I am not a girl who enjoys disconnecting. I freely admit I’m addicted to my tech, and I don’t apologize for it or downplay it. Occasionally I read articles about things like not checking email on vacation, or deleting social media apps from one’s phone, and I laugh a little to myself about how achingly unrealistic such ideas are. Good for other people, perhaps, but not for me.
Until I was unwittingly forced into disconnecting last week on our family vacation.
You read that right: I spent one full week without wifi. Ten days ago my husband and I packed up all three kids, flew to Orlando, and hopped on the Disney Fantasy for a week-long cruise. (Side note: we are not hardcore Disney vacation fans, but the cruise was capital-A Awesome. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I will cheerfully provide photos and bombard you with details if you are interested. Email me!)
Once on board the ship, I was very, very surprised to learn that the on-board wifi was (a) an absolute fortune, and (b) pretty crappy. As in, I could open Facebook but no pictures would load. I used up my free 50 mgs in about the first three hours on board, and then after much analyzing of the onboard data price plans, wringing of hands, and rending of garments, I decided to be like Elsa and Let It Go.
No email, texting, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for a week? I decided I was a tough girl and I’d survive without it.
And I am pleased to report that not only did I survive…I kind of loved it.
There’s no way to say this without sounding like a cliched hack, but having my iPhone reduced to nothing more than a camera meant that I was focused and present in a way that is rare in normal day-to-day life. I didn’t check my Facebook feed while waiting in (blessedly brief) lines for pictures with the Disney characters; instead I talked to my kids or watched them run around the ship’s main lobby. I didn’t check email surreptitiously under the breakfast table. I didn’t worry about Instagramming pictures of them going down the giant, amazing water slide. Instead of scrolling through my various social media apps before going to sleep at night, I tucked myself into bed and read a big fat book.
As a side bonus, I got to be blessedly ignorant for a week. No news reports on the latest mass shooting, no snarky coverage of the presidential election, no information at all about the current state of the world. The only news to which I had access pertained to what time the family dance party started on Deck 12, and in which of the ship’s restaurants we were scheduled to have dinner that evening, and when our Snorkeling with Sea Turtles excursion was leaving the next morning.
The whole thing was delicious, indulgent, and lovely.
And this is the weirdest part: I think it made me nicer. I think the step back from technology – and the information with which it floods us – made me more patient and kinder to my children and husband. I haven’t fully unpacked why that seemed to be the case (and let’s be honest: it’s much easier to be nice and kind on vacation where someone else is handling all the cooking, cleaning, and usual detritus of daily life), but I honestly believe no wifi = nicer Erin.
I had no choice but to get back on email and text on Saturday evening once we were back on dry land, but I managed to sustain the social media break until this morning. Fifteen minutes of scrolling through my various feeds made me antsy and wired, and I intentionally put my iPhone away for a bit to handle some non-internet-related work housekeeping.
Obviously I can’t avoid Facebook and its ilk forever, but I am ruminating on ways to be more conscientious about their place in my day-to-day routine. At a minimum, I’m tempted to delete the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone.
I don’t have any clean wrap-up here, but I’d be very interested to hear from readers on this subject. Have you ever taken a tech or social media break? How did it go, and did it impact you long-term in any way? Tips for me? Think I’m a lunatic? Be honest, I’d love to hear your viewpoint.
E (and H, who is almost as much of a social media junkie as me)