The day the devices stayed off

Greetings from Analog Saturday. This post began its life as scratchings in a notebook, pen on paper.

After a week in which probably 80 percent of my waking hours were spent staring at computer screens of varying sizes, as I turned off my home computer Friday night I had a sudden “I’m not going to do this anymore” impulse and declared a screen-free Saturday.

One thing I did Saturday morning was nothing. For a few minutes I just sat in the easy chair and looked around the living room and out the window. I could feel tension melt out of my shoulders and hands. I heartily endorse occasionally doing nothing.

Another thing I did was pick up a book. Now, I’ve migrated a lot of my reading to my Kindle, but that marvelous device has the same flaw as a computer or tablet or smartphone — too many conflicting choices. There’s only one book in a print book, nothing to divert your attention.

(Sidebar: Can you guess my book by its first sentence? I wouldn’t have been able: “In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the Army.”)

I think our screen-based work and play devices tend to infect us with a bit of attention deficit disorder. The fact that we can do so many things with them is both a blessing and a curse. It’s hard to concentrate on one thing when something else is just a click away.

You’re reading a book and an email chimes in. You’re replying to the email and that reminds you of something you wanted to look up on the web. You’re trying to research that and someone texts you. You’re replying to the text and someone calls.

It’s not a smartphone. It’s a collection of infinite rabbit holes.

It was not easy leaving the devices off all day. In fact, I had to cheat once, to make sure I had enough money in the checking account to take Red on a date Saturday night. (“The Imitation Game,” two thumbs up.) So it was a 99.5 percent computer-free Saturday.

Being disconnected from the world felt a little weird. But by the end of the day, I felt more connected with myself than I had for a while. And at the end of the day, that sense of self is probably the most important connection of them all.

(Oh, and the book was “A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle, the story that introduced Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Sorry to keep you waiting. Or did you take a moment and Google it?)

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WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.