There are times when you want a vacation, and then there are times when you need one. When you’re likely to end up curled in the fetal position in the corner or bursting into tears at the post office for no reason if you don’t take one.
For me, the perfect vacation is a mix of a little adventure, a lot of reading, some great food, and zero connectivity. It used to be that going out of the country would automatically mean you were disconnected, but now with free WiFi in every café, it takes a little more discipline.
Reader, I’m not here to tell you that I took a vacation and discovered the evils of social media. I love social media! Twitter forever! But study after study shows us how addictive it is, and it’s healthy to break away once in a while and reassess your habits.
Itchy Trigger Finger
The first day of my vacation, I was sitting in an armchair reading and noticed that the mint from our little window box had grown so wild that it had gotten caught in the doorway, making it look as though it was ready to take over the apartment. Ha, I thought, I should Instagram that! This wasn’t the last time I caught myself thinking in social media-ready bites. This isn’t a bad thing, I need this skill for work, but it made me realize how deeply my work life and my personal life are intertwined at this point. Like many of us, I use social media not for one particular thing but for a mix of connecting with friends and family, clients, and other people in the great jumble of work and leisure that the book world at large is to me.
Take a Look Around
I noticed my tendency to reach for my phone the moment that I was otherwise unoccupied, when I was waiting for a friend or eating my breakfast alone in my kitchen. Instead I stared out windows, people watched, and eavesdropped. Oh the things I learned about the love lives of the twenty-something girls sitting next to me while I was waiting for my boyfriend at our favorite pizza place! She broke up with Carl twice but at least the second time he didn’t send out a mass text to her whole family. It’s so embarrassing that her mom still invites him to dinner whenever he’s in town. God Mom. (NB: what twenty-something dude is running around with the name Carl?).
Without my phone, and all its many portals to the wide world, I was without distractions in a way that I’ve grown unused to. I had occasional moments of feeling disconnected in an unpleasant way, like everyone might be at a party I hadn’t been invited to. But mostly I just felt more relaxed: I wrote in my journal, I took pictures just to have them, to put them in a frame on the wall maybe. And whatever thoughts came, I let them come—joyful, anxious, dark—they washed over me.
Now that the detox is over and I am back online, I hope to learn to use these things better. I missed tweeting about books, and I can’t wait to logon on light up some of the authors I read over vacation. (#amreading! Er…#wasreading!) But there’s a lot of social media time I spend that is far less justified: perusing the wedding pictures of a high school classmate that I could not for the life of me produce a meaningful memory of, for instance. I want to keep the good, but ditch the junk.
What do you notice when you log off?