All Tech Considered
3:53 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

We Asked, You Answered: Going To Extremes To Disconnect On Vacation

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 9:08 am

Summer is a great time to take a break from some of the stressors in our lives. For many of us, that stress is brought on by too much screen time and the pressure to stay connected.

A few weeks ago, we asked you to send us your stories of digital detoxing — putting down the smartphone, avoiding email and staying off social media. Many of you answered the call — by smartphone, by email and by social media — to tell us your tales of tech-free vacations.

Heather Bowman of Portland, Ore., writes that she spent a week unplugged with her husband in a remote area of Washington state:

"The one moment I really wanted to connect was when we felt an earthquake. It was small and mild enough that we weren't concerned about local damage, but we wondered if that's all it was, or if the 'Big One' finally hit Seattle. Days later, we found out it was small, and by then, it didn't seem very urgent. Still, pulling the plug was definitely easier when it wasn't self-discipline, but simply no choice."

For Tasha Wallis of Morrisville, Vt., the choice is simple. She writes:

"Your tech vacation story ran during soccer's World Cup and on this year's vacation, I have never been happier to be wired. I like checking the scores or the highlight reels while watching loons on the lake. I like gathering with the family on a rather disgusting old couch at camp on that same lake and watching the game. The streaming is spotty, but that adds to the excitement... what might we have just missed? Take all the tech vacations you want. I am going to be plugged in until the final GOOOOAAAAL."

Jeff Johnson of Ewing, N.J., also spent his vacation in a cabin — but without TV or the Internet. He writes:

"Each day at lunch, we went into town and I found myself frantically scanning email messages during 'bathroom breaks' at the local cafe."

Teli Adlam of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tells us she found a very simple solution for her digital detox. She writes:

"I locked my iPhone in a safe for 24 hours. It worked."

As frequent All Tech readers know, there are studies on this kind of thing. It's harder than it sounds.

"A clear majority can't do it," says Susan Moeller, professor of media at the University of Maryland. She has asked thousands of college students to unplug for a whole day. Not just from phones or TV, but music, newspapers — no media consumption. Many students who participate say it's one of the toughest things they've ever done. They described feelings of desperation, and said the silence was killing them, as if they were giving up an addiction.

"It's just like being reminded that yes, we need oxygen, and that sometimes if you take a deep breath, ah yeah. There is life out there," Moeller says. Read more about the study of students all around the world at their blog.

Thanks to everyone who broke out their devices to write in. You may now put them back in their safes.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Two weeks ago, just in time for summer, we asked you to tell us about your attempts at Digital Detox - putting down the smartphone, avoiding email, staying off social media, taking a tech vacation. There are studies about this kind of thing, and it's harder than it sounds.

SUSAN MOELLER: A clear majority can't do it.

SIEGEL: That's Susan Moeller, professor of media for University of Maryland. She has asked thousands of college students to unplug for a whole day, and not just from phone or TV.

MOELLER: That means music. That means newspapers - you name, it they can't consume it.

SIEGEL: Many students who participate say it's one of the toughest things they've ever done.

MOELLER: You know, it's everything from, I was totally desperate, I panicked, I felt so lonely. I felt incomplete. My senses went numb and I felt paralyzed. The silence is killing me.

SIEGEL: Susan Moeller says when college students give up media for a day, they speak about it as though they were giving up an addiction. But she says there's value in that.

MOELLER: It's just like being reminded that yes, we need oxygen and that sometimes if you take a deep breath, (Breathing) yeah, there is life out there.

SIEGEL: Well, now to your experiences. We've heard from hundreds of you, and your tales of tech-free vacations.

Heather Bowman of Portland, Oregon tells us she spent a week unplugged with her husband in a remote area of Washington state, and she writes this (Reading) the one moment I really wanted to connect was when we felt an earthquake. And she adds, pulling the plug was definitely easier when it wasn't self-discipline, but simply no choice.

For Tasha Wallis of Morrisville, Vermont, the choice was simple. She writes (Reading) your tech vacation story ran during soccer's World Cup, and this year's vacation I have never been happier to be wired. I like checking the scores or the highlight reels while watching loons on the lake. And she concludes (Reading) take all the tech vacations you want; I'm going to be plugged in until the final goal.

That's goal spelled there with four o's and four a's.

We also asked some of you to record your responses, on a smartphone naturally.

Jeff Johnson of Ewing, New Jersey spent his vacation in a cabin without TV or Internet.

JEFF JOHNSON: And so each day at lunch, we went in to town and I found myself surreptitiously scanning email messages during, quote-on-quote, "bathroom breaks" at the local cafe.

SIEGEL: Finally, Teli Adlum of Fort Lauderdale, Florida tells us that she found a very simple solution for her digital detox.

TELI ADLUM: I locked my iPhone in a safe for 24 hours, and it worked.

SIEGEL: Well thanks to everyone who wrote in. You can tell us about your tech vacation using technology on Facebook and Twitter, we are at @npratc. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.