Why I’m unplugging for a whole month — yikes!

August 22, 2013 · 19 comments

in Inspiration, Journalism how-to's, Making art

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Time to tame my laptop and iPhone…I’ve decided to unplug for the next four weeks. What a scary thought: no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the constant checking of email. In the process, I hope to create a more intimate life and explore the meaning of privacy.

At the end of 2012, I unplugged for the first time, for two whole weeks. That initial experiment was scary. Thankfully, everything turned out wonderful. I ended up decluttering my bedroom. I also quit Words with Friends, an addictive mobile phone app that I still miss (a little bit).

But that was so 2012. In the last 18 months, our Internet-driven world has changed tremendously, moving light years ahead.

Back then, I would make dinner for my teen daughter and her buddies and watch them eat with one eye — and one swiping index finger — glued to their iPhones. Back then, I thought to myself, oh, the excesses of the young.

Now, the pace of life has accelerated to the point where middle-aged folks like me behave in the same way. During dinner or drinks, we’ve got our mobile devices out too, checking texts, emails and phone messages.

This is just the new reality, especially for people with full-time jobs or major projects. Been there, done that — and will probably go back to it again in a month.

Still, for the next four weeks, quiet time will be valuable. What would it mean for me to stop sharing publicly? Can I exist without an audience? Haha!

I love social media, especially now, when there are so many exciting options. When I unplugged 18 months ago, there was no Vine; Pinterest was still sort of a fringe passion. In 2013, they’ve both become part of the landscape.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn has grown increasingly important as a personal marketing and job-hunting outlet. And at this point, everyone knows about Twitter. I’ve also discovered that even the fanciest restaurants don’t seem to care anymore when diners pull out their iPhones to snap pictures. As for the gorilla in the room, Facebook is everywhere and expanding.

So….being a creative person and entrepreneur, I need answers. How do I integrate all these jazzy tools to brand myself and enhance my quality of life? The first step is to….step away.

This is how the dictionary defines “privacy:”

The quality or state of being apart from company or observation : seclusion. 

 Freedom from unauthorized intrusion. 

And these are the dictionary definitions for the word “intimate:”

The state of being intimate : familiarity (a state of close relationship, absence of ceremony). 

Something of a private nature.

My new adventure is a quest for 21st century definitions of intimacy and privacy. The game plan is simple. I have a 24-hour window to withdraw from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The blackout begins in earnest by the weekend. Then, over the next four weeks, I will strive to limit email interactions to once a night and maybe a spot check mid-day. 

During this period of unplugging, I will be juggling a to-do list that includes: 

  • Sending my daughter off to college.
  • Getting handyman to build a shelf over my new refrigerator.
  • Sewing new living room curtains.
  • Finishing a second rewrite of my book manuscript.
  • Start teaching two, and possibly three fall journalism courses.
  • Cleaning the wood-burning stove and ordering firewood.
  • Tinkering with the design of my blog.

If any of you want to reach me, you have my email address, which is right here on the website. Maybe you’d also like to subscribe to my blog so we can reconnect in September in a new, even better way. (And if you do subscribe, please remember to confirm your subscription in the follow-up email you get from me!).

What will you be doing over the next few weeks? I hope you all enjoy the end of the summer. This is such a precious time for us to recharge for the fall. See you soon! xo

Update on Oct. 6, 2013: I’m still alive! But there’s been more to figure out than I realized. Will return in the next few weeks. Meantime, I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog so that I can let you know exactly when I’m back. Miss you!

  ********

orange flower heartIf you’re interested in unplugging, you might like two of my earlier posts…

Dec. 24, 2012: Why I’m unplugging for the next two weeks

Jan. 7, 2013: 5 ways to unplug from electronics & social media & reconnect with your life

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Seafog August 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm

“What will you be doing over the next few weeks? Focusing on you and real life.

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betty ming liu August 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm

What, Seafog, you’re not a fan of social media? :)
I actually thoroughly enjoy all of that stuff. Will miss it.

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Patty August 23, 2013 at 9:07 am

But how will I get in touch with You? Only joking. I’m envious, but I don’t know how you can unplug and teach journalism at the same time!! Good luck!

