Monday, November 16, 2009

Media Detox

While reporting a story for Marketplace on Slow Media and talking to slowies like Jennifer Rauch and Nick Jones, who are paring down their new media usage, I decide to give my own media diet a whirl.

*Note, for all you purists out there, this is a transcript of an audio diary I kept while detoxing. I was not blogging at the time.

12:15, Friday afternoon

I feel like I can’t get anything done. Now seems as a good a time as any to give this media diet a try. My plan is to stop using email, stop using my cell phone for... well, at least the rest of the day. We'll see how long I can last.

12:15:25 (Twenty Five seconds in)
Well, guess the first thing I have to do is quit my email. I'll just check it one more time. Couldn’t help it. Or I guess I could go offline and that way I won’t need to… wait a second How do you go offline? Hm.... Oh well, I’ll guess I'll just quit my mail. Email is shut down. Take that digital media!

Oops! Auto response. Can't forget that. I have to go and add an auto response to my email now

"Hi, thanks for the email. I’m on a media diet for a story. I’m here, just not checking email for as long as I can hold out. Hopefully 5 p.m. today But I do want to talk to you. So call me, but not on my cell; that’s out too. I’ll be at… thanks, Sally.”

I better open my email to check and make sure the auto responder is working.

Ok, let’s see how long I can last. It’s been… 5 minutes.

It’s 12:24, so it’s been 14 minutes, and I keep instinctively going to check my email, which is not on. Hm.... Don't think I'm doing I'm doing so well.

I just realized I don’t even know how to tell if I have messages on my landline because I usually get an email telling me. Guess I’ll just sit here now and wait for the phone to ring.

Ooh! Phone.

Just got off the phone with Mike Song, efficiency expert who writes about how to cope with email. Mike tells me I may start to feel something akin to panic that I'm missing out on on something important because we, as people, are genetically engineered to love, cherish and seek out new information. So far so good though. It’s been about 40 minutes, and although this does feel pretty weird, it also feels kind of good.

Feel like I’m on vacation.

So relaxed.

I wonder if email is sort of like chocolate cake because I’m looking at that little icon on my desktop and I really, really want to click it, but I also know that this will not make me feel good later.

Starting to get paranoid. What am I missing? What if I’m miss an assignment? What if an expert I’ve been trying to get in touch with has emailed me and is too busy to call or just doesn't want to? Starting to get really freaked out. Don’t know if I’m going to make it all the way to 5 o’clock. Pretty sad. It's only been 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Just for the record I’d like to point out that not only am I refraining from email, I'm also staying clear of the internet. In case that wasn’t clear earlier. I’m sitting here at my desk, working on my computer, not using email or the internet.

It's Friday afternoon, and honestly, at this point I would quit, except that I don’t want everyone to think that I’m a wimp. I feel like I need email kind of like people need coffee. Give me my email! Phone ringing. My intern Douglas, who wants to know if I got his email.

Douglas told me he forwarded me an email from a potential expert I've been trying to talk to about another story. Clock is ticking. I need to get in touch with this guy. Guess I'll need to go into my email to get this person’s contact information. Sort of nervous about this, but has to be done. Here we go.

Back online.

3 hours. Guess I didn’t last very long. While it was tough, as a journalist, to give up email access during the working day, it also seems pretty ridiculous that it was so hard. Tom Jackson, otherwise known as Dr. Email (another source I interviewed for this story) told me email is an addiction, but the pain of withdrawal tends to disappear after about two weeks. And you don't have to abstain altogether - just hit a happy medium. Find your stride. Checking email every millisecond drains your productivity juice. Instead check your email maybe four times a day. But in part, the difficulty comes from what Jennifer Rauch has honed in on (take a listen to what she has to say in the story here). That it's not her, or you, or me, it's Other People's expectations. In other words it would have been much easier for me to go sans email for a day had I not had to worry about being disconnected from co-workers, sources and experts, in a word, everyone. But when I was able to go off-line it felt great. So I am going to log off, or log-on less. What about you?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

SohoSally, this is great! I thought I was the only one. Ten years ago I got rid of my TV. Three years ago I got rid of my cellphone---if people want to call me, they use landline or googlevoice or skype. Now I am trying an experiment: I check email ONLY ONCE A DAY---radical! Keep us posted...

11/17/2009 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had a great story on MarketPlace yesterday. We only use our TV for playing DVDs. I haven't missed TV at all.

I try to disconnect as much as possible. I don't Twitter, send text messages, and constantly check my email all day like a lot of people at work do.

It amazes me how hard it really is for people to kick the habit of always being online.

11/18/2009 9:07 AM  
Blogger DOCTOR JEN said...

Media diets are usually more successful when people do a little advance planning rather than trying to go cold-turkey. (Remember that scene in Trainspotting where he tries to quit heroin?) Isolate yourself from the temptation and arrange substitution activities that don't involve media. Planning for your next diet might include booking a trip to a sunny locale where they don't speak English!

11/19/2009 6:28 AM  
Blogger jguy said...

Thank you so much for this column. I felt like the only one. I do remember that while on vacation w/ my family last spring, I vowed to go an entire week w/out internet access & I made it. Then I came home & went on a binge. I need to cut it down again.

11/22/2009 10:00 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Disconnecting does feel great, but I'm with Dr. Jen that it might be a bit easier to plan ahead next time. Though today, while out of town for a friend's engagement party, I realized I forgot my cell phone and had an extra wonderful time.

11/22/2009 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about how we as a society are so hooked onto electronics. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of copying our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I dream about every once in a while.

(Submitted using NetSurf for R4i Nintendo DS.)

2/09/2010 4:55 PM  
Anonymous detoxfan said...

I take a media vacation frequently. My business activities keep me tied to the laptop a big part of most days and it's hard to get around that. But, I often take a day or 2, or even a half day, and just shut everything down. I'm fortunate to live in a pretty remote area surrounded by nature. A day of hiking in the forest or working in the gardens creates the balance I need and reminds me that there is a "real" world out there to be a part of too.

3/31/2010 10:14 AM  

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