So many of us are addicted to the pulse.
We’re either actively engaged in monitoring all the social media hubs or we’re wondering if something’s happened there.
We don’t really want to spend a lot of time on the cell phone, but we carry it around with us religiously just in case something happens.
We follow the news, despite knowing it’ll be a train wreck and the Charlie Sheen show, just in case we miss out on something important.
All those blips, updates, and bytes are the pulse of a society moving faster than it can process. We’re addicted to hearing it – and being a part of it.
A friend of mine just mentioned he needed a vacation on a secluded beach with no cell phone or Blackberry service. He’s in a high-paced, high-stress job where there’s an not-so-implicit expectation that he’ll be available 24/7. And no, he’s not a doctor.
I know he’s tired. I know he needs to disconnect. I heard him on that and suggested the heretical thought that he leave the Blackberry at home. It’s the simple and obvious choice, but it’s one that won’t happen. And, even if it did, he’d spend most of the time wondering about the pulse.
People will think I just don’t understand – I do. I also don’t mean to say that I’m much better in that. Sure, I leave my iPhone at home most of the time, but there are far too many times that I come home and very quickly check-in to the pulse. Just in case.
Ironically, a decade ago, I didn’t have a cell phone. I held out until 2004, and the chief reason I got it was because I had a job where hours mattered. Missing a call from my commander about our mobilization – state or abroad, imminent or not – mattered, as I had people to contact and arrangements to make. Were it not for that, though, I may have held out much longer.
Somehow, since people know we’re all theoretically connected to the pulse, there’s an expectation that we should be practically connected to the pulse. There’s a pressure to answer someone when they call your cell phone merely because they are calling – to not answer is rude. There’s also a pressure to respond to them quickly merely because they called you.
Resisting the pulse is now conflated with resisting people. To not be connected is to shirk our social responsibilities. What if something happened? What if somebody needed you?
What if we need some time to ourselves? What if we need some time in a pulse-free sanctuary where we don’t have to actively manage the pulse?
There has always been a pulse, but the blips spanned days and weeks rather than hours and minutes. We had enough space to breathe, smile, connect, relax, and live in-between them. When we gained abundance, we lost our own expansiveness.
And, to be clear, the pulse bears a lot of good things, too. Most of our discoveries and connections come from the pulse. Like ice cream, too much of the pulse at once is a bad thing.
I can’t ask you to resist the pulse – I know too well where that will go. But I can remind you that it’s okay to take some time for yourself and to be intentional about the expectations you accept and the boundaries you set. Choosing to remain too addicted to the pulse is a choice just as much as pulling back from it is, and if the consequence of addiction is losing yourself, choosing to remain too addicted is choosing to lose yourself.
What bits of the pulse can you step away from for a bit? How will that extra space benefit you? (You’re worth it.)
Great post, Charlie. I don’t always remember to take my cell phone with me EVERYWHERE–this seems to shock, worry and / or annoy lots of people. I listen politely to their concerns but don’t see a need to be available 24/7. Now I can point everyone to your post and say, “see… it’s not just me.” ;>
You’re so right Charlie. The byproducts of a fast paced social necessity can cause physical ailments! Taking time to dedicated peace of sensory perception can mean a longer life to some degree. 😉
It’s such a shock for every one of my friends and family members that I can’t help not caring whether the phone’s with me. It honestly frustrates them that I TURN IT OFF AT NIGHT. Oh come on, I’m sleeping! What’s the point of having it on?
I’m pretty sure I could up and leave for some remote place as far from civilization as possible. I don’t feel particularly tied to the pulse. Of course I’d see what happened while I was gone after that. Somehow I doubt it’d be anything earth-shattering though.
Tyler Shannon says
Hiking and kayaking help me get away from the pulse. The beauty destracts my mind. Then I get into the rhythm of each step or paddle stroke. It’s a form of meditation for me. My mind goes a hundred miles an hour, but it’s ideas and creativity running through it. Not just more information being bombarded at it. I always feel great afterwords.
I don’t get cell service where I hike, and can’t keep my phone dry while kayaking (I’ve tried a couple of times) so that helps too.
