Thursday, August 19, 2010

Digital Overload: The Need for Electronic Fasting

The children and I are fresh off the plane, home from a week in the open farmland of Michigan, far from computers, email, cell phones, and blogging. Life at my Grandma's house is a lot like trekking into the wilderness with a compass, tent, and just the clothes on your back--we entered a much simpler haven, almost completely removed from the modern world of electronics that has made people believe they must be available 24-7.

I'm convinced the clock ticks more slowly up there. 76 degree days lure you outdoors to bask in the not-too-hot sun or run up and down hills, arms spread wide, hair flying behind you. Stiff breezes bend heavy, ripe, pear-laden branches to the ground. The moments right at dusk are for leaping, chasing, and catching fireflies. Simple pleasures. All free and detached from the digital world.

In Michigan, calling my husband on the cell phone merely to "check in" meant walking around the yard like the Statue of Liberty. Arm raised high in the air, I moved from apple to cherry to white pine, squinting in the sun to find where the bars would appear. One bar, two, three; then, I froze as if someone had said "red light!" At strange angles, I'd carefully punch in the number, knowing the bars would disappear if I swiveled my body even 10 degrees.

Checking email required a 15 minute drive to the local library and government identification just for a mere "51 minutes" of computer time. And sending/receiving text messages? They weren't worth the trouble, taking more than a day to get through.

The result was that I spent a week of mostly fasting from the electronic world.
And it was good.

Considering my online teaching job requires me to be available electronically all the time and my ability to keep up with far-away friends and family is done almost exclusively via blogging, email, or social networking sites, I was surprised to find I didn't miss any of it--not even a little bit.
What has surprised me, though, is my hesitance to re-enter the electronic world. I've been home two whole days. I normally blog on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

But I just couldn't force myself to turn on the computer Tuesday night. And Wednesday night, I could only clean out the 400+ junk mails before deciding that was enough. Tonight is my first "real" time on the computer.

I experienced the freedom from a digital society, and I wanted to soar.

School starts back for me on Monday. So, I know I'll be tethered to the everyday- electronic world soon.

But I'm rethinking the place all these computer chips and motherboards have in my life. It's not possible to create an electronic-free haven like the one I just left up north, but it is possible to minimize their importance in my every day.

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