Today I turn 27 years old and I'm saying goodbye to something that has given me more joy, freedom, and meaning than any other non-living thing in my life. Heck, I even met my wife through it. Today I'm saying goodbye to the Internet for two weeks.
I won't be tweeting, liking, sharing, plus oneing, reading, emailing, posting, instagramming, etc.
What I will be doing instead is enjoying two weeks in Italy. I will have conversations in person, journal by hand, read books, take pictures (on an actual camera, not my phone), use paper maps, and live a slower, less connected life.
In this essay I'll explain why I'm unplugging, how I'm going to make sure my life doesn't fall apart while I do, and why you should unplug soon too.
Why I'm Unplugging
Since I got my first email address and instant messenger screenname fifteen years ago I haven't gone longer than a couple days without the Internet. (Even on our honeymoon my wife and I gave ourselves a few minutes each day to check in.)
I love being up to date with what is "going on around the web", sharing what I find while doing so, and staying in touch with all of the people in my life that matter to me that I can't physically be by.
I do my work online; working alone from home with my co-workers in the Bay area hundreds of miles (but just a Skype call) away.
But since I left my desk job two years ago to be an "entrepreneur", I've had a slight addiction to work. Or perhaps a better and more accurate way to put it is that since I'm now doing work that matters to me and others (I'll let you guess which half was missing before), my work has become my hobby too.
More often than not I'm shooting videos on the weekend, recording podcasts at night, and responding to emails while in line for a California burrito. Not because I have to, but because I want to.
But after a while you end up feeling so connected to your smart phone, tablet, or laptop that you immediately reach for them any time you're bored. Even when you're around people you love, traveling somewhere new, or just watching TV, there has to be something online that's better than doing nothing for five seconds.
Whether you feel as strongly about how obsessed people are with their phones as Louie CK does or just passively shared the latest viral video of people ignoring the real world for their phones, there clearly is something going on here. And I think addiction is not too harsh a word.
How I'm Disconnecting
For two weeks I won't be accessing the Internet. I won't check my email, send a tweet, or even look up the score of a football game. My "referee" and gatekeeper (checking for things in case of an emergency) will be my wife.
Being out of the country will be a huge advantage for me actually sticking to this too. If this was a staycation I would be very tempted to turn everything back on "just for a minute"...
The normal things like "out of office" messages and suspending my cell phone will happen, but for social media I'm going to follow this guide from Fast Company.
For someone that works, consumes, and plays so much online, this is going to be tough.
Honestly, I'm curious to see what it is like. I'll rely on things like word of mouth news, physical maps, and not taking a photo of a plane wing before takeoff or my plate of food before eating it.
Through these two weeks I plan to not only spend more time focusing on me (through reading and journaling), but to also just focus on being more present with the people around me.
It is really hard for me to even remember what life was like before the constant ping of text messages (I've had a cell phone for over a decade) and other man made, life interruptions.
Perhaps I'll come through to the other side craving digital human interaction.
Perhaps I'll want to sever all ties with the external world and go all Walden on the Internet.
Most likely I'll fall somewhere in the middle.
But I know one thing for certain: I am looking forward to the break from the constant influx of stimuli and the slower speed of the offline world.
Further Reading: Barathunde Thurston Left The Internet for 25 Days