One thing I've heard many times the past couple of years is that people are much more connected than they have ever been before. We have cell phones, text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The list of ways we're constantly connected to other people is nearly endless, and new services pop up all the time to make this connectivity even easier. Having a smart phone means you are rarely without the internet at your fingertips, meaning you have access to all this connectivity more often than just a few years ago, when smartphones were rarities. With these services, it is amazing how much communication a person can manage in a day!
I can't find a link right now, but I remember seeing a study showing that the number of people we can actively keep in our mental social circle is fairly small, less than 200 if I remember correctly. The study showed that the use of Facebook and other social sites these days has actually lead to an increase in this number. This is amazing, as with around 600 people connected to me on Facebook, and another 200 or so on Twitter, as well as elsewhere, it would be nearly impossible to keep track of this many people without these services. Granted, not all of those people are very active, and I don't keep track of all of them to much extent, but the fact that I could if I chose to is dumbfounding.
Something else I hear said these days is that people may be suffering from what can be called "information overload" due to all of this connectivity. I can understand this, as there are plenty of days where I feel I just can't keep up with everything that is going on around me and in my online social circle. The amount of information is staggering, especially on Twitter, where I attempt to read everything posted by those I'm following.
Lately I've begun playing Empire Avenue, which has been both a blessing and a curse. It has connected me to so many more people that I otherwise probably would not have found, increasing readership of this personal blog, as well as gaining quite a few new followers for me on Twitter. I've even signed up for Flickr as a result of joining the site, so now I'm becoming active in a small photography community. All of that is very good, and I enjoy it. The problem is that due to all of this social growth, the amount of information and contact I receive every day has gone up dramatically, and those days I feel I can't keep up with everyone have happened more often.
Yesterday, I decided I was going to just take the day off. I don't have a job, other than being a full time student, so social media feels like a part-time job to me sometimes. I felt that I needed a day off. A few people contacted me when I didn't post my usual round of "good mornings" around the web, asking if I had actually gotten out of bed, but for the most part, I didn't have very many people contact me.
The peace and quiet of the day was refreshing. The last time I spent any length taking a break from the internet was when I spent a week in Costa Rica on a mission trip. Having been online for a good chunk of my life, leaving the internet is an interesting feeling for me, as the day feels as if it slows down when I'm disconnected. I spent a good deal of time yesterday reading and writing, things I haven't been doing as much over the past few months. Time was spent sitting and thinking, something I don't remember doing in quite some time.
In all, I enjoyed my day off, and plan on having more in the future. If it's been a while since the last time you "disconnected," then I suggest you give it a try. Who knows, you might find that you like it.