Unplugged

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Last night, I found myself responding to email and IMing while talking to a good friend about a serious matter. I was being mad productive, but I had to wonder: Have we become disconnected from our lives—even as technology keeps us way too connected to our acquaintances and our work?

I mean, why do I know that the random kid who sat in the corner during high school band practice hated last night’s episode of V, but I don’t yet know what my soon-to-be five-year-old niece wants for her birthday? Steely D and Chloé talked about the charms of a freelance society earlier this year, and it sounds awesome—in theory. But while being a member of said society gives me an amazing measure of flexibility and creative autonomy, I find that freedom can quickly morph into the 24-hour news cycle equivalent of a life if you let it (and we all know how sucky and repetitious that can be).

Quite plainly, technology makes it way too easy to work way too much. When I find myself too busy to call a mentor who left me a message last week saying that she just wants “to hear my voice” (I’m sorry, I love you and promise to call tonight!) because I’m using my digital recorder to interview a five-year-old about his online booger-selling business for two hours, something is seriously wrong.

I’m not saying technology is a bad thing—it allows me to keep up with life outside my apartment when friends send hilarious important links, and I get to see all the new babies in my life by simply logging onto Facebook, plus I get to chat with my girls all over the world (seriously, shouts to my peeps in Shanghai). But I need to do a better job at balancing my tech-enabled work life with my tech-enhanced real life. So I’m making a pledge to myself: I will ignore texts while talking to my grandma in Cleveland. I will stop tapping on my keyboard when my hubby calls to check on me. And I will not read work email after 9 pm.

And if you hit me online late and I respond—tell me to close my damn laptop and get a real life.

Have you ever let tech commandeer your real life? How? And what are your tips for unplugging?

—Kenrya

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  • bkili

    Yeah Sis, I feel you. As dire and as important as we may always think that (work related) emails or text are at the moment, when you think about it, it can wait til tomorrow. As long as you know that you put in 100% during your “normal” work hours, then you have to allow yourself to relax and ‘tend to other important matter, like having a balanced life. Great article, now back to work.

  • Diane

    K – my fear for the next generation… you’ve said it in a nutshell. They will be too plugged in and with this comes no patience, no quality, just a lot of ‘stuff.’ And they will run our country? I shudder… No personal interaction… ugh.

    If you’re important to me: I hear your voice and/or see you, and I catch up in email. If you’re not – then you don’t have my phone numbers, or email addresses.

    If you’re a lostie: well, if you’re smart enough to find me via Google, great. Otherwise, you know where to find family. And a big shout out to my childhood friend who reached out to me mum to find me.

    To the folks I see on a daily basis: I don’t care what you’re having for lunch, or what your kid did (if it’s really fun or exciting, you’ll tell me face-to-face). Hence, not on Facebook.

    So your question ‘what do you do to unplug?’ It’s simple for a 8-6er: no cell on at work. Email sporadically for personal reasons. Don’t get on Facebook.

    And for those with a budget constraints and a job where you can use their computers for personal things? Don’t pay for home internet – or pay for dial up (that alone, will keep you off of it for anything non-essential). It will keep you from uploading your life [think about how you have too much out there], and it will keep you talking to your spouse/children/roommate in real time, face time, eye to eye.

    Then again, I’m the one who writes longhand, and then transfers/edits into the laptop… ahem.

  • Yesss. Hello? That’s why I appreciate phone calls over anything. Unless I am getting comments on my photos or videos. There are so many portals of communication AIM, FB, Myspace, email, texts. Yet I find that actual communication is getting more and more lost.

    Yesterday I was working with a client. I attempted to contact office phone, mobile phone, email to no avail. All those portals and still not able to get in touch? And imagine for the people who date…the line that Drew Barrymore’s character says in “He’s Not That Into You” really reverberates. “…all those portals only to get rejected?”
    We really need to get back to basics and talk to each other. Not at each other. Or over each other.

  • Julie

    ugh, your problem is my problem – a part of freelance society I am…

    the other day my b-friend pointed out that the first thing I do when I get up in the morning – go to my computer to check my work-related e-mails – that really sux. I go do work before i have my coffee, before I go wash up, before I look at myself in the mirror – there’s something wrong with that!

    There’s also a problem to figure out a way not to ignore a person that you live with bec you are too busy being glued to the computer/wireless device.

    I don’t go on facebook unless someone sends me a mess that i will need to respond to. I feel like i’m spending so much time on the computer working that every minute that I am not working I should stay away from the computer even if it is for fun and to catch up with facebook friends. But sometimes I can’t help myself as i do have friends all over the world, and facebook seems to be the best way to communicate with them.

    Also, I feel like everyone expects you to be on 24/7, and if you are not, there’s something wrong with you.

    K, we’ll discuss this in depth when I see you, if that ever happens.. Bec we both canceled twice on each other since we are so darn busy, and its not our faults bec we both have mad responsibilities – oh, wait, this is exactly what the topic is here…it just never ends, does it? LMAO

  • sal

    This is such a good topic, and as a working mom, i have realized i just gotta turn off the email at night. if i don’t, my marriage suffers, period. the man wants to see the woman, not watch her stare at a screen. i must say, though, that what i miss most is getting regular snail mail from friends. now it’s just email and texts and that regular touch on a card or over coffee is so much better.

  • guywithglasses

    this is my girlfriend 🙁

  • This is so brilliantly written–and a reminder to me to unplug a bit more. Well said!