On this day, National Day of Unplugging, the irony is not lost on me that I post this blog on a day that if you were truly observing this much-needed holiday, you would not be reading it.
So, shame on you. You disgrace yourself and this holiday with your device tethered to you like an electronic leash.
I heard that. Pot. Black.
Okay, I admit it. I find it hard to unplug all the way, too. It’s a more difficult habit to break than most vices I’ve had in the past.
But believe it or not, I’ve been unplugged for a week (and counting!). I cut that cord – or at least one of them. It was last Sunday that I ditched a longtime plug-in. My addiction of choice (besides social media and email)?
For a girl living on her own, having TV and cable just seemed like an added expense one didn’t need when you have a very inexpensive service like Netflix online streaming. There, you have every movie and show at your fingertips at the precise moment you wanted it. Without commercials. Talk about instant gratification. And being a longtime movie connoisseur, it sounded like heaven.
But over the last year or so, I began to find that even after a long, hard day at work staring at a computer screen all day, the first thing I did when I got home was grab some food and “zone out” in front of the computer. My eyes were tired from the positive ion shower I got from the computer screen and fluorescent office lights, and needed some down time. But sitting down in front of yet another computer only sapped me more. I found myself sitting there for a couple of hours each night, eating away (literally) valuable time I needed for other responsibilities, just because I wasn’t feeling as rested as I hoped to forge on. The more I tried to rest, the less rested I felt. It was a never-ending struggle.
I was addicted. And I knew it. Sad part was, I didn’t even enjoy it anymore. Every show I watched was so false and formulaic. Every story arc was fabricated and unrealistic. And there was an endless line of shows and movies where that came from. Still, that blue light held me mesmerized. I couldn’t look away.
After a couple of weeks of really beginning to hate my heaven, I knew something had to be done about it. But what? I’d tried to ignore netflix.com before, but somehow, I still made excuses and found myself right back there at night. And my meal portion sizes became just a little bigger, to help keep me occupied while the images raged on. Distracted eating is one of my pet peeves – and here I was object of my own concern. And if I decided to watch just one more episode of The Borgias or House Of Cards, I would actually get up to rustle up some more grub to carry me through the first 10 minutes.
It was ghastly.
And then my partner put it in the simplest terms, as he is so good at doing: “Why don’t you just cancel your Netflix service?”
“Well, I thi-” Wait, what?
And like that, I felt as if a curse had been lifted. Duh, why didn’t I think of that?? I actually couldn’t wait to log on and cancel the streaming. And it was meant to be, obviously, because my service was to end at the end of the payment period. And the date of my payment period was the very day I clicked “cancel.”
Ever since then, I feel like I’ve been let out of jail! I’ve gotten my nights back. I get things accomplished. I actually sleep better at night and wake up on time every morning. I have more energy when I go out to exercise after work. And I no longer feel like a ghost in my own home who before she knows it, it’s bedtime, and wonders where all of her time went.
If any of this sounds familiar – whether you are a career person who can’t let an email notification go without checking, or a young lady who spends the majority of her day on Facebook playing Candy Crush (even while driving!), or people think you live in Farmville – you need to unplug. Internet and device addiction is a very real thing, and many of us don’t give ourselves the downtime to rediscover what life is like outside the electronic bubble.
While not everyone can go cold turkey like I have, even small increments of downtime can make a difference. Try putting your drug of choice on hold during dinner, or off limits after 8 p.m. so that screen light doesn’t disrupt your sleeping pattern. Hey, here’s a challenge: Shut your computer or phone of for an entire weekend.
Imagine the possibilities.