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The Milquetoast Unplug

For the past few weeks (and a few weeks more), I’ve been doing a partial unplugging.  It’s sort of neither here nor there; I’m not firmly online nor am I firmly off.  Which means that there’s no sense of recharging but there’s also little catch-up.  It’s sort of the best and worst of all possible worlds.

Does it have to be all or nothing?  Some people write posts proudly stating how they turned off the computer and electronic devices for a whole weekend and how it changed their entire outlook on life.

There was a great New York Times article on how kids wish their parents would partially unplug and I’d extend that to…um…everyone.  I get annoyed when the person I’m with is spending more time checking their mobile device than they are interacting with me.  It’s one thing to be sitting online at a conference–I expect everyone at BlogHer this summer will be tweeting while we’re talking–it’s another to be out to dinner.

My partial unplug has been a matter of logistics.  I had an edit due followed by end-of-year activities and the start of summer activities.  Some things have to give and it’s not just cooking and cleaning–it’s computer time too.

It took me almost two weeks to add some people to the blogroll.  I managed to throw up the LFCA, but I didn’t get to click over myself and read full posts.  I read and commented on blogs, but not in the amounts I usually do.  I checked email and answered all of it, but in big chunks sometimes several days later rather than doing it in drips and drabs during the day.

And everyone has survived so far.  Including me.

Yet, at the same time, the Internet is addictive in the same way that chocolate is addictive.  I’m not eating a piece right now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think about it constantly or crave it or consider buying some when I see it in the store or choose it over other, healthier food.

I can obviously exist without chocolate in the same way I can exist without the computer, but it seems that a milquetoast retreat from candy (not able to go cold turkey, I limit myself to four Hershey kisses at night) is all I can muster which makes me think that my milquetoast retreat from the computer shouldn’t necessarily be applauded.  It’s a milquetoast retreat because I’m not sure I’d be happy with a complete unplugging.

What I’ve been doing is existing in the place where happiness and time constraints intersect.  I’m doing as much as I can online in order to remain happy with the time constraints holding me to much less than I normally do.

So I can spin it as moderation, but is moderation really just another word for a tempered addiction?  As much as I have days where I wish I could quit the Internet, would I really be happy if I quit the Internet?  Could I ever really give up my blog, or would my finger tremble indefinitely over the delete key?

Are you addicted to the Internet?  Do you actually need an online quiz to determine that?

And apologies, I’m still partially unplugged for another week or so.  Who knows how this summer will go with a changed schedule.  So thank you for understanding if I’m slower than usual to respond.


1 mrs spock { 06.15.10 at 9:20 am }

I have unplugged much more lately, even though I do have two blogs am am writing for The Motivation Station weekly now. When your two-year old says, “Mommy get UP! No computer!”, it must be bad.

2 a { 06.15.10 at 9:22 am }

I am currently addicted to the internet. I do not need an online quiz – all I needed was 2 days without internet at work (mind you, only at work – I could still do whatever I needed to do at home). But, since I don’t have much of an addictive personality, I eventually get bored with things and move on.

Actually, I think moderation is another word for tempered addiction. We want to do the things we like all the time, usually to the exclusion of all other things. But most of the time we recognize that there are many other things we also enjoy, as well as things we need to do that are not necessarily enjoyable but make life more comfortable overall. So we temper our addictions in order to make room for all things – that’s what moderation is to me.

I wouldn’t call it a milquetoast retreat – I would call it finding the proper place for internet in your life.

3 loribeth { 06.15.10 at 9:59 am }

I think unplugging, either fully or partially, does us all good now & then. I took the quiz & I am, apparently, an average Internet user. Which is sort of scary when you think about it. ; ) I don’t have (or want) a smart phone, & my Internet time is often limited on the weekend when we are doing household chores & are out & about. But I will admit, I do spend an awful lot of time online. I find that I watch much less TV (not that there is a lot on worth watching…!) & read far less than I did 10 or 15 years ago (& have piles of unread books & magazines that I fully intend to get around to… someday…). My husband has occasionally complained because I would disappear upstairs for a few hours after dinner to go online (while he channel surfed or read in the living room). We recently got a laptop & a wireless router, so now I’m surfing from the couch while he flips channels. The funny thing is, now that the computer is in the same room as he is, he wants to be on it more too. I can see us getting another laptop & the two of us e-mailing each other, sitting side by side on the couch. ; )

4 N { 06.15.10 at 10:03 am }

I think that moderation CAN mean tempered addiction, but doesn’t always.

