Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | By: Lynn

Are You a Plugged in or an Unplugged?

As HiDee pointed out in her post last week, there is a sense among us that our technology is intruding on our lives. While I agree and believe there needs to be balance, when the zombie apocalypse comes and the world of technology falls away, I'll still love my gadgets. I know this.

Last summer I started walking down the steps of my back porch to go outside when suddenly a strange feeling came over me. I felt like I was out of my body, which sounds not quite sane, but as I walked into the back yard I couldn't connect the feel of the ground with my feet taking steps. My heart started racing and I realized what I was feeling meant I might pass out, so I went back inside my house. My husband came home about a half-hour later and we wrestled with what to do – call 911, call my doctor, drive to the emergency room? Ultimately, since my pulse had reached 120 beats per minute and my blood pressure was out of sight, I ended up in an ambulance, which took me to an emergency room, where soon it was discovered that my levels of potassium were depleted.

Turns out, potassium depletion is serious business. The doctor prescribed high-dose potassium supplements and I assumed that since I took the first dose of potassium in the emergency room I would soon be back to normal. Wrong. The next morning I felt fine, so I started my day full steam as usual, grateful the health issue was over. Wrong. What started out as a normal day quickly deteriorated when I started the coffeemaker and a load of laundry. The strange feelings returned and I made a beeline for the couch. Irritated.

Then began my days in a row of being unplugged. Since potassium is utilized by muscles in muscle movement, everything I did, every movement, from breathing to eating to using a mouse while sitting at my desk, elicited the same heart-racing, nearly-fainting sensations I first experienced.

I surrendered. During the two weeks I was recovering I relaxed my incessant checking, answering, and writing of emails related to anything, including work. I admit I kept my smart phone by my side so that a. I could contact my husband and ask him to come home NOW to take me back to the hospital, and b. so I could stay plugged in at a low level. But overall it was a forced unplugged for two weeks. Did I find it relaxing? Yes, because I wasn't connected to anything in which I needed to expend energy and anything or anyone who needed me to do something got ignored because I was out of all loops. Did I find it soothing? No. I discovered that, as I love technology and being constantly plugged, I felt a bit of agitation at its absence, at the silence. This is what advocates of less technology in our lives point to as signs of imbalance in my life.

These advocates of the state of unpluggedness attribute our general fascination with technology with decline in interpersonal skills and attention span, among other things they see as negative results of too much dependence on technology. In a commentary on Christian Broadcasting Network (which I am not in any way promoting), Mark Earley suggests we all take stock of our relationship with our electronics.

"Try this experiment: Shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, unplug your iPod, hide your Blackberry, and click off the television. Then, pick up a book. Read for an hour. When you’re done, pull out a sheet of paper and write a letter. And then, go for a walk outside. If you find this scenario difficult, you’re not alone," he writes.

For those who are concerned about their imbalance, their "addiction" to cell phones, computers, and game systems, there's an official day to escape. Those who participate in March in the National Day of Unplugging turn off all their technology for 24 hours to reap benefits derived from taking a break from constant checking of all things email, Facebook, and the like, wrote Howard Baldwin in PC World.   

"Their goal is to get the rest of us to—paraphrasing Timothy Leary here—turn off, tune out, and drop off. That is, stop using our cell phones, smartphones, laptops, tablets, PCs, iPods, et cetera, and come back from the virtual world into the physical world where our spouses, children, partners, and pets actually live. For 24 hours, at least, we’re supposed to ignore our compulsions to check e-mail, update Facebook, and generally make our colleagues know we’re still available if they need us," Baldwin writes.

My forced unplugged status was interesting, as an observer of myself, in that I saw the effects of my constant connectedness. I was on alert more than I needed to be – but equally interesting to learn was that I enjoy the stimulation of it. It soothes me in a sense. It's what I prefer. I love technology, even though I can appreciate that it can take over and become a detriment to many things, such as relationships and health and sustaining things we all find pleasurable. Uninterrupted conversation. Full attention on one thing. One interesting observation, though, was related to technology but was all about being a writer. What I knew, but got a glimpse of it more in my face, is that as a writer I am always plugged into my work. Whether I'm brainstorming while riding my bike, or snatching bits of conversation to file away for future use in my writing, or putting words to experiences around me, I'm always working, in a sense. And I find it enriching, just as I find technology attractive.

So yeah, balance in all things is important. But though I may get twitchy if I'm separated from laptop for very long and I may get glazy-eyed while conversing with someone when I haven't recently checked my phone for messages, I think there are innumerable pay offs for access to the many things technology delivers. And I'm wondering if there are two kinds of people: those who are soothed by technology and those who are not. What do you think?

Image from Dreamstime


Angela Adams said...

To relax, I do all of those mentioned -- turn off computer and cell phone, read a book (where I actually turn the paper pages) write letters, and I take a walk every day (a plus for living in the city).

Lynn said...

Sounds nice, Angela.

RT Wolfe said...

You want me to shut down mycomputer, turn off my cell phone, unplug my iPod, hide my Blackberry, and click off the television? Are you crazy??!! I guess I'm plugged in. :)
-R.T. Wolfe

Lynn said...

So am I, in case you didn't gather that from my post. :)

Jaxson Corey said...

I am much impressed by the decision and also it is necessary to declare if there is no change has been come. I am much thankful to you for sharing a very nice topic.
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