"The quest to understand the impact on the brain of heavy technology use — at a time when such use is exploding — is still in its early stages... it is no less significant than when scientists investigated the effects of consuming too much meat or alcohol."
I just got back from a week vacation at my family's home out on eastern Long Island, and it took me a really long time to relax (was it yesterday afternoon?), largely due, I think, to not really separating from my computer and phone. To be honest, being away from work and yet still connected by a daily email check-in created a weird anxiety that I had not experienced before. I've gone far away on trips so that I was totally out of reach and observed my nerves settling down by day three, but that didn't happen this time. I was not really unplugged. Even on Thursday of last week I was really stressed out.
On the front page of the New York Times today, there's a great article on this subject that seemed written for me as I came back to work early this morning on a two hour bus ride. Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain by Matt Richel is a compelling story of a bunch of scientists who go for a rafting trip with the idea of observing how their brains work when they disconnect.
There are also skeptics among them, but the effects soon become quite clear. By the third day "even the more skeptical of the scientists say something is happening to their brains" and that "time is slowing down,” creating a deeply restorative feeling and supporting conversations that they wouldn't have had at work or even business retreats.
None of this should really be surprising, except for the fact that it feels so hard to get away like this. I just tried it and didn't do a great job, particularly with my iPhone, which offers me all sorts of other things to check in on during the day. (I became the Foursquare mayor of the pond where we went swimming.)
My wife has often joked about going away and offline for a year. I can't wait, but right now I'd be happy to just start my week over again.
>> Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain - NYTimes
(Images: Maxwell top, Chang W. Lee/The New York Times bottom)