Chasm Of A Data-less Day

Posted: September 16, 2018 in Everyday stuff
Tags: , , , , ,

In Nov 2017, I had a moment when I very undramatically realised what a total loser I was being for reaching out to my phone in moments of solitude. A zombie-like mindless move to stare at the digital screen in seconds of idleness; an almost-fear of solitude.

So I figured a simple exercise was in order: disconnect my phone from the interwebs for a single day every month; the 13th. Why 13? Well a) it’s a prime, b) it’s unfairly unloved,  and c) having a date instead of a day ensures the days rotate and we get a slightly different experience every time!

Since then, the routine has been to switch off the phone’s mobile data and wifi before going to bed on the 12th of the month and switch it back on after waking up on the 14th, into a flood of avoided “connections”. Around 32 hours of disconnected goodness! Mind you, there is no false pretense here of some bohemian move or technological abstinence. I do still keep my phone with me with the option to make or receive calls in case of emergency; I’m not a fucking savage. The key difference is that I don’t have a lazy urge (or possibility) to review the number of likes I’ve received on some profoundly original cat video in the last 7 minutes.

So how was it? My pupils were dilated as they soaked in the world around me and my skin glowed in the freshness of the present. Ok, maybe not quite that eventful. I smiled at strangers in hope for my fix for attention while they lovingly clutched at their pepper spray cans; so not very different to your usual Thursday… Between sets at the gym, I stared into thin air while others told their loved ones how amazing their last set had been. Jokes on them, I don’t have any loved ones who’d give a flying fuck about my workouts.

But in a bit more seriousness, it’s been liberating in some ways. Not having the self-inflicted pressure of being available to the world 24/7 is a weight off the shoulders. The sudden influx of “newly-available” time in the day is welcome too. I get home and there’s a little book staring back at me that I’ve claimed to be “reading” since last winter. But I’m not the one who cheats on a relationship… at least not with books. Jokes. I don’t spare books either. JOKES x 2! No cheating, seriously. Not cool. Coming back to the book, this day of the month has certainly been a welcome chance to read without a sense of impatience, that would otherwise often end with the book being tossed aside in favour of a video of a cat bitchslapping a seal. Quality stuff.

I know what you’re thinking. What about them new… ahem…. physically stimulating internet videos… ahem… to keep that furious masturbation going? Well folks, that’s just how seriously I’m taking this no-data business.


The cherry on top is the subsequent awareness on the data-filled days. It’s been a lot easier to notice those mindless phone-glued moments and feel a pinch of disgust at it. Last week when I was at a restaurant to grab lunch, I noticed a girl sitting on the table opposite mine. She was checking out her iPad as she ate, just as I was with my phone. I walked over to her and asked her if she was just as bored as me, and if she would like to eat together. The aversion to staring at my phone was obviously greater than my ineptitude at talking to strangers.

Mind you, I’m not claiming any increase in productivity, nor claiming a new-found sense of peace and connection with nature; none of that stuff. I love the internet and everything it enables us to do, so don’t, for a femtosecond, assume I’m an advocate of the anti-connectivity club. A “facebook friend” relation is better than nothing; a friendly email to someone you don’t know well is semi-indulgent, albeit an effective way to stay in touch; a “like” on a photo uploaded by a friend who lives on another continent is an acknowledgment that you’re thinking of them; a 5 min skype call with your parents is enough to let them feel assured that you’re well.

The fact that I’ve been doing this for almost a year and now feel compelled to write about it is a combination of a fear of WordPress deleting my blog owing to inactivity, and also me feeling this data-sans day doing me some good. I just find it hard sometimes to draw boundaries or not get caught up whilst missing other simpler priorities of life, so a self-imposed social exile for a reality check seemed apt. So eff it, I’m thinking I’ll give a go at extending this to two days a month. Let’s say the 29th as well (because prime, yay!) and see how much longer before I’m sporting a beard and preaching nirvana. There’s no end game here, just an attempt to detach a tad from an addiction with the help of a dramatised effort.

Being alone can be uncomfortable and daunting; it’s tempting to resort to your phone and peer into the lives of others even in those few seconds before the light changes, or while you wait for a minute at the supermarket for your turn. But not only do we need some space to ourselves, but perhaps more importantly, we need to be ok with having it.

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