Last night I went offline.
<Fair disclosure: Jacqueline had a cell phone, purely for security purposes or if we were stranded and needed a ride. It never came out of her purse all night, though, so I was still technically offline.>
It wasn't easy, though. Jacqueline and I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see a concert. The local Twitterati were there, snapping pics and uploading of-the-moment reviews of each set. The texters were also in full force, looking up occasionally at the stage at the spectacle. The amateur-paps were there, taking pics on their cell phones and smuggled in micro cameras. All of them were only 1/2 in attendance last night.
Me? I went empty handed, device free — the only way to truly be offline. When the first act, a Motown-soul throwback singer Raphael Saadiq went on stage, I felt around for my iPhone to take a snap and tweet about it. Ah, that's right, I promised I would be offline tonight. At first, I felt like my following was going to miss out on a blow-by-blow account of last night.
By the middle of Santigold's set (mostly vocals sang against a backing tape), I was fully engrossed in the night. People watching, philosophizing and enjoying myself like a kid — I was fully offline. Because I wasn't distracted by any tech, toys or need to be 'working my social circle', I was able to fully immerse myself into a real-world experience. How rare, how liberating!
I've decided that from now on, when I'm attending something that deserves 100% of my attention, I'm going to go offline and delay my tweets until later (I call delayed tweets DT's). I don't need to take the photos, someone else will do that for me. For example, I saw a young man snapping pics of the headlining act (Femi Kuti, fantastic AfroPop band) on his digital camera. I gave him my business card and asked him to send me a few pics and I would promote him in exchange. He loved the deal.
Going offline, I've learned, requires cutting off the mobile-digital tether. Starting out in 2002, I stopped carrying my cell phone on weekends, so long as I had easy access to someone else's or a pay phone for emergencies. Slowly, but surely, people in my life figured out that I wasn't available over the weekends or at night. They adjusted. They became accustomed to hearing back from me the next working day. My life got much better, and my head cleared out. With blogging, Facebook, tweeting and the like all of that changed (again). So it's time for work-life-balance 2.0.
Can you go offline? Really, can you go out this week w/o any digital devices or with a phone as a standby only?
If you can't, I think you are missing out on life. If you feel like you need to connect with social media all the time, or shoot everything you see, you are working 100% of the time and you'll burn out. Timothy Ferriss, a modern day philosopher-wunderkind, argues that we should only check our email three or four times a day, taking back our life. This is a good step, something I've been working on.
You need to go further. Carve out two hours a day and one evening this weekend and go offline. No checking emails. No sending/receiving texts. No blogging, photo taking or podcasting. Be in the present moment, lapping up the experience with no urge to share. Fill yourself up with analog life.
You'll find that the experience is recharging and gives you the necessary contrast to live a full life. It's harder than you think, though. You'll be tempted to blend offline with online, because content comes around every where you go. But if you don't unplug it soon, you could be swallowed up in an escalating sense of digital duty that will eventually rob you of your own sense of personal existence.
If you like this idea, join me in making "Declarations Of Being Offline." Either Tweet or update status at Facebook to declare: "I'm going offline!"