When I have access to the internet, I do often feel like I’m addicted. But when I don’t, I’m totally fine, and enjoy myself. I’d go cold-turkey myself, but I’m so bad at actually interacting with people by mail, and even more so by phone (and have been since long before I had access to the internet; this is nothing new) that I fear without it I’d lose most of my friends.

5 Gail K. { 06.15.10 at 10:11 am }

I am completely and totally addicted to the internet. The problem started when I got my Blackberry and suddenly had internet access wherever I went, whenever I wanted. I can check messages, respond to them, check Facebook and post pictures all with that little phone. But, now I refer to it as my Crackberry because the darn thing is as addictive as crack (or so I’ve been told).
In fact, my husband and I recently took a cruise for our 10th anniversary (and I hoped I would get pregnant, but that’s another story) and I literally was in withdrawal for 3 days without my Blackberry. I just wasn’t willing to pay the international roaming charges/rates so that I could use it on the ship or in port, so I turned it off and left it in our cabin the entire 7 days. My thumbs would twitch and it was so hard not to have the phone so that I could update everything that we were doing on Facebook, but after the 3rd day, I was able to focus on conversations better and stopped thinking about it. It was actually refreshing. Now, I don’t check my emails in the evenings on the phone anymore. They can wait until the next day when I am working and on the clock. I do play with Facebook at night, though. So, I guess I gave up some of my vices, just not all of them.

Ahh, internet. How I love thee…

6 Annie { 06.15.10 at 10:15 am }

I’ve had very limited computer time in the past month since my hubby is ALWAYS using it for his job search. It’s been a minor annoyance, especially since blogging about all our current drama helps me sort it out.

7 Pundelina { 06.15.10 at 10:21 am }

Hello, my name is Pundelina and I have an internet addiction. I really must get around to breaking it one of these days. Enjoy your unplugging Mel!

8 Mic @ IF Crossroads { 06.15.10 at 10:57 am }

Yes. I am 100% completely and totally addicted. I need an intervention. I spend WAY too much time everyday surfing blogs, IF and pregnancy related sites and in general, wasting my time. I am ashamed to admit the amount of time I waste online daily. It’s more hours than most people work in a day, I can assure you of that.

I’m envious of your unplugging. I *need* to unplug.

9 susy { 06.15.10 at 12:20 pm }

Moderation is just great, in my opinion! That’s how I go about not having to “be” on a diet. 😉 But even a partial unplugging is needed sometime. I don’t know about fully unplugging for a certain amount of time though. I wonder if someone has to come back after their time away to proclaim “they made it!!” if it really did that much good – b/c the proclamation sounds almost as if they were thinking of it all the time! Did I lose you? Are you even there?? Hahah, a little ‘unplug humor’? Anyway, take the time you need, whether fully or partially and it’ll even out.

10 HereWeGoAJen { 06.15.10 at 12:49 pm }

From my psychological background, that test is skewed. It isn’t a valid test at all. It is very poorly designed. (Where is the “never” answer, for example?)

But that is totally not the point here. I had no internet for a while when we first moved here and it was sad. But I didn’t go through withdrawal or anything. I just read more books.

11 Katie { 06.15.10 at 3:21 pm }

I’m not going to lie. I’m beyond addicted to the Internet. It’s horrible. I blame my iPhone. Honestly, I would love to go on a vacation with my hubby where we both leave our phones at home–a vacation where we are completely disconnected. I think I’ll be planning such a trip in the near future.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.15.10 at 3:42 pm }

“is moderation really just another word for a tempered addiction?”

Oh, boy. Now I’m going to obsess over this.

In moderation, of course.

