This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 30 July 2012.
iSchoolers are all over the place this summer! Many of us are finishing internships far from the bounds of Syracuse proper, Sam is backflipping his way across the globe, and I’m one of five students studying and talking about international librarianship for two weeks in una delle più belle città del mondo: Florence, Italy. Unlike Sam, though, I deliberately chose to disconnect when I left the states. Here’s why:
Traveling abroad, for work, study, or pleasure, requires a change in perceptions–a
change that can be harder to make if the old ways are reinforced by
regular contact with them. The five of us (Six, if you count our
professor) are already going to be an enclave of Syracuse patterns in
Europe, no matter how much we might wish to expose ourselves to solely
Italian language and culture. I thought that having a smartphone or a
tablet would serve as just another barrier to true immersion.
We’re encouraged to stay in contact, to work publicly, to keep tweeting; but I’m a proponent of living in the moment.
Yes, I’m reflecting on things, and writing, and sharing my thoughts as
blog posts, but there’s something to be said for lingering over a
conversation for hours, enjoying the company of my fellows, and
digesting the topic at hand (along with some phenomenal food) without
rushing off to get it on twitter. Staying device-less during the days
requires me to be present in a way I never am when there’s an entire network to jack into just waiting in my pocket.
I’m so reliant on the network, constantly available as an information
source, news feed, and entertainment system, that it’s good to have a
reminder that I can live without. In fact, if it comes right down to it,
I have to admit that my smartphone is a distraction–I do better work
when I’m not constantly checking for notifications. While I enjoy the
half-dozen or so smartphone-facilitated conversations I’m involved with
most days I’m in the states (Email, SMS, or Tweet-based), taking a short
sabbatical from them lets me focus on the things I want to do. As with
meditation, half the battle is clearing away extraneous influences and
letting the unheard voices take their turn. In our world of information
overload, bucking the trend keeps me sane.
Admittedly, I do have contact–a trusty netbook and a wifi connection
for the evenings and early mornings–but if I wasn’t required to do some
writing and research for class, I’d likely have left that at home as
well. Don’t get me wrong, I love being connected; sometimes, though,
leaving the tethers behind and reveling in the freedom of being on your
own is pure, unadulterated joy.
Have you considered going on a communications hiatus? What decisions did you make? Let us know in the comments.