SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

November 11, 2012

Desperate to disconnect

I’m sorry for my seeming indifference to blogging of late.  It is only appearance, for the interest remains. This does happen occasionally, and while I do experience a tinge of guilt, nevertheless,  I must follow an inner dictate.   Smokinchoices keeps going because I do enjoy blogging as it remains one of the ways I can still contribute while simultaneously deriving satisfaction.   So, God willing, I’ll probably keep on keepin’ on, for who knows how long.     

Some readers are aware of my struggle to stave off the creeping dementia which gripped me nearly a decade ago.  I don’t claim to have expertise or sophistication regarding Alzheimer’s disease with the exception of all those years of caring for my mother.   Still,  I am holding my own and regard my efforts as having been worth it.  I can no longer recall book, page and line of some thought or theme  I wish to reference. . .but that isn’t necessary for survival.  I have had memory loss and that makes me work a little harder when something won’t come forward.   But then, I don’t have to answer to anyone other than my own sense of integrity. 

It never crossed my mind  that geriatric changes within the body would hamper or limit my efforts while the mind continues to serve me well enough. There has to be some ironic story here somewhere what with all my juicing,  raw, organic and guardedly simple supplementation and refusal of pharmaceuticals.  Its Okay, God, . . . go ahead and laugh, it won’t be the first time.     

So here is an interesting post that is really insightful and could be a blessing to many who are overly wrought by our information overload which most of us fall victim to along with our time restrictions.  I enjoyed it – hope you do too.    Jan         

Solitude is a good thing

Desperate to disconnect

In increasingly wired world, more people seek true solitude


CHICAGO — When was the last time you were alone and unwired? • Really, truly by yourself, with just your thoughts: no cellphone, no tablet, no laptop. • Many people crave such solitude — something rare in an increasingly wired world. • We check texts and email, and update online statuses at any hour — when in bed or at a stoplight. Sometimes, we even do so when on the toilet. • We feel obliged, yes, but we’re also fascinated with the connectedness, constantly tinkering and checking in. • Still, the obsession is starting to draw resistance from a small but growing legion of technology users sensing a need to be unplugged.

“What might have felt like an obligation at first has become an addiction,” says Camille Preston, a communication consultant in Cam-bridge, Mass.

“It’s almost as if we don’t know how to be alone or we are afraid of what we’ll find when we are alone with ourselves.

“It’s easier to keep doing than it is to be in stillness.”

One could argue that, in this economic environment, to stay wired seems wise — to remain on top of things, to keep up with the boss.

Preston knows people who arise in the middle of the night to check whether the boss has sent them email.

  • Yet she and others also see more hints of limit-setting going on, this movement of solitude seekers — with roots in the technology industry, ironically enough.

“When I think about truly disconnecting, I look to my truly techie friends,” says Cathy Davidson, a Duke University professor who co-directs the school’s PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge.

  • Those friends, she says, take long, unwired vacations and set “away messages” telling people to write back after they return.  “And they stick to it,” Davidson says, wishing she could do the same.   “They’ve come up with a socially acceptable convention for their own absence from the world of technology, and everybody recognizes it.”

One organization called Reboot has started the Sabbath Manifesto, a call to unplug one day a week to find solitude — or to simply take a day of rest with family and friends.

Bigger corporations — some outside the tech industry — are starting to catch on to such limit-setting.

To encourage work-life balance, Volkswagen shuts off mobile email in Germany 30 minutes after employees’ shifts end and turns it back on 30 minutes before their next shift starts.

Google, Nike and the Huffington Post, among others, provide space for employees to take naps or meditate. The idea is that employees who take time to themselves to re-energize will be more productive.

John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist, thinks there might just be something to that.   He has spent much of his career tackling the topic of loneliness and isolation.    “Feeling ignored sparks feelings of loneliness,” says Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

But getting away, he says — “that’s the opposite of being lonely.”

It is time that you take by choice, Cacioppo says.  So while the cognitive effects are still being studied, he says it’s very likely that that type of solitude is good for the brain.

