list of everything you have the impulse to do or look up online during that day.
Step 4. When you wake up Sunday, send your list to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll include it in a slideshow.
There are two main goals for this little experiment:
a) To keep track of how you're using the time you spend on the Internet and evaluate whether you really need to do all the things you have the urge to do online, or if there are other things you want to be doing with those hours. Those quick Google searches and status updates and Gilt flash sprees do add up to whole hours of your life
b) To spend the time you aren't spending online to connect with the people who are important to you and do things out in the world that feel meaningful. Volunteer! Run errands you have been putting off since July! See "The Hunger Games"! So many possibilities!
To get the ball rolling (and prove that at least some of us practice what we preach), our senior lifestyle editor Lori Fradkin offered to share her list from a day in 2010 when she spent 24 hours without the Internet.
- Vince Camuto boots
- Flex account
- Work email
- Can you use Scrubbing Bubbles for the toilet?
- If my neighbor is on Facebook
- West Elm rugs
- Bed Bath & Beyond rugs
- Distance from my apartment to World Financial Center Plaza and back
- Bliss Spa appointment availability
- Amount left on a Visa gift card
- Friends' wedding website
Now it's your turn. We'll be looking for your lists in our inbox Sunday. And if you're interested in ways to talk to your kids about unplugging, head over to HuffPost Parents. (Before Saturday. When you will not use the Internet.)
LOOK: What Women Who Unplugged Were Tempted To Look Up Online
Check work email and gmail Respond to friend's email from Friday Check Hunger Games movie showtimes Check the news/read breaking stories Browse Amazon Tweet about Mad Men's return and about a book I'm reading Watch TV episodes on Hulu Plus and other online sites Log onto Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to see what is happening Check if friend has Twitter account
I wonder what time yoga classes are at that studio I bought a Groupon for I wonder if my groupon for that yoga studio expired? Saw "The Descendants," many questions to research (i.e., why was "March of the Penguins" playing at the end?) Grocery store check out dude asked if I was a nanny (I am a middle-aged SAHM) -- wanted to tweet and Facebook that compliment Used crock pot for first time, recipe called for twice the cook time as the crock pot instructions -- who's right?! How do you prepare fresh lotus roots and fresh bamboo? Words with Friends What time is the birthday party tomorrow? Impromptu dinner party for five omnivores and one vegetarian. I needed a tofu recipe FAST
How to hide an ugly door What makes a person move their mouth while YOU are speaking? When does my next yoga session start? What is playing at the Theatres at Canal Place this weekend? Does this include "words with friends" too? I guess it does ... What is the weather going to be like tomorrow? How to get rid of fire ants. Want to check my emails and bank balances Want to list items on Freecycle Can dogs eat clovers and not get sick? How to remove black stains off hardwood floors. Need to buy a hook for my purse and keys.
Background of actress in the Hunger Games Lyrics to "I Want To Know What Love Is" Facebook Email Texting sister Email a friend to discuss a book concept TED Talks Google book concept to see if it has been done Where to buy ink stamps -- seriously ... I felt like I needed to look this up for some reason. YouTube videos my kids want me to see YouTube videos I wanted to show my kids Writing (yep, no way I can do this offline apparently)
Follow Margaret Wheeler Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mwjohnso