I’m back, baby. And, yes, I made it.

My 24-hour detox from the Internet proved successful — so much so that I’ll likely try it again some time. I tuned out at 6 p.m. on Friday as part of the National Day of Unplugging, inspired by the creator of the movement who was our guest on the GeekWire radio show this weekend

Some who know me well thought I’d never make it.

“WTH are you thinking?  You’ll never make it 24 hours,” wrote my brother in an email that I just read.

So, what was it like unplugging for a day?

I’ve got to say it was easier than I imagined, at least after I got through the initial withdrawal symptoms in the first couple of hours. And, yes, I actually found ways to get by without my smartphone attached to my hip at all times. (Though I did experience the sensation of the phantom vibration in my pocket).

I read magazines (the Sports Illustrated pile had mushroomed untouched in our mail zone); hung out with friends (who thought the experiment was pretty cool); and spent more time with my family.

The first struggle for me occurred on a family walk to the park shortly after I parked my phone on my desk. I wanted to know something pretty basic: What time was it?

I forgot how much I’ve come to rely on my phone as a timekeeping device — but throughout this experiment I kept realizing that I didn’t know what time it was. I managed to get by, asking my wife for the time or darting into the kitchen to check the microwave clock.

On the walk back from the park, my wife and I discussed ordering a pizza. Once again, I reached for my phone to place the order, but it was not there. OK, no pizza for us. We actually got home, and made dinner together. (Score one for unplugging day).

The next challenge came at bedtime for my son. I routinely read books with him in his bed, using the flashlight app on my phone to see. This time, however, I had no illumination and read the books from the nightlight in his room.

After bedtime, I decided to go meet some friends at a local watering hole. Knowing their Friday routine, I took a risk and drove to the pub where they usually hang out. Typically, I would have sent a text message to check in, and make sure they were still at the bar. This time, however, I just rolled the dice and hoped that they’d be there. Success. Who needs stinking text message.

GeekWire’s Henry

I returned home, and rather than fire up the laptop to check email, I did something even better. I went to bed!

Saturday was the big day — a full day without Internet access. Luckily, I had plenty on the agenda, including my son’s soccer practice in the morning. Typically, I’m on my phone at the practice, catching up on emails. But this time, I spent the practice chatting with the parent of another soccer player, catching up and sharing war stories from the front lines of parenthood. A good conversation, this served as an important reminder that we often cut ourselves off from those around us when we bury our heads in the phone.

I’m going to work on this some more, making sure I try to engage with the people around me. This also goes for pets.

One of the casualties of starting GeekWire has been good old Henry, our 80-pound dog. He just doesn’t get as many walks as he used to, and oftentimes feels ignored (one of the reasons he terrorizes our trash can for scraps of food). But not on this day.

Henry got a good 90 minute walk at the dog park, with full attention.

One of the other things I noticed is that I stopped checking my phone at stop lights in the car, instead more intently tuning in to the radio broadcasts. I did, however, on a couple of occasions miss the ability to capture some photographs and videos.

I also returned to the physical world in the form of media and bills. Tuning out from TV was pretty easy for me (especially since there weren’t any important sporting events going on Saturday afternoon). As I just mentioned, I did listen to the radio.

When I had 10 or 15 minutes of free time, I picked up an old Sports Illustrated. I also renewed my car tabs, sending the check in via mail, rather than renewing online. I popped by the houses of two friends, both of whom were home, and didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t first send a text message.

It also proved to be a good weekend for me to checkout, given that the Sounders held their home opener. (Yes, GeekWire reader Kevin Lisota accurately called me out on this one!)

Overall, I’d say the experiment was a success. I enjoyed unplugging for a day, and think I’ll do it again some time. The weekend seemed to move at a slower pace — and I feel refreshed and energized going into a big week.

Now, I’ve got some work to do. My inbox has 169 emails in it. Back to the grind.

Comments

  • barokstell

    Wow. There sheer fact that people would consider “24 hours unplugged” as an accomplishment is troubling.

    • johnhcook

      I totally agree with that!!

    • ChetCrunch

      The sheer fact that I’ve become one of these people is more troubling..! Great work John, glad to hear it went well.

  • Guest

    Congratulations, John! I’m very glad to see that you were able to find new ways to communicate, self-informate, and even masticate without technology.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennihogan Jenni Hogan

    I chickened out!!! So glad you tried it. Great read, and thinking I should try it soon :)

    • johnhcook

      Thanks Jenni. You should definitely give it a try!! Though here I am on a nice Sunday catching up on email and comments. :)

      • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

        Yeah, when you are a writer sometimes a day missed of emails is overwhelming :)

  • Richard Keith

    See there is a whole world outside that you were missing and should have been paying more attention to. So p a t yourself on the back you have taken the first step.

    • johnhcook

      Yep, I agree.

  • http://wac6.com/ William Carleton

    Great story. Thanks for sharing so much about how the day went, John.

    It really makes you think.

    Last year I worked on an M&A deal where one of the parties was represented by a hardcharging, balls to the wall kind of lawyer, as relentless as they get. But every week, from Friday night to Saturday night, he would go off the grid, just drop out of all communication. Amazingly, this reality didn’t slow down or impact the deal at all.

  • John Taylor

    John – Sounded great until the second sentence: “My 24-hour detox from the Internet proved successful — so much so that I’ll likely try it again some time.” It would have more convincing without the “likely” and with a specific date. But more seriously — good job. We can’t depend on geography to do it for us any more. I was on a conference call last week and the question actually came up during the small talk on whether there is cell service on the bike road down from Hawaii’s Haleakala volcano. (The answer: Yes!)

    • johnhcook

      Yeah, maybe I need to be more concrete with it — like the first Saturday of every month. I may do that. Let me noodle on it. The best place to unplug (at least from phone) is Canada where I am too cheap to pay the crazy roaming rates. :)

  • Alex Tsway

    We missed you!

  • Claudia Fatzinger

    Congratulations John! I can’t imagine how hard is it for you to do that! I know someone too who is just like that.. maybe now I will try convince him that is actually good for him to take a break sometimes..

  • http://moniguzman.com Monica Guzman

    Proud of you, John! Unplugging one day a week was SO good for me, back before Sundays became mandatory online days. I miss the regularity of unplugging, but I feel like after all those months of doing it I got better at integrating what I learned into even my plugged in days. I got better control over when I really wanted to be checking my phone, and when the world had more interesting things for me, if I just looked for a minute. I hope you do do it again. I hope I do it again, too :)

  • Big Brother

    Actually John, we had you under surveillance the entire time.

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