Updates on Feat #4: Checking Messages

30 Jan


For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

For the original FEAT NUMBER 4 blog entry, click here.

DAY 7:

Aaaaaahhh…the last day of Feat #4 is finally here.  This was a long week!  But I am extremely pleased to say that I’ve purged myself of most of my message-checking compulsions.  It’s not the first thing I think about when I open my eyes in the morning, nor is it the last thing I want to do before I shut them at night.

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned with this Feat is that it’s OK to check my email and facebook a few times a day – I do use them for work and blogging, and they keep me connected with my friends.  But there’s no reason to ever look at them while I’m doing other things.  Eating dinner?  Leave it alone.  On an outing with the kids?  It can wait.  Stopped at a red light?  Don’t even think about it.

This week of “detoxing” really helped me put things in perspective.  Not once did I miss an urgent message by waiting an hour or two.  No one died, no one needed me desperately, no one even noticed I was gone.

But what an eye-opening thing it was, to realize just how much time I had spent looking at my computer for no good reason!  I couldn’t believe how twitchy my hands were those first couple of days, staring at my iPhone but trying SO hard not to give in…

But I made it.  And I feel all the better for it.  I gained so much quality time with my family, and with myself, that it was worth it.

I encourage all of you to take this break.  Look up, look around you.  Things are happening, and you’re missing out!

Feat #4:  Definite success.

DAYS 5 & 6:

I forgot to share a really cool story from Thursday. I was at the zoo with my daughter, in the primate house. The entire zoo was blissfully empty (not much action in January, I suppose). It felt like our own private sanctuary. We stopped to watch the bonobos, and I saw some really amazing stuff.

I saw two females, one with a baby. The baby clutched her stomach as she walked around, hanging there by nothing short of a magic trick. He always sensed when she was about to start moving, and jumped on.

At one point, the two females sat down for a rest, and the other one took the baby away from the mom. I thought surely this would be cause for alarm, either from the mom or from the baby, but no – the baby went willingly to this other female, and the mom sat down and took a break. It wasn’t much different from the other day when I was at story time with a friend – I held her infant while she got a little time off, if only for a few minutes.

And then came the male. This obnoxious, window-banging, fearless acrobat of a male, swinging all around the females. And the mom was seriously ticked off. He kept swooping down over her head; she continuously had to swat him away while holding one hand over the baby. And every time this male came parading his annoying behavior in her direction, the baby went back to the mom.

After several minutes of this guy’s routine, the mom started to get sick of it. She chased him down, sending him scrambling away to the other side of the enclosure. He came back for more a few times, but she always sent him packing.

Seeing this reminded me how close to these animals humans are, and how so much behavior comes from instinct. It was absolutely fascinating.

While the bonobos don’t necessarily have anything to do with my technology withdrawal, what I saw isn’t as important as the fact that I saw it at all. Before this week, here was my typical M.O.: 1) take kids somewhere, 2) kids get engaged in an activity, 3) whip out phone and check messages.

But since I left my phone firmly in my pocket, I got a chance to really watch the bonobos. I got chills seeing these creatures display behavior that easily could have come from a group of humans. A protective mother. A vulnerable child. A dear friend. A bozo who tries to butt in.

It’s a shame thinking about what other awe-inspiring moments I might have missed while having my nose stuck in my phone.

Yesterday and today I did well with the Feat, but I still haven’t quite gotten over the knee-jerk desire to grab my phone when there’s even a 1-second lull in anything I’m doing. But I think I’m getting better.

DAYS 3 & 4:

So yesterday I decided to cut myself a little slack, since I wanted to avoid the dreaded “night of 1000 emails” from the previous evening.  I allowed myself to check my email a couple times in the morning, and gave myself permission to do so again while I was out with my kids.  (It was around mid-day, I knew we wouldn’t be home for several more hours, and I was waiting to hear back from someone.  Yes, I realize it sounds like I’m defending myself!)

I waited until we got to the park, both kids tore off at a gallop, and then I whipped out my phone to check my messages.  Ahh…sweet, sweet, messages.  They had barely loaded into my phone when both kids were already back, needing me for some reason or other.  And I found myself in that familiar – and completely terrible – situation of trying to pay attention to them and appear to be listening, while keeping my eyes glued to my phone.

