Digital Distance

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether or not to ditch my smartphone.

Yeah, yeah, me and every other internet-addicted suburban hipster trying to reclaim authenticity or whatever, I know.  The thing is, I don’t want to give up facebook.  I don’t want to give up instagram, or goodreads, or my podcasts or feedly.  I like surfing pinterest and etsy and seeing all the pretties — it makes my life better knowing that they are there.  I like the convenience of email and cloud storage, and I live off of GPS navigation. I want to keep all those things.

But I want to give up scrolling as a transitional activity.  I need to have the lure of distracting myself with the vast ocean of the internet at a distance, confined to my home office, not in my pocket.  I want to be able to text and call and take pictures and listen to music, but I can do all those things with something other than a smartphone.  I don’t want a digital sabbatical, I just need some digital distance and good boundaries.

Susannah posted this in her last weekend roundup: “Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore.” — Aziz Ansari quit the internet

That’s how I feel right now — that it’s just *a new thing* not necessarily *something.*

So how often do I need to check the internet, to dip my toes in the electronic ocean?  I don’t know.  Today I listened to music and part of a podcast I had downloaded at home.  I did a quick internet search for a thing on my work computer.  I scanned through my feedly here at the house.  It feels strange and unsettling to not pick up my phone when I’m in between tasks, or when I want to escape for a moment, but it’s not unpleasant.  It’s decidedly less unpleasant than the feeling of getting sucked into a hundred facebook links and realizing I’ve lost an hour of my day.  I’m going to have to find out what the balance is — do I only need the pocket computer on the weekends? When I travel? Or do I just need to start researching apps that lock me out of the phone when I need to concentrate?  There’s an answer here; I just have to find it.


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