The fantasy of being disconnected
An overactive world is hard to break away from.
by SCOTT STEIN
It takes a boat ride, in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, to get me to finally feel offline. Which makes me feel pretty sad. But it reminds me of the impossible goal I keep failing to attain: staying away from screens. Or, more accurately, the internet.
It feels impossible to disconnect because I work in tech. I review phones. I wear headsets (sometimes on vacation). I have watches on my wrists. What absurdity am I discussing, me being disconnected from tech? It’s more that I’ve realized my attention being sapped away. Or my kid saying to me, hey, spend less time on the screen. Which only proves that I’ve become known as the Person With a Phone on Their Face.
I’ve tried screen-time limitations, cutting off notifications and being in the present moment like Sherry Turkle, who’s studied online behavioral psychology for years, wrote about back in 2015 in her excellent book Reclaiming Conversation. I’ve never found screen timers to work. Not for me. They feel like fitness trackers without the coaching.
What has worked? Spending a week and a half, roughly, where I go as offline as I ever can. It’s become a tradition each summer: I’ve joined my in-laws to go across the Atlantic. I’ve done this, now, six times.
I didn’t expect to be this person who cannot unplug. And you don’t need to be this person, either. But I’ve come to realize, the more I take this trip, that I love being forced to live without the internet.