As is an annual ritual for me, I recently disconnected. I have done this for up to 6 weeks in the past and usually when going on holiday somewhere that I want to totally switch off my brain, my fingers and my devices from communicating and information. However, this time I only had a week.
What do I mean by disconnect?
To me, this is simply a matter of turning off all devices and not using any means to connect with anyone electronically. In other words, not only do I not answer any tweets, emails, posts, etc but I dont even turn on any of the hardware of software that these run on to see if there are any. I go to this extreme because I know how long I can spend just reading, accessing juicy bits of commentary or looking closely at something that someone has pointed me at.
Why do I disconnect?
Firstly, I feel that this allows me to re-assess habits I may have got into, directions and paths I may be following and overall, how I am functioning digitally. Yet, at the same time, it also allows me the chance to focus more on the aspects of life that at times using technology can get in the way of (this can be anything from watching the sunset instead of photographing it and sharing it on social media, to read a biography on Johnny Cash I was bought for Xmas).
This year’s surprise
Unfortunately, this year I felt that I suffered in some respects because of my approach to disconnecting. I was able to achieve the things I talked about above including breaking out of some habits I really didn’t need and reading the lyrics to Fulsom Prison Blues that mostly come from Crescent City Blues written much earlier. I digitally refreshed myself in many, much needed ways yet the surprise came in the way I felt I suffered due to lack of mobile access. Not having a phone in my pocket meant I was not able to connect to information that I needed or be contactable when required at certain times. I realised how much my life has moved on to rely on technology to find out simple bits of information (the weather, what’s on at the cinema, the tides to go snorkelling, indeed the time of that day’s sunset). And the expectancies from those around you that you can be contacted (even if only to find out where you are and if you have both of the children with you when in a shopping centre). These may seem like trivial things and, in a way, I don’t disagree but that in itself was something of a surprise.
In my mind, disconnecting equals simplification in so many ways, but I found that removing myself from mobile communication and not being able access to basic information hindered my enjoyment of the week. There are of course, other ways to get the information I needed such as buying a newspaper but I didn’t really plan to start new habits temporarily. Likewise, I and everybody else were able to function before the existence of mobile phones but we have changed in so many ways that the alternatives, the ease of which we can communicate and channels to find out everyday information have lessened to the degree where we have to make a genuine effort to change the way we live to be happy fully disconnected.
If anything, this has shown me two things: Number one is that I am even more determined to drive education to integrate technology, promote education practices where there is an understanding of how connected most of the students are that we teach and that they have a reliance on technology for both information and communication. Number two is that from now on I will not fully disconnect. I will have basic communication and information channels open and discipline myself to use them without venturing into the fully connected world I live in.