I’m staring at my cubicle wall with my head in my hands, looking down at my reflection on a blank screen. Dead. My computer is dead. I had left my trusty companion alone on the conference table two hours earlier only to come back moments later to a co-worker drying it off from an accidental puddle of water. I hugged the machine for an hour before gingerly opening it back up (I now realize I should’ve found a sack of rice to let it rest in for two days but it seemed doomed from the start). After a meeting at the Genius Bar and deliberations with everyone in my life who owns a Mac, we’ve decided it is time to move on. My laptop, with a broken charge port among other things, is currently resting on my bed with its battery life slowly draining away, while I occasionally pet it or think good thoughts toward its recovery. Yes, I am still talking about a computer.
The only things that has gotten me through this semi-traumatic experience are my phone and my books. And the various computer labs on campus. Luckily I back up my computer regularly (you should too), so the only real loss I’m experiencing is the unhealthy amount of time I spend cuddling with my various Internet homes. There are no more Facebook stalking sessions, no more Comedy Bang Bang marathons on Netflix, and no more anthropologie.com window shopping. I actually have to face the idea of being in my dorm room alone. This loss of semi-mindless clicking has forced me to read a book before falling asleep and allocate specific times to work on my papers. It has pushed me into a productive realm of independent scholarship and reflection.
Not only did I finish a paper a full 12 hours before it was due, I’ve also been reading a book on quirky neurological case studies. For fun. Don’t get me wrong, I would do that eventually but I never make personal time for myself to read during the school year. Within the past few days I’ve had the time to read, actually clean my room, and go to sleep at a healthier time. The thing is, all of that time has always been there; I just never take advantage of it with the distractions of the Internet. I’m sure most of us fall prey to the same issue. It’s extremely annoying to have the New York Times publish an article on a new study showing a correlation between increased computer usage and decreased creativity because “they don’t get us”. I’m creating original content everyday! My tweets are gosh darn hilarious! Yet there really is a freeing experience to be found in stepping away from the LCD screen.
I am spending more time working on my photo projects and brainstorming my future blog potentials. I’m actually thinking forward rather than focusing on the time I need to schedule away from the computer. Tumblr and my Google RSS reader have always been my main source for current art news but now I actually have to go to a journal or gallery to learn about what’s out there. Listening to new music involves physically interacting with other music lovers. Writing is just sitting in the quad with a Moleskine. I feel like I finally fit into the stereotype of the pretentious college experience that pre-Internet coming-of-age movies promised me (see any inspiring movie that takes place on any Ivy League campus).
There are plenty of successful students on campus who are on either end of the Internet involvement spectrum. Everyone has their own approach toward creativity. I just wonder what it would be like for us to interact more often than through our cliques and Facebook groups. Maybe I’m romanticizing the idea of an anti-digital world, but there seems to be something to it, at least temporarily. Sure, social media programs like Vine and Instagram help us rapidly share our visual world, but how do we pay attention unless we take a step away from the need to include the rest of the world in our own bubble?
It’s hard to imagine that I will find a balance between Internet addiction and quitting cold turkey. This past weekend I involuntarily participated in the “National Day of Unplugging”, a movement in the Jewish community to not only observe the Sabbath more traditionally but also to fully rest on the allotted day of rest. Rather than posting about the delicious challah I ate for dinner, I spent time exploring the city with my family. I don’t think I could do this every day but maybe starting a monthly routine of stepping away from the digital world will be good for my mind and thought process. I’ve even been able to start thinking about personal projects to work on outside of a witty single-serving blog (example: s**t ____’s say).
No matter what you are studying or pursuing, it never hurts to log out of Facebook for a few hours a week. Set aside some time every week to read, write, or create for fun. If you don’t have the will power to stay away, download a nifty app like “Self Control,” which blocks you from a personalized list of websites for a set amount of time. While it may be terrifying at first, soon you’ll find that you can create some pretty amazing things when you focus on the idea for longer than a ten minute sitting. Good luck!