Three and a half years ago I referred to spending the day without access to e-mail or the internet at any point over a 12 - 16 hours period as "spending the day naked". To do such a thing was unthinkable, but I did it as a result a day I spent volunteering. Little did I know then, that spending the day without checking my e-mail or being online for 24 hours was in my future (and more than just once).
I agree to spend a Shabbos in a Chicago neighborhood known as West Rogers Park out of curiosity what it was like to fully observe a Shabbos AND the need to disconnect from life for an ever so brief period of time. There was an appeal to being removed from the information overload I got on a daily basis from work e-mails, personal e-mails and text messages, and being online (both on a computer and via phone) all day. At first I was okay with this disconnect. When I went "officially" offline it was around 8 pm-ish. I knew by the time Shabbos dinner was over I would be ready to go to bed so I had no problem with not "being in touch" with the outside world. It really wasn't until I got home from Shul that next day that I really began to feel withdrawal kick-in. By that point it was 11 am/noon-ish and there was still a good 8... 9... 10... hours to go until I could reconnect. What was I suppose to do for all those hours? Without getting into every single detail of what I did, I made it through. Once I was given the green light I raced to my phone to find out what I had missed. Turns out there wasn't a lot to see. "Hmmm... I guess the world didn't miss me as much as I missed it," I thought to myself.
That was August 2011.
Fast-forward to about a year later... September 2012. I went to visit my BFF who is Modern Orthodox. Going into the trip it I understood I would be eating 100% kosher in their home AND keeping Shabbos while I was there. Unlike the home I stayed in during my August 2011 Shabbos experience, my BFF does allow for the use of computers, phones, tablets, etc. in the guest bedroom ONLY during Shabbos. Now you'd think I would have been doing cartwheels about this fact and totally taken advantage of it so I would have to be disconnected for SO LONG, however I didn't. Actually, unlike my prior experience, I found a greater sense of calm about the whole situation. Instead of experiencing withdrawal I felt a sense of peace in disconnecting. Does that mean I didn't run to my phone once Shabbos was over? Nope! I ran to it as fast as I could, but I didn't feel as anxious as I had before. I attribute this to a lot of things, including the fact that I had gone most of the month of July that year without a car radio which forced me to find peace and calm in stillness. Or, at least greater stillness than I was use to.
Since then, anytime I attend Shabbos dinner at the home of my friends who live in West Rogers Park (the ones I stayed with in August 2011) I always turn off my phone while I'm there. Furthermore, I've also begun turning off my phone while I'm in Shul as well. Even if I'm at a Reform Shul (as I was for Rosh Hashanah services Thursday morning).
The great surprise to me came Thursday when I discovered on my way to Rosh Hashanah dinner at my family's house that I accidental left my phone at home. I swear each and every time I was stopped at a light I tore through my bag as if I was going to get a different result. I think it was after the fourth "bag check" that I FINALLY accepted I didn't have it with me. At first I contemplated turning around to get my phone, but then realized I was good without. Honestly, I was happy not to have it with me. Without it I wasn't tempted to play with it all night and instead, visited with those at dinner. Even better I wasn't "one of those people" who was staring at their phone while in the midst of a conversation. (This is a bad habit I've been working hard on correcting all year.)
This week for the Thursday Blog Project, Melissa asked us to write about: What would your life be like if the Internet never existed?
All of the above is just my experiences with being disconnected from technology at various times over the past couple of years. If I had to literally answer the question Melissa posed, I'd image life would be a lot like it was when we didn't have the internet... and I'll add in text messaging, too. Without these things we'd have to go back to actually talking to people directly (Oh, the horror!!!) or picking up a newspaper or turning on the television to find out what it going on in the world. The amount of information overload would surely be a lot less.
For me, the above experiences have taught me a valuable lesson in disconnecting with technology and reconnecting in the real world.
With all that in mind, I please don't get me wrong. I still do see value in the Internet, texting, etc.; however, I think what I want to impress upon in this post is that I can see value without all these things as well... which is a HUGE leap for me.
Now that I've shared some of my thoughts on what life would be like if the Internet never existed, please take a moment to see what my fellow bloggers have to say:
Merryland Girl (Melissa)