Friday, July 16, 2010

Off The Grid

A day before I am to get my new iPhone 4, a close friend has challenged me to spend a day with her off the grid. No phones. No Blackberries. No iPhone. No pretense or distraction from just what we are experiencing in the moment. No dressing up for something or someone. Just being.

This was not very hard for me to do just a short while ago. I used to have a clearer delineation between work time and personal time. I used to walk the dog without talking on the phone at the same time. I used to attend meetings without checking for emails throughout the meeting. I used to turn my Blackberry off. What has happened, and what have I become as a result?

One of the things that happened was that I became the CEO of a company, and felt that it was always my responsibility to be on. I never wanted to be able to be accused of being Ronald Reagan-like and asleep while something critical happened in the business. In a way, the obsessive attachment to my “crackberry” served as a deception of self-importance, replacing some of my fears about my ability to do my job well with an always-on distraction.

This behavior really ramped up with the advent of dating, both online dating and real-time. Once I hit that “send” button on an online dating site, or sent an email to someone I was seeing, I set in motion an anxiety much like that of a 7th-grade girl waiting to be called. The possibility of hearing from a potential date was like crack, and the flashing red light on my Blackberry indicating a message was waiting was yet another hit of the drug, pulling me back again and again.

I regret to say that I have become a rude person who has difficulty living in the moment. I interrupt conversations with my obsessive checking for messages. I interrupt my own thinking with the same. I am always on, but never fully present. I love the thrill of the constant communication, yet hate the anxiety of expectation I allow it to produce in me.

I’m interested to see if I can strike a balance, a 50/50 relationship as it were, with my new phone. Of course, it has nothing at all to do with the phone and everything to do with me. Steve Jobs can’t provide me with a solution for my phone problems – if only it was as easy as applying a bumper. In all the discussions about young people no longer experiencing each other but rather texting each other, I imagine that they, too, are never fully “there”, and fear they don’t even know what fully being there actually is.

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