How often do you unplug?

    by Mark Glaser
    May 26, 2006

    With the Memorial Day weekend upon us in the States, and summer around the corner, this is a time when we typically take vacations and unplug from the work world when possible. But with always-on technology around nearly every bend, are we always getting away from technology when we take vacations? Maybe it’s time for us to really unplug and avoid email, blogs, podcasts, and every other form of technology and gadgets that surround us. So how often do you totally unplug from technology each year? How do you do it, and what tips would you share with others? Or maybe you feel like unplugging isn’t an option and isn’t desirable — give us your counterview. I’ll run the best comments in next week’s Your Take Roundup.

    • I tried, I really tried. The problem is that once you are used to the depth of coverage of a major news story online, reading a newspaper seems so… thin.

      My wife and I stayed in a hotel in Manhattan over the first week of this year and I promised not to bring my laptop. When we woke up the morning of the 3rd, the news about the trapped miners in the Sago mine was just breaking. The newspapers didn’t have much info because they’d been going to press just as the incident was being reported. Television had already christened it the “Sago Mine Disaster” and had generated rotating 3D logos to hang over the newsmodels’ left shoulders.

      I knew that if I’d been online, I would have been certain about exactly where the mine was in West Virginia, who owned it, and whether it had a good safety record. I would have found some good background on mining technology and methane explosions in coal mines, as well as an idea of how severe previous mining accidents had been and how many lives they had claimed. The papers had very little of this and the TV stations were in agreement that the families were the only part of the story worth covering.

      The next morning I woke up and saw that the TV was reporting that 12 of the 13 miners were dead and that one was in critical condition. The New York Times however had a story on the front page claiming that 12 were alive and 1 was dead. The Times had gone to press sometime after midnight when a rumor based on a mis-heard conversation spread about most of the miners being alive, and the paper of record had run with it. As I ate my breakfast, I looked at the TV and I looked at the paper… and I looked at the TV and I looked at the paper. Finally, my wife gave me the go-ahead and I ran for the hotel’s computer room and spent an hour or so finding out all the information the media had left out of the story.

      There’s too much to learn in the world to be comfortable in cutting myself off. If the world decided to shut down for a weekend, I might try it again.

    • Pat MacManus

      I have no desire to unplug on weekends but this is because my technology serves me rather than my serving my technology or those who provide it. On weekends and holidays my palm contains the tasks, appointments and reminders that forward my goals instead of mine and my employers. My cellphone never tolls for anyone but me because I have chosen everyone who has the number. How we manage our technology determines whether it is an enabling tool or a leash.

    • Fred Villegas

      It’s really very simple! Whenever I’m on sensory overload. At times I need to get away from it all in order to recharge my mind, body, and soul.

    • I unplugged over the long weekend for a while — not long, certainly…but for a day or two.

      Incredibly — it’s spring in Boston! And my 9-year-old daughter learned to read at some point in the past year or two — who knew?

      Seriously — despite being a self-described Blogaholic (http://darmano.typepad.com/bloggers_anonymous/), I do find it’s critical to unplug every few weeks for a few days. Did I miss my blogs, the news, and email? Did I feel less informed? Certainly. But there was something nice about it, too. It was less busy, more quiet and restful and relaxed.

      I used to take off my watch on vacation. Now I unplug…

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