Saturday, March 23, 2024

Unplugging Digital Devices Can Be Painful

The official “Global Day of Unplugging” was on March 1st. It landed on a Friday this year, and when I heard the news report on the radio while driving to work, I said to myself, “Nope, not for me. Not today anyway.” I had a lot of things I had to do that day, mostly at work, and a lot of things I wanted to do that day, mostly not at work. Pretty much every single one of those things required a digital device.

I understand why the “Global Day of Unplugging” is a good idea. People nowadays are addicted to their screens — smartphones, tablets, computers, jumbo flatscreen TVs, etc. And I should know, because I’m addicted to mine. I’m not sure if AOADD is a genuine malady (Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder), but if it is, I have it. And it’s all because of digital devices that connect me to the internet.
To give you an example of how dependent I am on my devices, I recently stopped carrying my smartphone in the back pocket of my pants. I now keep the phone in my front pocket. I made the change because the phone fell out of my back pocket a couple of times when I sat down or when I got up from the sitting position. (One of those times the phone almost made a big splash when I was using the, um, the porcelain and tile library in our home, if you get my drift.)

So, I switched to carrying my phone in my front pants pocket. But I carried the phone in my back pocket for so many years, I still instinctively reach back there when I want my phone. Every single time I reach for my back pocket and feel that my phone is not there, I have a momentary surge of panic. My brain loudly declares inside my skull: “Omigod! Where’s the phone? We lost the phone!!”

A half-second later, my hand snaps forward and violently clutches my upper thigh. When my hand feels the thin rectangular shape of my phone, safely inside of my front pocket, I offer a big sigh of relief and tell my brain to stand down from DEFCON 1. But by then the adrenaline is already coursing through my veins and it will take another 10 minutes before my heart stops pounding like a jackhammer.
If that’s how I react when I think for half a second that I’ve misplaced my smartphone, I can’t imagine what will happen if I ever actually lose the thing. I’m thinking an ambulance ride to the Emergency Room at the very least.

So, what’s the point of this rambling nonsense? I’m not sure. As usual, I lost my train of thought. (Thanks a lot, AOADD!) Oh wait, I remember. The “Global Day of Unplugging.” When the official day occurred, I ignored it. But the following weekend I went for my annual retreat with the men from my parish. I thought to myself, “Hey, this will be a good time to have my own personal ‘Day of Unplugging.’”

When I arrived at the Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford on a Friday evening, I turned off all my devices and packed them away in the trunk of my car: smartphone, iPad, laptop computer, and bluetooth earbuds. 

Being disconnected from my digital devices went very well — for the first 30 minutes. Then the withdrawal symptoms started to kick in. It was a rather painful experience. But on the plus side, I found some electronic devices to distract and calm me down. On the minus side, those electronic devices were inside the ambulance that took me to the Emergency Room. 

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