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To Unplug or Not to Unplug: Is That the Question?

plug the wire into the socketLast week, I wrote about How the Internet is Warping Our Brain and what to do about it. I told you I’d share more ideas, so I did a little research…and also came up with one original idea (it’s O.K  to skip to the end if you can’t wait!)

Little did I know I’d discover a movement!  There’s even a national day of unplugging. (If you missed it, mark your calendars for next March 4th!)

Over in the psychiatry profession, intense debates are raging about whether there should be a diagnostic code for internet addiction (there isn’t one yet).

So to unplug (for a while) or not unplug – is that the question?

Maybe not.

Turns out that blaming technology for our over-use problems is like blaming chocolate for out weight gain. Although it’s tempting to make chocolate the bad guy, maybe it’s time to look at our habits of eating chocolate. (Note to self: go easy on those dark chocolate almonds!)

One challenger to the unplugging movement is Casey N. Cep who writes in his New Yorker article:

“Unplugging seems motivated by two contradictory concerns: efficiency and enlightenment. Those who seek efficiency rarely want to change their lives, only to live more productively… The enlightenment crowd, by contrast, abstains from technology in search of authenticity, forsaking e-mail for handwritten letters, replacing phone calls with face-to-face conversations, cherishing moments instead of capturing them with cameras.”

Hmmm. Enhancing both efficiency and enlightenment sounds like a winning ticket to me!

Yet Cep continues: “those who unplug have every intention of plugging back in…

I get it. Kind of like doing a fast without changing your eating habits.

Dominic Basulto at Big Think continues this theme:

“See, if you unplug, you will eventually plug back in. What you’re plugging back into isn’t technology. You’re plugging back into bad habits. These habits were facilitated by how technology works, but they don’t have to be that way.”

He advocates creating better habits: deactivating your notifications; blocking off specific moments in the day to check social media; giving yourself a quota of time on email; and picking up the phone to call someone rather than volleying back and forth electronically over the weekend.

OK. We have to think about this. Build some new habits. Selectively experiment.

Fast Company Magazine went on an unplugging roll after Baratunde Thurston, author of How to be Black, worked for five years as director of digital at the satirical on-line rag The Onion, made news by announcing that he was unplugging from the Internet for 25 days.

As a follow-up, they offered the Complete Printable Guide to Unplugging with suggestions for when to take a break, what you want to take a break from, and alternatives for activities when you’re tempted to sneak back on to the internet.

Sounds like we don’t have to unplug cold-turkey, yet.

Which leads me to my original, and highly motivating technique for unplugging: my horse.

Try as I may, there is no digital way to pick up horse shit.

I discovered that taking cell phone calls on horseback (did that once) is a formula for disaster and/or a migraine. (I do trail ride with a phone, though, just in case we have a strange encounter of an undesirable kind.)

The cool thing about riding is that I love it so it provides all the motivation I need to get my butt out of my computer chair.

While I’m with my horse I stay fairly grounded in the moment, (the enlightenment advantage) and I’m not tempted to let my mind wander into wondering what’s happening on-line or if I’ve gotten any traction on my latest tweet…

So here’s my question: if your work, like mine, is tied to the Internet, what do you love MORE than the Internet.


Program more of those I-just-love-to-do activities into your life so you’ll naturally have to leave the line. No fasting required.

Maybe we don’t have to completely unplug.

Maybe we just need to do more of that other stuff we love.

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