digital/ analogue: single tasking


 I started to think in depth about this topic last year, but circumstances kept me from exploring it more. After an interesting conversation with M today at lunch, I'm thinking about it again, so I thought I'd write a little more about my digital/ analogue interweaving and how I keep myself single-tasking.

Here is the first part of my digital/ analogue musing. (There are other snippets here and there and also here, because I am a very much a geek at heart.)

When I started thinking about buying a new tablet (the first one I had a few years ago died just after the amazon warranty was up), part of the process of buying the device was to think about how I would use it and not let myself get sucked even more into the online world (away from my real life family).

I have a tendency towards living a lot of my life online. That's been true ever since before I ever got my first dial up connection, way back in college (when I still had to use their computer lab to check my email and listservs, wow). Getting our first computer (a first generation iMac, which I still totally miss, gads I loved that thing) just made things easier. And obviously, technology marches quickly and now I have a smartphone and a iPad mini to connect me instantly to the online world. Amazeballs.


Since I know about my tendency to go completely cyber, I also find ways to counter that tendency (or at least, make my offline time really offline). These are things that work for me. They might not work for you. Since some of these are things that I don't think many people think about, I offer my solutions to you as a way to start thinking more about your own relationship to technology and how it works in your life.

To start with, even though I kind of like the idea, I personally don't do a digital free sabbath or take digital free holidays, mostly because I do almost all my reading via kindle (app and device) and I use my phone and iPad to take a lot of my photos and I love reading and photoing and don't want to do without them. (As a Reconstructionist Jew, I take the ideas of Judaism and make them my own, so my definition of "work" on shabbat is deeply personal.)

If you think a digital sabbath would work for you, there's more information here on the introduction to a digital sabbath page. (That's a secular approach.)

What does work for me is to have all push notifications turned off (all the time on my phone and iPad) except text and phone calls. I also regularly put my phone on vibrate and completely ignore all but emergency texts/ calls. I almost never use data on my phone except for navigation and finding places while we're out and about (and I'm the passenger or can have a passenger use my phone for me - I absolutely do not ever use my phone while I am driving; no texting, no phone calls, no internet, no photos. Distracted driving is dead driving).

I check my email once or twice a day. I check Facebook and Instagram much more often, but since I don't have notifications turned on, I am only checking when I want and (theoretically, at least) am able to check.


What this does is give me space outside - and inside - the interweb.

When I'm at lunch with my husband, I'm really at lunch with him. I may or may not pull out my phone to take a photo or two (not at lunch, per say, but of these awesome looking weeds behind the car in the parking lot). But I'm not gonna post those photos, or even process them until I'm home. I don't spend time on my phone/ device when I am out in "the real world."

(I definitely keep my phone on me and on vibrate, because Remy is at school and if they call, my phone is the first number they dial. Emergencies are what cell phones really excel at.)

What this doesn't do is cure my reading addiction (hence, my staying up way too late last night, finishing my novel). Or stop me from feeling that strange "feeling left out because no one is interacting with me" blues on social media. Nor does it keep me from using solitaire as a way to distract myself from anxiety.

All of those things require me to check in with myself and my motivations and emotions and make decisions based on what I really think works best for me, long term. (Novel reading, good. Solitaire playing, not so great. Feeling blue because of social media interactions, let's do something about that because that doesn't work at all for me.)


There's no prescription, though. I don't personally think I could just turn off my phone once a week, take a digital sabbath and then not have to think about it at all for the rest of the week. I need to practice decision-making and being in the here and now of my life, as it is in this moment.

For example: usually I write in the morning, after everyone else is gone. Writing is my creative work (which is why I don't blog on the weekends). But sometimes M spends a week day at home and when he does, I totally want to maximize our time together because our relationship is important to me.

So today, when M stayed home from work and I woke up late, before I started writing, I went with him to run errands and eat lunch together (call it a date-day lite). And then I started writing this piece when we got back home (M had a work-meeting to attend) and stopped in the middle to go pick up Remy from school and do the afternoon stuff I normally do. By that time, M was done with his meeting, so he and Remy played Lego Batman on our playstation 2 (seriously, yes - we hadn't even touched that game in a few years and Remy decided two days ago he wanted to play again, so we've been taking turns playing with him because fun). Then M had to switch off with me, so I stopped writing/ editing and went to take my turn playing. After I was done (holy vertigo, batman!) I came back to finishing this piece.

When I'm here, I'm here. When I'm playing a video game, I'm playing a video game. When I'm working on photos, I'm working on photos. When I read a book, I read a damn book.

As a mom/ wife/ person, sometimes I have to change tasks quickly (going from writing to playing video games is a totally fun best case scenario on that account), but I can do that because I am focusing on what is in front of me, not on what I "need" to do (or worse, "should" be doing).

It isn't simple to keep implementing single tasking (because everything about our current cultural climate encourages maximum multitasking) but keeping myself on a single task helps me and so I keep practicing it, even when it is difficult.

And thus, I hit publish on this post at almost 6 pm, instead of closer to noon. No worries. This is my blog, I do what I want!