So You’ve Decided To Turn Off Your Phone

Earlier this week I found myself spending 24 hours in a town that had no cell reception. Completely by accident I turned off my phone and was unreachable by the outside world. In the moment it felt wonderful, not having to worry if I would hear it ring as my partner and I explored rural South Dakota. When I got back to “reality” I had missed 2 urgent emails and an important phone call, in the middle of spring break. A time when it is generally understood that people are less technologically available.

When you are in graduate school (and in several dozen other lines of work), there is no disconnecting from the real world without consequences. I’ve discussed the Self Care Paradox before – we are encouraged to take time for ourselves, but heaven forbid you are not prompt in getting back to someone. We have all read the hundreds of blogs and articles about this generation’s addiction on technology and addiction to email, smart phones, text messaging, et cetera. But can you really call it an addiction if it becomes a necessity in order to function in your environment? Is wearing clothing in public also an addiction?

While undergoing Phase II of the internship process, I responded to an email about an interview two hours after it was delivered to my inbox. I was told that only one interview spot remained, which conflicted with my schedule. Fortunately, I was able to make the time work through some creative juggling of responsibilities, but had I been more technologically dependent the ordeal could have been avoided. Another time, I received an email offering me a position proctoring an exam (income I badly needed at the time). I responded within an hour and was told that the job was given to someone else because I had taken too long to get back to them.

By attempting to maintain balance in my own life, I lose out on potential income and arguably cause myself even more stress by having to compensate for being “less dedicated” than my peers who have constant access to their email accounts. I would love to routinely “shut down” technologically, but at what cost? Many people do have this luxury, so maybe several instances of this so-called technology addiction is simply a misunderstanding of those of us who may be penalized for not being constantly available.

National No Internet Day is coming up. Will you shut down? If you do, what will you miss?