A couple of weeks ago, I was working with my partner. Conversation touched on many subjects, and eventually we were discussing communication in this fast-paced techno world. I expressed the desire to live off of the grid; to see what it would be like to go without cellphone, internet and social media. The more we talked about it, the better it sounded… until we realized that we’d both have to be independently wealthy to live this way, for the majority of work for both of us is through social media and email.
Friday morning, I logged in to check messages, Facebook, Twitter and various other outlets, only to discover an online article. Friday, March 1, was “National Unplug Day,” in which participants would shut off phones, computers and other noisy devices from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, a kind of techno Shabbat.
I liked the idea. I liked it so much that I decided to start at 10 am. And, being the overachiever that I sometimes am, I decided to extend my Shabbat until sundown on Sunday.
The first 3 hours were a little uncomfortable; I’m used to checking emails frequently, as that is how most people contact me for work. I left my phone at home and hustled off to the beach, where there were dolphins, seals, and a pod of 6 grey whales. I added to my collection of sea glass, and even found one big honking blue piece, and walked four miles round trip on the sandy shore. I returned home flushed and exhausted and drifted off into a 10 hour sleep.
The next day, I cleaned my office. I’ve had “production office” since the fall, and the chaos was becoming more than distracting. I pulled furniture away from the walls, got down on my hands and knees and brushed the edges of the carpet. Normally, when I clean, I do one of two things: put on a sweeping epic movie (Gandhi and Lawrence of Arabia are favorites), or turn up the tunes and rock out the vacuum. This time, I did neither. I worked in silence. Cleaning became a meditation. I focused on one task at a time, and only when I reached completion, did I allow myself to move onto the next one. I shampooed carpets. I sorted through books and decided to hold an online garage sale. I purged years of useless clutter, keeping only that which is essential. I discovered things; a journal crammed full of entries and a photo of my NASCAR ride, little treasures filled with memories.
Afterwards, I treated myself to a neighborhood stroll, chatted up a few locals, and snuggled down with a book, the Goldberg Variations drifting through the night. Eventually, I fell into a deep sleep.
Day three, I went through the kitchen and cleaned out cabinets that had become a den of assorted food containers and mismatched pots and pans. I partnered each with their lid, wiped down the cabinets and made meatloaf, again in silence. I worked on a script – writing in longhand, and then I turned on the computer, placed it into Final Draft, emailed it to G and promptly turned the computer off. Another walk – this one brisk – then back home for dinner, and turned on the television to view the History Channel’s The Bible and Vikings.
Sundown had arrived. I entertained myself briefly by following #thebible and Tweeting out quips, and then, I shut the phone down and went to bed.
I have not had such a feeling of calm and serenity for at least seven months. I felt as if I had returned from a long, treacherous journey, a kind of Odyssey, where I was lured by the promises of sirens, coming dangerously close to crashing my ship, and found myself staring into the eye of the Cyclops. Home again, home again, jiggity-jig.
Some things that I discovered:
- Life does not end if the gadgets are turned off.
- I should not know more about followers than I do about my neighbors.
- The human soul must have quiet.
- Clutter is not a sign of artistic genius. Clutter distracts the creative mind and must be put in place.
I read an article a couple of years ago that the internet and its distractions were causing neural rewiring of our brains, that both men and women were exuding much higher levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – than before the advent of social media. I believe this to be true, for my mini-vacation from the web-stractions brought me more peace than I could ever imagine.
Please don’t get me wrong – social media is here to stay, and I embrace it for all the good and the fun that it can bring. That being said, it is a substance, like any other, that can be used for our good… or for our destruction.
I plan to take a Shabbat every week. Mine will be Saturday – Sunday (or perhaps Monday am) as I must have access to find work, but I hope that I will be able to shut down the noise, and give myself a day or two of truly social living.
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe