To Connect or Not To Connect-That is the Question: How the State of Disconnectedness is a Possibility


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I’ll be the first to admit it. Something happened to me the day I got an iPhone. A transforming experience occurred when I went from the dumbest of dumb phones to my smarty-pants phone. All of a sudden I was connected. I could navigate, listen to music, be entertained, social-network, do business-like things, make a phone call, text messages, check my email, check my email and oh, did I mention, I could check my email. Ad infinitum. Endlessly. Day and night till my heart’s content. But then something happened.

I came across the book, Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age by William Powers a few weeks ago. It was serendipitous no doubt that I should be drawn to reading a book about the perils of being ultra-connected and how the digital space and our collective screens are sucking us up like a humongous, industrial-strength Hoover. Reading Powers book that first evening was as if the author himself was reading the pages aloud, and he himself was telling me to “Step away from the smartphone, step away from the laptop, and for pete’s sake, girl, Give it a rest.”

I was about fifty pages into the book on an exceptionally hot muggy evening here on the east coast of the U.S. reading outside in a zero-gravity lounge chair (with my feet pointed west, if you want to know my geo-location) and my smartphone comfortably nearby. I had come home earlier to discover that the electricity was out in our neighborhood since everyone had probably tried cranking up their air conditioners in the same millisecond. I was immediately captivated by Hamlet’s Blackberry and the author coming clean about how obsessed he had become with his multiple screens, and how for that matter, his whole family had, too. He writes about the “Internet Sabbath” they started several years ago, the turning off of all devices on Friday nights and how they doesn’t plug back in until Monday morning. Good grief, until Monday morning!

I continued reading until the sun went down, dusk to nightfall. It was too dark (and buggy) to read outside. I took the book and all my devices and climbed the steps into the house. Flicked the light switch. Not once, but twice. How soon I had forgotten. No lights.  A few dead flashlights lined the shelf. Oh, wait, I could use the flashlight app on my iPhone. No, I thought. Haven’t you taken in anything Powers was knocking you over the head with? I reached for the candlesticks and dug up a book of matches. I lit one candle. And then, two. And before you knew it, the house was aglow with candles of all shapes and sizes.

The house phone wasn’t working. All the cordless ones held hostage by electricity, too. Wi-fi on the laptop, same deal. Thanks to the mobile phone carrier (who shall remain nameless!) I could have used my 3G network for calls, email and to surf the net. But, no, I thought. Not tonight.

And, so, I read that night by glorious candlelight. I read Hamlet’s Blackberry in the true spirit I believe it was written to comprehend. I read about the “Seven Philosophers of Screens” including Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Franklin, Thoreau and McLuhan and how Digital Maximalism is the wrong approach. Powers suggests that connectedness serves us best when it’s balanced by its opposite, disconnectedness.

I was disconnected from my screens for a few brief hours and loving every minute of it. Have I instituted an Internet Sabbath? Have I turned off the screens for a few hours here and there? I’ll be honest. I haven’t achieved blissful disconnectedness– yet. But I’m more self-aware. And that, well that, should count for something.

One can only hope.

Image Credit: sleepyneko’s flickr photostream

**DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy of  Hamlet’s Blackberry for this blog post.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Debbie Hemley
Social Media Consultant/Blogger
Debbie is a blogger and non-fiction writer. Her posts can be found on the blog: All the News that's Fit to Blog, Tweet & Post


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