The time was 8:37 p.m.
I remember it so clearly, almost as if someone announced it over the foghorn in a crowded room. 8:37 p.m.
Just a minute earlier, it had occurred to me that I must undertake this challenge. I’d read about it, toyed with the idea, wondered if I could actually do it and decided that plunging right in was the only way to really find out.
And so began my 24-hour challenge: The aim was to go for 24 hours without access to the Internet.
Almost instinctively, the two reactions that would go with this announcement are obvious: awe and disdain. The ones who are addicted to social media and gadgets will understand the former. The ones who consider themselves above the draw of the insidious internet will express the latter. And that’s fine. I’m just presenting the facts as I’ve seen them.
First, why 24 hours? Honestly, just a whim. It could just as easily have been 72. Also, why a challenge? Why not just switch off the Wi-Fi and be done with it?
Ah, that’s where the challenge bit comes in. I love challenges! I make myself accountable, mostly to myself and find that a part of me is driven to see it through, come what may. This has been true of my yelling-less challenges and my blogging challenges, not once but thrice.
Social media is an integral part of my life-personally and professionally. Denying it has been of little use and I’ve learnt to embrace it now with the satisfaction of doing things the way I like them. But there are times when I’ve felt overwhelmed by the constant pings on my device or the notifications tab on twitter and Facebook.
Reading many articles and a few books on mindfulness, purpose and happiness have re-affirmed what I’ve known all along: happiness lies in our hands. We need to carpe diem and ensure that we don’t let it slip out of our hands.
What did the challenge involve?
- Attempt to go 24 hours without logging on to the Internet
- Do not check any devices- phone/Tab/laptop for this period
- If you must use the phone, use it to make calls or send text messages
Sounds easy enough. How hard could that be?
- I went 18 hours without touching my phone. (Had to log in after that to check an e-mail for an event)
- I did not open my laptop at all for 24 hours. (YAY!)
- I sent one text message and made/received 5 calls.
What else happened:
- I finished an entire book. You heard that right. I finished a 250-page book, cover to cover, in under 3 hours. It has been a LONG time since I’ve managed that and it was so gratifying!
- I did 3 loads of laundry and smiled as I watched the clean sheets fluttering in the afternoon sun.
- The maid was on leave so I managed to do some extra housework too with a song on my lips.
- I came back online after 18 hours to find 30 notifications, 4 messages and 5 e-mails waiting for me.
To put things in perspective, let’s just say it was one of the best Sundays of the past year. In all this time, there’s been a sense of urgency, a notion of unfinished business hanging around, the fact that things would stop moving if I wasn’t physically available or virtually so.
Guess what, the world continued on its journey. Nothing stopped. No cataclysmic event occurred and nobody was rendered helpless because of my ‘absence.’ Granted I didn’t manage the entire 24 hours (hey, I’m being honest here) but 18 hours is not too bad, if I do say so myself.
A challenge like this helps us do many things:
- It helps put our lives in perspective. We are not indispensable. Life will go on, come what may.
- Life online is wonderful and heartwarming, attested by the presence of fantastic people in my world, but they too have lives of their own.
- Taking a break is necessary for our souls. We need to get offline ever so often to savour what we used to do instinctively- read, walk, write by hand, cuddle with our loved ones or enjoy a meal without distraction.
- Time expands to welcome us if we can tear our eyes away from our screens. I’m amazed at the number of things (however small) that could be done in the space of time that was spent away from screens for just one day.
Now, the ultimate question:
Should you undertake the challenge?
Honestly, the only person who either needs to answer this question or even attempt the challenge is you. Each person has different needs and different reasons why they are connected to the Net. I am in no position to tell you how or if you should take this up.
The real question you should be asking yourself is:
Do I need this challenge?
If 24 hours seem too challenging for you, start small. Maybe two hours at a time. Build it up, little by little and see where it takes you. Perhaps you’ll find that it leads you back to a place of contentment deep within you.
*This is also my edition of Soulful Sundays this week. I can’t think of a more soulful way to begin the next 7 days. Can you?