Unintentional Housewife says
My family goes to a remote area of Canada to ride horses every year for vacation. Remote enough that there’s no cell phone service there. If there’s really an emergency, the ranch does have one of those old-fashioned land lines so we could be reached. In 25 years, I think we’ve only used that phone a handful of times. We look forward to unplugging every year.
Even in regular life, I don’t believe that the telephone needs to be answered just because it rings (or the door to be opened just because there’s a knock). However,, it always bothers me when I’m trying to reach my husband and he’s left his telephone at home. So I’m not completely innocent, either.
People think I’m totally out of it because I don’t text and I don’t have a smart phone. I have a crappy little cell phone that only carries 50 minutes a month, and I usually use about 15 of them. The message on the voice mail says I don’t check the messages and that the phone is for emergencies only, so call my office. The truth is, I spend so much time in my home office, connected, in front of my computer, I don’t want to be connected when I leave the house. I want to experience what I left the house to experience, and not be neurotically checking messages. And yes, I do check my messages when I get in, and I’m OK with that. I’m not sleeping with them next to my bed or carrying them around in my pocket. We need to set boundaries for ourselves or we become enslaved to the addiction to cyber-connection. I know I would be addicted if I carried my connection with me everywhere, so I don’t. If only people were so vigilant about their in-person relationships!
Sparky Firepants says
A few years ago, I was just like your friend. In fact, on a 3-day camping trip on the Appalachian Trail, my boss hooked me up with a super duper wireless card for my laptop. You know. Just in case.
Then we took a vacation to Paris. The company wasn’t willing to foot the bill for international roaming, so I was off the hook for a whole week in France. I even left the Blackberry at home. Scary.
That experience was instrumental in going out on my own with Sparky Firepants. It was just so amazing being focused on my family and espresso for a week. I wanted that kind of control every day.
Skip ahead to now. Back to constant pulse checking. I check my iPhone when I’m bored. Facebook. Twitter. Email. You know. Just in case.
I realize now that it wasn’t the company’s fault. I *like* being in touch. I *like* feeling the pulse. I’ve given up trying to fight who I am. It’s a relief to figure out who you are and let it go.
So I know this about myself. If I want to focus on something, I have to turn off and hide my devices. Have to. If my iPhone is off and in another room, I can’t feel for my pocket and check it while my toddler picks out another book to read.
You’re so right, it’s about choice.
Jonathan Mead says
It’s weird, I find it both comforting and concerning that other people are going through the same thing. It seems that are human curiosity gets the better of us sometimes, even if we *know* there’s nothing that we really need to be in touch with.
I’ve recently started disconnecting from email, twitter, facebook and the whole gamut on the weekends. I stopped doing it when I launched Trailblazer because I thought I needed to be able to be reached “just in case.” But, I really didn’t. It could have waited.
Time to get back on the horse.
I love it (not really) when people get upset when you don’t answer your cell phone. I don’t have it surgically applied to my body at all times.
Sometimes convenient things make life inconvenient.
Chris Barba says
It’s scary. Even when I walk from one floor to another in my house I have my cell phone tucked in the waste line of my pants.
In fact the farthest I’ve probably ever been from my cell phone (besides the times I thought I lost it – thinking that is the worst thing that could probably happen to me) is when I go for a run outside.
Otherwise I’m plugged in, constantly. Even when I’m writing, I have my cell phone right next to me, and worse, I let it interrupt my thoughts, checking it anytime it goes off.
Charlie – you definitely brought some worthwhile awareness to this.
Emma Hobes says
Even when I go out to meet my friends on the weekends, it is never missed that one of us will mention something they heard or read about someone we know through their social media accounts. It really has become part of our lives, that we became dependent on this “pulse”. We even rationalize things, and convince ourselves somehow that we cannot go a day without being “connected”. And it’s not something bad, just as you said we just need to set boundaries and give ourselves a break even if we don’t think leaving a cellphone for a day has no real purpose.
Pam McAllister says
Charlie, this post was a big nudge toward taking the Twitter apps off my phone last night. I’d already made it hard to get to Twitter on my Mac, but found myself getting my fix on the phone instead … which is just hard on my eyes and generally annoying.
You said on a call once that I’d develop a love-hate relationship with Twitter. And as usual — well, always — you were right on the mark. (Although it’s tipping more toward hate lately.)
Thanks for the nudge.