Recently I’ve been doing something nearly unheard-of for me. I’ve been shutting down my laptop around 8pm and enjoying the rest of the evening unplugged.
Turning on the computer is one of the first things I do in the morning, and until recently, turning it off has been one of the last things I do at night. Being portable, it is with me in nearly every room, and is an invaluable productivity and recreational tool.
I listen to music through it. I keep in touch with friends. I express myself through my blog.
It is active all day long, on my lap, or plugged in to the corner of whatever room I happen to be busy in.
Honestly, I like it this way – easy access to the outside world makes me happy and more productive. And yet… it’s the easy access that can transform the computer from a handy tool into a mind-sucking time vortex. At the very least, it can be a big distraction.
I’ve been known to pause supper preparations in order to answer the call of my beeping Gmail Notifier. I’ve hopped onto Facebook for a quick status update, and looked up two hours later to wonder what on earth I’ve been doing all that time. Not to be down on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the like – social networking sites can be a good use of computer time, if done mindfully. And I think that’s the key – don’t be lured in just because it’s there. Use it as a tool for what you want/need to do, and then put it away.
This post on Simple Mom is what started me on this path to unplugging. I realized just how much of a distraction my inbox can be throughout the day, so I stopped leaving myself logged in. This was a big shift for me, but it’s been a good one. You don’t realize quite how much you are at the mercy of that beeping notifier until you start ignoring it. I still check my email often, but now I am in control, and that makes more difference than you might think.
One Friday night a few weeks ago, I had a knitting project I needed to complete, so I made the decision to avoid distractions and turn off the computer. Normally, I’ll just set the laptop down next to the couch on the floor while I’m otherwise occupied, so that it’s still there if I want to look something up, or if somebody sends me email. I’m not sure what made me turn it off completely, but I was unprepared for how different I would feel without it.
It felt good.
Surprisingly good. Like my world had gotten much smaller, and more cozy. I never thought that having everything at my fingertips was a source of stress for me. In fact, I truly thought that being unplugged would make me crazy – unhinged – like easy access to the internet was a life-line of sorts. To find the opposite was an eye-opener.
I still keep the laptop on all day – much of my daily routine requires it, and I don’t have a problem with that. But now I’ve been turning off the computer every night that I don’t have some specific need for it to be on. I’ve read a book, finished up some knitting, and hand-sewn the binding onto a quilt, all in the last few days, and all without glancing over at the laptop every few minutes to see if something new has popped up. I’ve even managed to have a conversation or two with my husband. Imagine that.
How about you? How does your computer fit into your everyday life? Is it within arms-reach all day long? Do you impose limits on yourself? Do you struggle with the amount of influence the internet has over your day? Or are you comfortable with the role of the computer in your daily life?