Between these two devices, I am almost always in constant contact with the outside world; with everything from Facebook, to email, to message boards, to my blog… phone, text, voicemail, fax, I literally have dozens of ways to be potentially contacted, and I know that I’m on the low end of the spectrum.
It seems everyone these days is plugged in all the time. We can reach each other in an instant. It has become so second nature to reach someone immediately that if, for some reason, we can’t reach them, we automatically assume the worst.
But when is it too much? Constantly being at the world’s beck and call is draining, to say the least. Many times we don’t even notice, but there is a reserve inside of us for communication; people used to have to go out of their way to fill this reserve by seeking people out; now we scramble to keep it from overflowing while new information is constantly being poured into us.
It takes a recognition of this reserve, and its overuse, to decide to put a stop to it. If you think of information like a river, you realize how impossible it is to process all of the information at once; it would be like trying to swallow the entire river so you didn’t miss anything. On the other hand, it also makes no sense to completely stem the flow; if you do so, it’s likely to back up and eventually break the dam. But, if you set up small dams with the intention of directing the flow of the river, then you are in control of how fast you receive it as it moves along.
These information dams can look like a lot of things: choosing certain hours of the day to close your computer, turn off your phone, not check the news; it can look like unplugging from instant communication so you can write a letter or write in a diary. Let your family know the changes you are making so they don’t worry when they can’t reach you, but you can use the time you create to deepen your bond with them in other ways: invite them over for dinner, pop over for a personal visit, make a gift for them.
If this seems old-fashioned, that’s because it is. But it also makes sense now. Humans have not changed that much in 100 years: we still need time to unwind, to be alone. We were not designed to be intake receptacles of constant information. Taking time to unplug gives us the time to create, reconnect, and communicate in a whole new way.