Dan Rollman had little doubt of that when he and a few others from Reboot, a group of Jewish “thought leaders,” gathered in 2009. That’s when they created the Sabbath Manifesto, inspired by the traditional Jewish Sabbath but aimed at people from any background who are encouraged to unplug one day — any day — of the week.

The idea came to Rollman when he found himself craving a simpler time, when stores closed on Sundays and life slowed down.  “I knew I wanted a day of rest,” says Rollman, who is CEO of the company  .

The Manifesto — described as “a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world” — has 10 principles. They are suggestions ranging from “avoid technology” and “connect with loved ones” to “get outside,” “drink wine” and “find silence.”

To help with this, the organization has created “The Undo List” — an email that arrives Friday afternoons “with ideas for conversation topics, readings, local outings and creative endeavors to ease the time away from technology and help make the day better.” There are also specific activities for subscribers in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Rollman avoids doing work on Saturdays whenever he can, and often unplugs altogether then — and encourages his employees to do the same.

“There’s a huge sense of relief,” Rollman says. “It is a liberating feeling to walk out of one’s door and not have your cellphone in your pocket.”

Leah Jones, a 35-year-old Chicagoan, hasn’t gone quite that far.

But she has cut back, turning her cellphone to “silent” mode from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. and putting it away when she goes out.

“I’m a better friend when I don’t have my phone in my hand,” says Jones, a 35-yearold vice president of social and emerging media at Olson public relations.

For her, solitude might simply be sitting home and watching television.

“I might tweet while I watch it, but it’s a perfectly acceptable way to spend an afternoon,” she says.

Is that really solitude, though?

Davidson, at Duke, thinks it is.

“For some people, it’s dancing and blasting rock music,” she says. “We tend to think of it as solitude, which is sort of a lofty term, when in fact for many people, it’s also about being joyful.

  • “The real issue is fun vs. work.”

And often, she says, her students are better at it than she is.   “They seem very fine to go off on a bike ride and leave a cellphone,” she says.

Renee Houston, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Puget Sound in Washington state, also finds herself envying a colleague who regularly unplugs.

“He will drive two hours to go to the coast just to step away, just have time to think,” she says.

She isn’t there yet but is finding small ways to set limits. Her family has a rule, for instance: Put cellphones away during dinner unless there is a crisis.

She, too, has noticed more after-hours tech limits in the business world. But it can be difficult to set limits with close colleagues or friends who have come to expect instant responses.

“The friend is saying, ‘But wait! It’s me!’ ” says Cacioppo from the University of Chicago. “But you have to wonder: What kind of friend are they?”

The key, he and others say, is to develop a reputation for being responsive but not too responsive. He sets the limits himself — he has given up Facebook and generally answers emails or texts from colleagues or students within half a day, if it is nothing too urgent. If you make yourself available all the time, people come to expect it even more, he says.

  • “And the more responsive you are, the more trivial things you get queried about.”

Davidson says it also helps when there is a “built-in alibi” — the message from a work or social circle where unplugging is accepted, even welcomed.

But Jones in Chicago says you also have to let yourself off the hook and resist the urge to check in to see what friends are doing.

Social networking “makes it seem like everybody’s doing something awesome,” she says. “But you can’t always worry about what other people are doing.”



  1. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there
    that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Cheers!

    Comment by fat loss factor program scam — November 18, 2012 @ 8:40 am | Reply

    • Hello Brandon, . . thank you for the gentle appreciation of what you find here – – glad you like it. As to your two requests. . . 1) tips on writing: you either have the dynamic urge to communicate or you don’t. If you have it – just do it. Write what you know and be honest in your feelings and delivery.

      As to the other – 2) I don’t advise anyone to do anything other than to honor one’s body by eating right. So you are on our own with regard to WordPress, whether it be .com or .org. WordPress happens to be one of the finest choices anyone can make who wants to reach people with a blog. I will not cover all the same ground repeatedly, so since I have recently discussed all this – I will simply refer you there. . . I did a post on January 14, 2012 called “Meet (really big) Hank” to which a commenter asked similar questions on November 1, 2012. You can access this by going to the front page Archives for January ’12 or can put the title into the search engine. Good luck to you, may your path be fruitful. Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — November 18, 2012 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

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