The Power of Disconnect
by Nick Galieti
As a long time fan of Apple products, one could argue that I have moments in my life and public discourse that it could be said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of (Steve) Jobs.” I love my iPhone, and use it multiple times a day to connect with Facebook, manage emails, send and receive text messages, take pictures, search the Internet; I even set the alarm on my house using an app. While each of these uses are warranted (I am self-employed, which means I use all these features to generate business, as well as stay in touch with family and enjoy some entertainment), have I convinced myself that I need an iPhone more than I really should?
I was hired recently to do audio work on a cruise to the Caribbean. Anyone who has gone on a cruise, for business or pleasure, knows that cruise ships are designed to help people disconnect from their daily lives (and eat—a lot). Cellular service is available on board, so is wi-fi, but both are priced so egregiously that it strongly discourages this working man away from taking advantage of the convenience. That means no calls home, no checking email, no checking Facebook or posting snarky comments about gun control: no contact with others electronically. Without being connected to the internet, I realized that the iPhone is reduced to playing offline games, maybe reading a book, or composing an article for a blog (some of my articles are a product of such a scenario). The week away from the internet, but not my phone, has taught me something significant: maybe I am not so much an Apple products addict as I am an internet addict.
Some would take this disconnect experience and make it an analogy for how our lives are lost without prayer, or the importance of keeping connection with the spirit, and if you want to make that analogy, go ahead. My experience taught me a different lesson. It helped me realize how much I rely on the internet to function; my iPhone just makes that connection really convenient. After a decent amount of soul searching, and daily journaling, I realized that 70% of my day was connected to the internet. The other times that I was not connected was because I was in the shower or sleeping (even then I have been known to stream some music while in the shower, or fall asleep to Netflix or the Mormon Channel App.) On a cruise ship 0% of my day was on the internet. You can’t make that lifestyle shift and not experience some kind of sobering withdrawals or unearthing some much needed course correction.
This disconnect from the internet has been a revelation. It has been interesting to see how I fill my time without googling or bickering with friends and family about political issues through social media. Admittedly, this disconnect has been a nice release – for the most part. In other ways, it has added stress as I feel like I am not in a position to answer emails promptly and professionally, I am not connecting with loved ones on a daily basis, and the unknown or unanswered is difficult to settle into and accept.
This disconnect feels similar, although not as severe, to the time that our family decided that we watched too much TV and went on a TV fast for a week. No TV, no Netflix, no DVD’s, nothing video, not even video games for one whole week. Quitting TV cold turkey was very hard for our family. It didn’t take but an hour before our two year old cried with bitter tears wondering what she did wrong to warrant such a severe punishment. That disconnect was also a revelation to my wife and I as we realized that our family was far too dependent on visual stimulation and entertainment, and our time was spent on things of no lasting value.
Of course each of these pieces of technology represent something neutral. An iPhone or TV can have a good function and purpose, as well as being the source of much grief, heartache, and wasted time. My experience on the cruise taught me the importance and power of the occasional disconnect from electronic entertainment. Sometimes electronic media can drain our lives of purpose, or disorient our efforts away from things that bring improvement and divine purpose. Our wireless umbilical cord to a virtual black hole of effort and intellect is a sneaky thief. The four hours of TV I get at night could have been a trip to the temple for an endowment session, a service shift at a shelter or storehouse, or quality time teaching my children ways to get the most of their mortal experience.
While the once or twice a year cruise gig affords me the chance to disconnect and recharge my human battery, it took my 7th cruise gig to realize that this disconnect from the internet, from the demands of the world, is something that should be happening every day, if not multiple times a day. The more we invite the world to keep us connected to the noise and distractions of the world, the less attention we have for things of the gospel. Yes, the irony of this whole article being on an internet-based blog is not lost on me. I don’t mean to be one of those “The Internet is Evil” preachers; that is far from the spirit and intention of this article.
The encouragement is to take inventory of the amount of time one spends connected to the world. Such an inventory will either be a revelation as to the need for course correction, or it will be a confirmation that things are right. Either outcome is of value to the person who takes the time to do such an analysis. The best way to do that kind of inventory is to keep track of what we do and for how long, as well as keep a small journal handy, and make notes throughout the course of the day.
1) Write down every time you connect to the internet and for how long you are connected to it. (I strongly suggest not just writing down the times of these events, but also writing down what you did while you were online.)
2) At the end of the day, go through the list of what you did online, and make the appraisal: Was what you did while online worth the time you spent on it? (Leisure is allowed, and in some cases necessary to maintaining balance.)
3) After appraising your time spent online, share your findings with your spouse, a friend, or loved one, and see if they will sign off on your internet audit as being accurate.
Do this appraisal for a 24-hour period, or longer if you feel the need (try to pick a weekday for the most honest results), and post your results in the comments section of this post. I am curious if I am the only one that was as sobered by what I determined as a result of this exercise. For me, the time in extended disconnect has shown me just how dependent I have become on the internet. While I see little value in staying disconnected for a greater length of time than a typical cruise, there is a real need for balance with my daily life and a correction in the use of my time and efforts.
The power of disconnecting, for me, has been the power of change. The change is to a position of power to see my life for what it is now, up against what it could and should be; a revelation that has been sorely needed.