A very rare thing happened: I spent most of yesterday with no internet and spotty cell service. My work day started normally, but in the late morning everything crapped out and I could barely get a text message (read: actual SMS, not even iMessage) out to tell people why I was suddenly unable to communicate.
I went into the office for a couple of hours to get essentials taken care of (with a well-fitted N95 mask and lots of social distancing), but eventually got hungry and returned home to the dark ages. I would occasionally get notifications of a message, but they wouldn’t load and I couldn’t send any replies. Thankfully I still had power and water, so it wasn’t full survival mode — just very, very disconnected.
As someone who has had a phone since they were 11 and a smartphone since late high school, it was a drastic change. I was suddenly in an information black hole; if it wasn’t downloaded on my phone or laptop or in a physical book on the shelves, I was out of luck. Social media may as well not have existed, I couldn’t check my email or track package deliveries.
Given that we’re also still in a pandemic and there isn’t much to go do, I was left with few options. I finished what work I could, texted a couple of coworkers that I didn’t know when I’d have internet again, and embraced a world (temporarily) without internet. I read more easily than I have in a long time because there wasn’t anything else hounding for my attention.
I should note that I’m well aware of the myriad ways to limit one’s attachment to tech, and already do a lot of them. I have screen time limits (that even sometimes work!), and turn my phone facedown anytime I want to focus on the thing in front of me. The only notifications I allow besides calls and a couple of messaging apps are personal email. But let’s be honest, all of that only does so much. I’m still on my phone or browsing the internet on my laptop for hours each day. It’s a way to procrastinate, learn, communicate — basically all of my favorite things.
This outage (as annoying as it was) forced me to slow down and to focus more clearly than I had in a long time. After work, I sat on the couch and read for an hour. When my spouse got home we talked for an extra long while, cooked a favorite recipe (this one!), and watched a movie on DVD like some old-fashioned weirdos. It was, well, awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to ditch the internet or toss my smartphone. I both love and need them. But I am thinking about ways I can be more intentional with my time, and minimize distractions more often. I don’t need to know everything that’s happening, immediately, all the time. The world will keep skipping even if I’m not checking on it. It isn’t, in fact, always a bad thing to be unreachable.
How to you take time to focus or unplug? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!
(Photo is a free stock photo because it about sums up the level of communication I had yesterday.)