Software and Other Mysteries

On code and productivity with a dash of unicorn dust.

Going Offline

Yesterday I got back from a five-day trip to neighboring Denmark. It was a welcome break from my thesis work, but it turned out to also be a break from something more time consuming than that.

We had rented a house in Vorupør, population 606, in the Thy National Park. It is not the end of the world, and we could of course have picked up a Danish newspaper whenever we went grocery shopping, and had World War 3 begun we would most likely have heard about it from the locals, but as it was we stayed pretty much in the dark when it came to anything outside Thy.

Before arriving there, I had expected some 3G or at least some EDGE availability (for a price, of course) and the occasional wi-fi connection, but no luck. I suspect the end result was a personal record in the longest consecutive time spent offline, at least for quite a few years, with no Internet for four full days.

Is this really blog worthy, one might ask? A fair question indeed, but I found this experience to be rather interesting because I hadn’t realized how much time I spend online. It’s not only that almost everything I do on my computer requires an Internet connection, but every time I have a moment to spare that does not require my full attention I reflexively pull out my iPhone to check my e-mail, Twitter, Reeder, Facebook or whatever else I haven’t done in the last two minutes. It is an action that is rarely caused by a consious decision, but rather it seems to stem purely from muscle memory.

This idea that constantly staying connected might not be all that it’s cracked up to be is of course not revolutionary. Studies have shown that social networking sites may contribute to anxiety, and even people in Silicon Valley who deal these digital drugs acknowledge the importance of disconnecting once in a while.

I cannot claim to have come back as a completely different person. Obviously I am back online again, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I do however feel that disconnecting has given me a boost in creativity with new ideas for projects as well as providing well-needed focus on existing problems. Even though it has been almost 24 hours since I went online, I still haven’t even opened my Twitter feed. Not because I’ve told my self not to, but because it hasn’t crossed my mind (until now).

What it turns out I missed the most was actually just keeping tabs on what goes on in the world. Especially since the Olympics were ongoing, it was frustrating to not know what was happening. This feeling was a lot stronger than any thoughts of what people might have posted on Twitter or Facebook (thank God, ‘cause if it hadn’t been I would’ve been worried).

The most interesting part now is to see if my Reflexive Online Refreshing Syndrome (ROFS - I made that up) has been cured or at least lessened for a significant amount of time, or if I will be back to normal in a few days time. Even without any scientific proof I dare go out on a limb and claim that ROFS causes a massive amount of time - and in the end, money - to be wasted both at home and at work, and as such I hope to avoid going back.

Since four day long flight-modes are seldom possible, I will have to rely on common sense. I would love to hear how other people do this. Do you disconnect fully for a fixed amount of time per day? Do you use recurring intervals, such as one hour online, one hour offline? Or do you simply rely on will power to avoid your Internet extravagances?