Enjoy being plugged in with just one prong.

(Yes, addicted.)

13 Kir { 06.15.10 at 4:05 pm }

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted. I do like it when I’m here at work, it takes my mind off stuff, I can shop and read and enjoy. I have to be honest, I go home and NEVER GET ON the computer and my co-worker has been bugging me to make an island or zoo on Facebook, but you have to keep up with those things and I fear my giraffes (I *HEART giraffes) would die of starvation over the weekend, because unless I’m looking up movie times, I AM ABSOLUTELY NEVER online over the weekend. I need to be unplugged then to get stuff done (which is Why YOU are awesome and I am not…since you can be a good mom, housecleaner and super internet woman all the time..and yes, I am jealous of that )

I do feel guilty and out of the loop on Mondays, like I missed a lot of stuff..good and bad and I do my best to catch up..even at the expense of some work (don’t tell) but I don’t wake up on Sats and go right to the computer room….

but I think a little unplugging can’t hurt anyone…and certainly not you….Oh Yoda of the internet. My humble queen. 🙂


14 annacyclopedia { 06.15.10 at 4:41 pm }

I’ve been doing exactly this kind of unplugging for a while now – for me it is a function partly of lack of time, partly of needing to figure out what I want to do with my blog, and partly of it finally being summer-ish here and having other priorities. I am definitely addicted, but also have noticed that I do a lot of online stuff out of obligation or just inertia/habit and don’t do it efficiently or with the kind of intention and mindfulness I’d like to.

Then I think that my perfectionism is threatening to take over yet another facet of my life and I remind myself that I can just chill, already.

It’s tough. So much to figure out. As much as I’m grateful for the relationships and community I have access to online, in a way, I wish times were simpler and I didn’t have quite so many things to stay on top of. My grandmother may have had to wash cloth diapers in a wringer washer, but she didn’t have to do that and worry about staying on top of email and Facebook and her blog, too. (False comparison, I know, but still…)

Hope we can all take it easy on ourselves. We’re all doing our best, or at least we are all doing what we are able to do, right now. And that’s ok.

15 Bea { 06.15.10 at 5:26 pm }

Moderation or tempered addiction? Does it even matter? I think sometimes it’s a struggle to get priorities in order, but as long as you manage it, it’s all good. I mean, if you don’t struggle, then hats off to you (and get your self-righteous and probably lying arse out of my dinner party) but the fact that we struggle with a few things here and there is nothing to be ashamed of.


16 Kristin { 06.16.10 at 12:28 am }

Yeah, honestly, I am a bit addicted. But, there are many days when I do without (but then I get obsessive about catching up).

17 gingerandlime { 06.16.10 at 8:19 am }

Good for you. I often marvel at how much you get done–a slowdown sounds like a well-deserved change for you.

18 Ellen K. { 06.16.10 at 8:27 am }

I am a little addicted, probably more than a little. But I’ve managed to curb all impulses toward purchasing a smart phone, and I have no text messaging skills, so perhaps there’s hope yet. And I try to not go online after 9 pm. I think I’ve been a little better lately, because I remind myself that nothing important has happened on FB in the last 10 minutes.

The book Simplicity Parenting talks about unplugging. I think it’s important. Internet addiction certainly doesn’t make me a more attentive parent. But it seems like a lifeline — it was during infertility and is now as an at-home parent.

I’m concerned, though, when I see groups of adolescent girls standing around, and all are texting or completely focused on their phones (I see this with boys, too). That’s so terribly rude. Will these kids, and future kids (including my twins), know any alternative?

19 Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo { 06.16.10 at 8:27 am }

I barely have time to breathe these days… reading blogs is getting super hard for me. The weather has been great and because of that, and doctor appointments I am barely online. If I don’t wake at 5am, forget it. I can’t blog nor can I read anything. It’s a tough dance… when the Duder was in the hospital I didn’t communicate with anyone except to text quietly. I refuse to get a smartphone though I could get a freebie one…

I also marvel at how much you get done, especially with multiples!!!! Bless you for all that you accomplish and do…

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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