Anyone worth their salt will tell you that the power of interconnectivity is unparalleled. There are family and friends to catch up with and groups of likeminded people to join on Facebook. There are friends and idols to follow on Twitter, as well as chats to participate in to facilitate learning. There are moments to be catalogued on Instagram, wish-lists to be created on Pinterest, and profiles to updated on LinkedIn.
If you’re especially savvy, there are Periscope and Meerkat on which to live-stream your life, and Slack to chat instantly with coworkers. And there are always text to send, emails to answer, and phone calls to make.
That’s not even considering things like social games, blogging, fitness trackers, super synced calendars, and the like.
When you look at your phone as I just did, and jot down every way to connect with others, it can quickly become overwhelming. How many likes or hearts do you need to aggregate? How many times do you need to be retweeted or repinned? What is the “right” number of connections, friends, or followers? How active should you be in all of these groups? And do you really need to enter every grape you eat into MyFitnessPal? (On the last, I vote no.)
In the face of all these notifications and NewsFeeds, sometimes it becomes necessary to close the laptop, turn off the phone, and just exist in whatever moment you find yourself. (In this spirit, I’m writing this piece long-hand.) And in those times of technology abstinence, so much more of yourself has room to grow.
When you disconnect, you can feel the pen gliding across the paper, instead of the insistent similarity of pushing keys. You get a feel for each word, and have time before beginning the next one to choose what’s the most right. The writing comes slower, but ultimately better.
When you disconnect, you can read a book or newspaper in stillness, letting the sounds of the wider world around you instill themselves into the words on the page, so you can’t tell anymore what’s face and what’s fiction. Every time you remember that book or that group of articles, you’ll remember exactly how that day felt, instead of how the screen looked.
When you disconnect, you learn to do one thing at a time. No more watching a movie on the Apple TV while typing an essay and checking Twitter for updates while text message banner notifications pop up across the top of your smart phone. No—instead, you watch a movie with rapt attention, pausing every so often to talk about plot points. Instead, you focus perfectly on the essay and give it all your best words. Instead, you leave Twitter and your texts alone, knowing they’ll be there when you return.
When you disconnect, you really see the world around you: the people you pass on the sidewalk, the sun on the side of a brick building. Everything you’d normally Instagram is actually seen with #NoFilter and you can pause with the scene as long as you like. There’s nothing pressing upon you; you interact effortlessly with the present.
And if you begin to miss the notifications, the screens, the constant interactions with all of those virtual people on the other side of their screens and notifications? They’re all waiting for you on the other side of your power button.
They’ll wait until you’re done with your disconnect, and decide to plug back in.