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betty ming liu August 23, 2013 at 9:43 am

Haha, Patty! Students know how to reach me by email. Plus, I always give them my cell # so that they can call or text.

You raise a good question though…not sure exactly how this will work out. I’m looking for a new, more manageable routine. Don’t even know if I can stick to a minimum of checking email only twice day. But that’s the goal and we’ll see what happens from there. Thanks for dropping by! xo

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adriana August 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I applaud this effort. It is wonderful to unplug and offers incredible freedom. I’ve unplugged (meaning no phones, no books, no internet, no nada) during silent meditation retreats from one week to three weeks. As a writer, you get incredible insight. I hope this four week detachment goes awesomely.

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betty ming liu August 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Wow, adriana, you’ve REALLY unplugged. I would love to go to that level someday. There’s also an upstate monastery that offers week-long retreats where you DON’T TALK. Now that would really be something special for me. Meantime, thanks for your good wishes. I’m already have trouble staying out of my email….

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jaimie August 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

you go, betty! my lama has counseled unplugging one day a month, but i can never figure out what the best day would be! maybe i will, surfing on the back of your wave, finally find one measly day a month to let go & know the world will be there when i get back, that i won’t miss an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. … as far as silent retreats go, they’re amazing. i’ve only gone four or five days without talking, but i didn’t want the not-talking to end. … enjoy your e-silence, betty, & thanks for keeping us all inspired!
xj

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betty ming liu August 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm

jaimie, what a great idea — one day a month is a way to stay fresh and real in an ongoing way. Must give that a shot! Thanks for the encouragement. And it’s so nice to hear from you. :)

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Christina August 23, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I am excited to hear about what your four weeks teach you when you’re back! I find all the social outlets endlessly distracting, but a constant part of life, and in some ways they gave me the permission to wander mentally so I could return to my serious writing with more clarity. I think the true hardship, for me anyway, would be not to fill up all my time with something to do and instead just be. With two to three classes, a book project, and a daughter going off to school I think you’ll be plenty busy, too. Enjoy!

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betty ming liu August 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Thanks, Christina! I was going to unplug for two weeks but then decided to just really go for it. The thought of falling off the cliff is worrisome but hopefully everyone will still be around when I get back. Yes, I will be busy but I will really miss everyone too. Well, have a great month and see you soon! xo

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Bobby August 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I love it. I unplug every weekend when I’m in Woodstock.
No cell no text no email no Internet no TV.
I love it. Would not have it any other way. So it’s a lot of days during the year I’m unplugged. It’s all about balance.

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betty ming liu August 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Bobby, jaime’s lama might like your solution. I think I might give it a shot on an on-going basis too. Thanks for sharing such a great idea!

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Heather Assaf August 27, 2013 at 8:13 am

Great idea! I just got back from a one week creativity art retreat and am feeling the need to carve out some quiet time. I will be joining you as of September 1st with one e-mail check in the morning and one more late evening. I have a studio tour coming up the end of September; another show mid-October and a third installation for November so I can really use some ‘Me’ time! Thanks for the inspiration!!,

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Rose T. Ellis October 29, 2013 at 7:10 am

‘MISSING YOU!!! ‘Hope all is well.

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betty ming liu October 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Aw, Rose! I’ll be back soon. Another week or two. I’m good. Hope you are too!

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Cassandra Aoki November 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I was gone from the end of Sept till the end of Oct and pretty muchly unplugged myself so my email account may have sent back some emails. I just realized that I haven’t seen any blog from you since coming home and since you stopped blogging in Aug. Is everything okay? Are you working on your book and just not doing the blog? I hope you’ve been able to continue teaching and writing and painting at the same time. Also, please include me in re- subscribing to your new format from Sept.

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betty ming liu November 18, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Cassandra, I am fine! But I am indeed swamped with the book, teaching, etc. Bottom line is, I don’t think you’ve been unsubscribed. And, you’ve just given me the reminder that I need. I better get a blog post going for next week. There. I’ve said it. See you again next week and thank you for caring enough to reach out. xo

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