24 hours unplugged. No Internet, no phone, no TV. Here’s what I did, and thought, on my digital fast.
I didn’t finish work on Saturday night until after the fast had started at midnight. When I get in from work, especially after being there all day, it is normally automatic for me to walk into my room and fire up the laptop, even as I am dumping my bag and taking off my coat sometimes, especially when it’s late. I’ll jump onto the Internet, and check my various inputs of information – Twitter, Facebook, emails and feeds – to see if any interesting has been going on, and I’ll jump on Skype to talk to a certain someone and usually gripe about how work’s been shitty, and generally chit chat while I wind down from work before bed.
NOT doing that on Saturday night was admittedly very odd. Not as odd as it might have been, due to the fact that I had finished a longer shift than normal (over 13 hours, in fact). It had been ridiculously busy, and I was absolutely shattered. So, in contrast to my normal desire to chill and wind down before bed, I was ready to just crash and sleep. Which I did.
Waking up I did reach over to my phone, as I would normally, but of course it was off, and I remembered what day it was. Digital exile! Was weird, again, not to turn on my laptop as soon as I woke up. Which really emphasised to me how automatic it has become to use these toys/tools that we have at our disposal. Mobile phone and computer use, connected to the whole world through those devices, is now natural and automatic. It is part of who we are, this generation, pretty much digital natives. Our children certainly will be. This isn’t wrong or bad, of course, but not connecting, after the initial shock (‘shock’ is perhaps too dramatic…) it felt liberating.
After breakfast I went for a run, something I haven’t done in ages. I couldn’t run as far or as fast as I could when I was running regularly, but I didn’t really suffer either. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, enjoyable simply for the fact that I would normally be at work at that time, and the run was great. I’ll be running again tomorrow – this was the kick start I needed back into regular running.
After helping out in the garden with my family, and having lunch with them, I sat down to read some of Matter. It was one of those moments where you only plan on reading a little bit (I was planning to settle down in the evening to finish the book) but the final section of the novel was so gripping that I just gobbled it up, and before I knew it I had finished. I also (later in the day) read the first issue of the comic Turf that has just come out. It has been written by Jonathan Ross, for whom writing a comic is clearly a dream come true. It shows – the comic (concerning gangsters, vampires and aliens in the Prohibition era, no less…!) is fun, fast-paced and well-written. And the artwork, drawn by comic-book artist Tommy Lee Edwards, is gorgeous.
Late afternoon I drove to the beach, to get some fresh air and to do some writing in my Moleskine. There were quite a few people at the beach, and lots of dogs (which I always enjoy watching), and it was fun to have a bit of a walk and take it all in. When I left to go to the beach I had gone to put my phone in my bag. It was a rather nice feeling to be able to leave it at home. After skimming some stones I sat down to write, but instead of StairJumpers I ended up starting a short story inspired by the day itself – of being ‘plugged in’ and of disconnecting from that for a short time. It is science fiction, and is turning out rather personal but a little self-indulgent. I’ll see what I think when it’s finished – you may see it posted here.
Sitting on the beach, I felt the desire to tweet about it. This feeling has become natural to me, completely natural, and to have the feeling without the means to actual follow it through – to share something with my Followers – was slightly odd. Makes me realise how that before using Twitter I would never have had this thought. And my Mum will never have that thought, as won’t most of her friends. Just shows how quickly technology use can become natural and automatic, once you have been using it for a while.
Another similar thing that was odd was not being able to look things up quickly. My laptop is pretty much always on. Yesterday, of course, it wasn’t, so when something came up in conversation with my sister that I wanted to find out, I couldn’t! Normally I would be on Wikipedia in a flash, and know the answer to my query within minutes, seconds even. Very odd not to be able to do that. I also really missed not listening to music – something I hadn’t even thought about. I compensated a little bit by playing my guitar.
A highlight of my day was cooking dinner. I really, really enjoy cooking – but I never do it. Like with my running, I’m hoping that by taking the time to cook a proper meal from scratch yesterday will help to kick start me cooking a lot more, practicing and learning and finding out what I like to cook. Yesterday I made a Thai Green Curry, something I would never normally make. Only this morning did I think to take a picture of it (slightly too late) – wish I had done because it looked really nice. Although the smell was what really was wonderful. The smells of proper cooking really do stimulate the senses and bring food to life, something that you totally miss when you cook frozen or pre-prepared stuff. The curry was a success, and I really enjoyed making it, even if I did send everyone (including myself) into a serious coughing/laughing fit when I first threw the chillies, garlic and spring onions into the hot oil!
The evening was spent reading (Turf), writing (more on my short story, but also on StairJumpers – as I am trying to write some of it every single day after an appalling word count for March) and pissing about with Lego. I wrote an article on the importance of creating and indulging in play here, but I don’t do it as much as I should. Not having the distraction of the Internet, or TV, I dumped my blue Lego bin of bricks out onto my bed, sat down and starting playing. Here’s what I came up with (apologies for the crap picture) …
In case you can’t tell, that’s (clockwise from the top) a snake, some traffic lights, a cheetah (without spots…), a spaceship, and a cart selling flowers and toilet rolls. Driven by Totoro (thanks Melanie!). Oh and that’s Bart Simpson in the middle, there.
None of these things I really set out to make. By messing around, rooting through the bricks and trying different combinations, these things just kind of made themselves. Which is wonderful, really. Creating things is like that. My writing is often like that, especially when it is going well. Keep moving the pen or the fingers over the keyboard, and stuff happens. Characters do stuff, places and scenes appear from nowhere. Especially if you take the time to let them happen. Which was kind of part of what this whole day was about, taking time. I felt like I was moving at a bit of a slower pace, which was relaxing, liberating and calming.
I feel quite refreshed after my Digital Fast. I’d quite like to make this a regular thing, maybe once a month or so, to unplug, to disconnect. I urge you to try it too! Only when you do it do you realise how much we rely on our digital devices, and how much work we do keeping our “digital selves” going – communicating through social networking sites and portraying ourselves in an online persona through blogs and websites. So take 24 hours, just for you. Disconnect. And then reconnect revitalised, energised, and with the knowledge that you can unplug completely, even for just a little while.