Disconnect: shut up, unplug, go DO something

Just so everyone’s clear: it’s not you, it’s me.

I have ‘fond’ (those are air quotes) memories in the past of people pronouncing “I’m leaving!” in a huff, while taking a big pause at the metaphorical door (these are online communities we’re talking about here, so all doors are metaphorical) to see if anyone cried out “Noooo! Don’t leave us!”

There’s a difference between doing what I just described, and recognizing that you are overloaded and distracted and just pulling the plug without telling anyone ahead of time.

The latter option is what I did a week ago. I shut off my laptop and I did my best to shut off the TV. I wasn’t sure what I needed – and I’m still not sure, to be honest – but I didn’t need more noise in my head. I needed, and still need, time to think my own thoughts for a while. I struggle with that need even under the best of circumstances, but lately I’ve been dealing with end-of-major-project worries, and I realized I had two options:

  1. lull myself mentally with the ceaseless idle babble that is the passive absorption of entertainment, whether through the television or through the internet
  2. Shut up. Unplug. Go do something.

I’ve been reading almost constantly, as Jeff can attest. I have a huge novel (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) that’s been on extended loan from a friend. I’ve decided to get it read and get it back to her. I’ve been writing. I’ve been sewing. I’ve been forcing myself to go to bed earlier, which quickly confirmed my suspicion that sleep deprivation had been worsening the problem.

I’m okay. Most people won’t even notice any changes, though I think a few people have wondered why I stopped responding on Facebook. There are still going to be posts here on cat.net, and shorter bursts that get posted to all the places my friends read (twitter, plurk, facebook, livejournal) but it’s reasonable to assume that I am only absently keeping up with everyone for a while. I’m still figuring out what to post here on cat.net – I can tell I’m rusty from having taken a year away – but what you’ve seen recently will continue.

It is hard to hear myself over the clamor of everyone else. I’m just turning down the volume for a while.

Comments

++ on sleep deprivation making the problem worse!

It doesn’t entirely fix the problem, but additional sleep did help. If you take the total hours I am in bed, the number looks right, but the reality is that the cats start bugging me 60-90 minutes before my alarm buzzes. So I’ve been shorting myself that amount every workday. It adds up.

As for everything else: it’s reactionary, and I know it. It is not balance. I still have to find a happy medium between being disconnected and being overwhelmed by too much connectedness. I marvel that more of my friends don’t have this issue. How do they manage it? I’d love to know.

I have taken the stance you have about disconnectedness and sometimes I think I have swung too far in the other direction. I essentially do not touch my computer after the workday ends (iPhone does not count), even though there are things that I would like to be doing. I have not written anything in two months and it has been spotty for months before that. On the plus side, I am finding lots of time for reading and am getting a goodish bit of exercise, so that helps with the sleeping problem (although my anti-depressant helps a bit there as well). 

 

Good luck with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I really enjoyed that book, although I had to skim past the footnotes; they just got to be too distracting from the main story for me.

I think most people don’t even realize they’re lulling themselves with the Internet.  I read something a year or so ago that really resonated with me, and has been a decent motivator to unplug. It was an older artist, a woman in her 70s, who said “You have to do less, prioritize, in order to get more done. You need to make choices as you get older.” It’s actually very liberating to me to occasionally say “I like this, but it’s not really worth my time.” I look forward to saying it more.

March 1, 2010