Delete Digital Overload
By Dante on February 22nd, 2012
During the workweek I live online. My job is creating digital content, but I’m not just engaging with the myriad of editing and production tools I need — I’m also, by necessity, on Twitter and Facebook, while orbiting the galaxy of Google products, and checking websites and blogs. Then I go home and do more, while also keeping an eye on the TV and a hand on my smartphone.
After a full day on the information superhighway, it’s hard not to full like I’ve been run over. About 60 times an hour.
I’m not unique in this feeling of overload, and there’s been a growing movement advocating totally unplugging from the digital world. It’s certainly an attractive idea. So it was with great interest that I read two pragmatic, refreshing posts on The Atlantic website last week about unplugging and curbing digital distraction. Alexandra Samuel’s post ‘Plug In Better’: A Manifesto makes the argument that it’s not about unplugging absolutely but unplugging better by cutting down on digital distractions. Alan Jacobs’ post Waging Guerrilla War Against Online Distractions makes a similar distinction — when writing, it’s not about unplugging completely but limiting what you’re connect to.
Samuel’s piece is especially valuable for the practical, reasonable tips she offers on navigating our digital culture. The one that I took the most from was “Unplug from information overload.” Here, Samuel argues against unplugging completely because to do would be to “unplug from a lot of the resources that could help you set thoughtful boundaries around your working life,” she writes. “Use the Internet to reinforce your resolve to focus on what matters most, and unplug from the overload that comes from the sense you’ve got to do it all.”
Without really noticing it, I’ve started doing something similar. Over the past few weeks, I’ve compensated for how much time I spend online during the week by making my weekends social-media-free zones. It’s impossible to disconnect completely — I rely too heavily on email, and my Droid has become integral to my physical life. (Thanks a lot, Google Maps.) Social networking, however, isn’t a personal necessity. It’s a an area of my digital world that I can vacation from a couple days a week, and this time off has made a big difference. I’m no longer jonesing for that latest hit of movie news or fretting that I’m missing out on something epic. There’s a time and a place for me to use social media, and discovering that has, at the very least, given my synapses a chance to take a breather.
I like the digital world — a lot — and to completely unplug is unthinkable. But like with managing real-world stress, finding ways to control how and when to engage with what’s online is crucial — and personal. The Atlantic posts (and the other items they link to) were excellent starting points for me, and maybe for others, too. But at the very least it opens the conversation for others to share their tips and strategies for navigating a digital life. Share yours in the comments below!