Going on a digital sabbatical is in fashion these days. I´ve been on extended digital sabbaticals before I knew they existed. But back then, I wasn´t really addicted to the internet yet and so I didn´t need one.
I only installed an internet connection in my house about two and a half years ago. Yes, in May 2014. And 8 months after that, I left my house to go on a trip, while starting a business online. I went from internet-free to internet junky very fast and then I skipped to a more stable and healthy relationship with the cloud.
Before having internet at home, I’d use it on cyber cafes or at friend´s houses. I´d go to a cyber cafe and spend from 30 minutes to two hours connected and then skip a day or two or more.
Then, I had it installed in my room, 24 hours. I was connected to it for 6 hours a day (or more), all of the sudden. I thought that I would be exaggerating just in the beginning, like getting a new toy and then I’d leave it alone, but it didn´t work like that. I got addicted to internet browsing, reading and watching interesting and useless stuff.
Most of my online hours were when my daughter was at her kindergarten or at a friend’s house, but she had to put up with many occasions in which I was glued to the monitor, unable to do much else, getting impatient because she couldn´t understand my need to be at the computer (a 3-year old…).
I realized I was neglecting some attention to my baby and that had to change.
At home, I started to put my laptop in the closet while I was with her, but it didn’t work very well, I just had to pick it up again and click click click type type type when that urge came.
So I was happy with my new project of travel-work to come. Going on a long trip (initially 7 months, about to be extended) where I don’t have internet at home, and only use it during those less than 4 hours that I have while Luísa is at school.
We spent 3 months without a cell phone (and I finally bought one because people in the 21st century seems to no go without it to meet each other in the physical world and I needed friends, so the cell phone helped a lot in that). And I do keep my connection to only the mornings (8-12), from Monday to Friday.
So, I’m not on a digital sabbatical as in away from the screen altogether, but I’m in a sort of half digital sabbatical to what’s normal these days, where people have the internet in their pockets available all the time.
This controlled hours on the net (I’m on it for 5 months now) made me more present to my daughter who doesn´t have to put up with my expressionless face while I look at the screen and ignore her needs. She does see me typing sometimes at home, but I put it away as soon as I see this can be a reason for us (mom and daughter) to disconnect.
It also made me more selective to what I do online. I also go on extreme digital sabbaticals without wanting. My daughter suddenly doesn’t have school on Friday and BAM, there I go on a long weekend without connecting. I´d have preferred it not to happen, but I´m into this life experiment of only working in the mornings and being completely available for Luísa afterwards. It’s going great.
I kind of cheat too. While connected in the morning, I leave a few tabs opened with articles and videos uploaded to view at home. I try doing it after lunch, if Luísa is into some self-absorbed play, otherwise I forget about it.