If I had seen myself, I would have thought, “Wow, what a crappy mother.”  It really is an awful thing, to give your kids the subliminal message that the little electronic device in your hand deserves more of your attention than they do.  And if I keep doing that, who will I have to blame once they have their own phones and completely tune me out??  OK, that might happen no matter what I do…

But the point is, it felt really awful and I don’t want to be that way with my kids.  Nothing on my phone is – or ever will be – more important than whatever they want to tell me.

Today I admit I checked my email several times.  My husband teased me mercilessly about it, miming someone shooting up.)  (You really have no room to talk, Mr. Texting at the Dinner Table!)  But I really felt like I was just trying to stay on top of things so I wouldn’t have a big pile at the end of the day.

At one point today, I was feeling really aggravated with my kids.  (They may be wonderful and perfect, but I am NOT.)  After giving them a good talking-to, I went straight to my computer and opened up my email.  And it felt soooo good.  It was like a soothing balm to my frazzled soul.  Is it because I’m an addict and I just needed a fix?  Or maybe it’s because I am a stay-at-home mom and sometimes I really, REALLY need some adult interaction – and I’ll take it any way I can get it??

DAY 2:

I learned two valuable lessons today.

Lesson #1: Facebook is actually quite easy to live without.

Lesson #2: Waiting until the end of the day to check your email just means that you have a TON of email to deal with at the end of the day!  Not what I like to do after the kiddos go to bed.  Just made me feel even more tired, and like I had a huge job on my plate.  There might be a good reason to check it a few times a day.

But overall, I did good today.  I didn’t check anything on my phone – not even when I had an entire hour to kill while my kids were in gymnastics class.  I finished a book and just watched them.

Early in the day, I spent a couple hours laying in bed (trying to get over a cold).  I had my iPad right there with me, just taunting me…but I didn’t check email or facebook.  I’m a rock.

And this evening, when I got a text from a friend of mine, I called her back instead of texting her.  We got to chat and catch up about a few things – it was great!  I wouldn’t have had that opportunity last week.  I would have just texted her back a few words, and that would have been it.

A much better day today.  I’m definitely feeling less addicted!

DAY 1:

Today was hard.  No, let me really impress this point upon you.  TODAY WAS SO VERY, DISTURBINGLY HARD.  I think the analogy I used in the first blog post was accurate – comparing myself to a smoker.  My fingers literally twitched today as I tried to keep from grabbing my phone to check my messages.  For this day, the beginning of this Feat, I don’t think I actually gained any free time, because I was insanely preoccupied with wanting to check my phone.  A friend of mine says it will get better.  I hope so.

One thing I realized is that twice a day is just not enough for checking email.  It’s plenty for facebook, but today I was in the middle of so many things – freelance writing assignments, working on More than Mothers, planning a baby shower with some friends, attending a book club…I simply had to check my email more frequently.

But I only checked it about 4 times, which is such an amazing improvement!  I have to feel proud of myself instead of feeling like I failed.  I think I can eliminate checking it when I first wake up – it’s all just spam then anyway.

I only checked email once on my phone today, when I needed to retrieve something to read at my book club meeting.  That one was unavoidable.  And aaaaahhhh…it felt good.

I sent a couple of texts early this morning, without even thinking about it.  My mother was texting me because she couldn’t call and needed to tell me something immediately.  I had to answer her that – seemed like a no-brainer.  But then I texted a picture to my husband – a breathtaking shot of a mug of hot chocolate from Ol’ South Pancake House.  That probably wasn’t 100% necessary.

Later in the day, I was about to text a picture of my son’s new haircut to my husband, but then stopped myself and just put my phone away.  In retrospect, I should have sent it.  It would have really brightened my husband’s day.  I guess sometimes technology is good to us.

A couple of my friends called me today instead of texting or emailing.  That was really nice!

Lori, a More than Mothers writer, gave up facebook for a week earlier this month.  She had the excellent idea of taking the facebook app off her phone.  I’m definitely going to do that, to help remove some of my tempation.

Let’s hope Day 2 withdawal gets a little easier.


    One Response to “Updates on Feat #4: Checking Messages”

    1. Lisa Martin January 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      True confession: I check my email via my phone DURING dinner! Because I, too, can barely face the pile of emails at the end of the day. But it definitely removes me from family time–and that’s just wrong!

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