What are the emotions at play that make us want to stay connected to work and our normal everyday routine when we're supposed to be on vacation? Why do we seem to be unable to separate ourselves from this often stress-inducing expectation to operate as we always do while on vacation? Why do we feel the urge to check in with email, Slack, Twitter, and the other tools of our normal day-to-day life when we've explicitly traveled to another location ostensibly to remove ourselves from our day-to-day reality?
Part of it is that we like this stuff. At least, I know I do. A notification represents a positive (even a microscopically positive) change in my equilibrium. Somebody likes a thing I did, somebody posted an article I'm interested in reading, there's a nice photo, here's a new opportunity, there's a positive update on a project. We are all buried under an avalanche of nearly imperceptibly positive inanity.
That's not to say there aren't overtly negative aspects to our biggest online time wasters, too. In my own life, though, these are far outweighed by the positive (and if they weren't then I probably wouldn't have as hard a time as I do shutting them off). Does this onslaught of mildly positive affect dilute us or maybe distract us from something worth experiencing?
I think so.
An unrelenting haze of micro-positive interruptions and outlets may take the place of boredom, curiosity, and the uninterrupted time they used to come out and play together – with potentially powerful results. I wonder if my vaguely positive but usually entirely dull digital life prevents me from having insights, ideas, and emotions that never get to see the light of day? What areas of my life requires a recipe more refined than unrelenting mild positivity, interruption, and constant stimulus? What might be hiding under the warm and admittedly comfortable blanket of my mundane usage of modern technology?
Self-awareness? Creativity? Deeper relationships? Mental clarity? A willingness to dive deeper into a single subject or experience?
I don't have any answers but I do often wonder I might be giving up to support my addiction to the steady stream of retweets, text messages, listicles, faves, likes, gifs, and faux antique digital photos I allow into nearly every moment of my waking life. Why not use this vacation to peel back that familiar layer of my life and poke around beneath it?
When I wake up Monday morning to get on the train that will take me to the bus that will take me to the plane that will take me to a beach across the country I will be trying to live by a couple rules:
- No email. I am not an important enough person doing important enough work for anything to break, blow up, or die if I don't respond to email for a week (most of us aren't -- we just like to think we are).
- No Slack. See above. The world will go on without me.
- No Twitter. Twitter is both a pleasant distraction and a useful work tool. I need neither of these during my vacation. Tweetbot (along with Mailbox and Slack) will be removed from my first page of apps and all notifications will be turned off.
- No Facebook. No Instagram. I will be in the midst of my own relaxing and rejuvenating experience. I don't need to see others' good times'. I will try to take some pictures but they will be for my own creative expression.
- No RSS feeds. RSS is a normal part of my work day routine. I have no interest in propagating my normal work day routine to my vacation location. All the interesting articles will be waiting for me when I return.
- No podcasts. While I have nothing against podcasts I view them almost as audio candy. They are nice to ingest during the busy times of a typical work week but I'm looking to make this vacation a rejuvenation experience. I have no room for candy in this rejuvenation attempt.
- The same logic applies to what I have saved in Instapaper. This vacation is a time for me to dive into something longer and meatier – not blast through a series of articles about tech, psychology, and everything else I read and write about everyday.
- Needless to say, no Mendeley or Evernote or Things or anything else that helps me run my hectic and productive life. Hectic and productive are not my buzzwords for this vacation.
That's a whole lot of things that I'm NOT going to do. Almost makes you wonder what I AM going to be doing, right?
- Reading on my Kindle. I'm not sure what, yet, but I will be reading copiously. I'll probably read some kind of fiction because that's what I'd be most likely not to do during my everyday life.
- Writing in Day One. Each day (or whenever the mood strikes me) I want to pull out my iPad and write in Day One. This won't be a log of what I'm doing but simply a place for me to do any stream of consciousness writing that seems appropriate.
- Listening to an audiobook.
- Nothing. About three days in to this weeklong vacation I will probably hit a point where the first twinges of boredom will arrive. My hope is that I'm successfully able to do nothing instead of looking for some mental stimulus in the form of one of my no-nos from above.
- Conversing with loved ones, strangers, sea gulls – who knows.
- Taking pictures.
- Writing in my analog notebook whenever writing in Day One doesn't seem appealing.
- Simply being outside as much as possible.
Hopefully I come back rejuvenated and ready to conquer another couple months of doing meaningful and challenging work. At the very least, I know I'll at least have a tan and an overflowing inbox.
I'm okay with both.
Photo by espos.de