A Week Unplugged: An Information Junkie Goes Cold Turkey

6a00e554ae4b6e88340115700e5987970b-450wiRecently, I realized that I hadn’t really taken many “days off” since Tanner Friedman began. There have almost always been emails to answer, calls to return – business that needed attention, regardless of the day of the week or my location – in the office, working from home, traveling on business or even on vacation.

I also realized that I had not been without cell phone and Internet access for a full week since the Spring of 2000 – before texting, the iPhone, Facebook or even WI-FI access. The fact is that I really enjoy what I do for a living and, often, it doesn’t even feel like “work.” So I don’t think twice about bringing the laptop to Disney World or taking a phone call while looking out onto a lake or answering a text from a stadium seat.

This year’s family Spring Break trip, though, would be different. The cost of using a cell phone on a Caribbean cruise is prohibitively expensive. Internet access is 55 cents per minute. So I decided, for the first time in a decade, to completely unplug, leaving business in the hands of a very capable team of colleagues and understanding clients. I’m also an admitted “Information Junkie.” I’ve been a voracious news consumer, my family tells me, since sitting in the high chair. So, in the days leading up to the trip, I couldn’t decide if the plan to truly unplug was going to feel like a reward or a punishment.

For the first two days, I had feelings that can only be described as withdrawal symptoms. Connection had become, at least, a habit and at most, an addiction. As soon as I would get into a line, I would reach into my pocket for my phone for an online check of some site – anything to avoid the boredom of waiting- but was stuck with just my own thoughts and actual human conversation. For days, I kept thinking “what if I have a message?,” “what if a big news story breaks? – I’ll have no idea.” My family tells me I was grumpy at first – even in a great location.

But as the days went along, my head cleared and my mind adjusted to the circumstances. For example, I had time in the evenings, instead of answering emails, to read two books. Rather than worry about missing news, I starting thinking about how nice it was to be able to focus on enjoying the day and who I was spending it with, rather than consuming information every time I had a down second. I really was able to “let it go.”

The one exception, though, was sports. There was very limited access to U.S. sports on the ship that thankfully, included live broadcasts of the Final 4. But not having scores and details available to me on demand (especially with the Tigers season starting) caused me some stress, rather than relieving it. I guess maybe I needed an outlet from my outlet.

Now, I head back to work feeling refreshed like never before. I might not wait 10 years to do it again.