Disconnecting to Reconnect

January 22, 2014 | By Natasha Eng, Senior Producer

I spend the majority of my days looking at screens—my laptop, phone, iPad, and television. This has become the norm for my generation, not to mention the generations born after us who will never know life without iPhones, iPads, and similar devices. Last week, after completing a milestone for one of our client projects, I decided to take a long weekend away from New York City and ostensibly, away from screens.

With good intentions, I headed upstate to Accord, NY, with my boyfriend and our French Bulldog, E.T. We stayed in the annex of a barn on a horse farm and spent the weekend doing things we hadn’t done much of lately: reading books, challenging each other in board games, meandering from town to town in search of antique stores, and playing long games of fetch with E.T. Even so, I didn’t have the willpower to cut myself off from screens completely. Over the course of two and a half days, I engaged in several screen-related activities:

  • used my phone to stream music from Rdio while driving
  • messaged our Airbnb host to notify her of our ETA
  • took photos and video at various points over the weekend
  • used Google Maps to find and navigate to and from antique shops
  • read a book on my iPad—the paperback book I brought was awful!
  • extended our Zipcar reservation so we could stop at more antique shops on the way home
  • peeked at my Instagram and Vine feeds a few times

Overall, the trip was a success. I returned to the city feeling relaxed in spite of my failure to completely disconnect from screens. Clearly, the services I’ve come to rely on to make life easier were hard to give up, but I did notice a difference in how I used them during the trip. My devices were more of a tool to facilitate the things I was most interested in doing offscreen: listening to good music, staying in a rustic cabin, capturing panoramic images and HD video of beautiful views I wanted to remember, discovering antique shops and meeting some of the locals, and rereading one of my favorite books, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

There are many cautions about the consequences of spending our lives onscreen, but maybe our failure to unplug is not the cause of our stress. Maybe it’s how we use our devices. For better or worse, screens are a part of our lives; perhaps the secret to not letting them become our lives is to better manage how and why we use them.