Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874, to July 27, 1946)
American writer, poet, and art collector
Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love, and understanding.
Louis V. Gerstner Jr. (born March 1, 1942)
Chairman of the board and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 until 2002
Although I am writing this before the 2011 holidays, you will be reading it as the year 2012 begins, so I find myself contemplating New Year's resolutions. New Year's resolutions are things I rarely make, not because I don't think they are important, but because I have never managed to actually keep one for any significant period of time—I am not someone who enjoys failure, no matter how much I know it is a normal part of life (especially with New Year's resolutions!). But I am considering a very special New Year's resolution for 2012, and I am going to invite everyone I know to join me, which may make it easier for me to stick with it as the days fly by. It is dramatic, it is radical, and it may not be to everyone's taste, but I believe it will be to everyone's benefit. You don't have to do it every day, it requires no special equipment (far from it), and it may just change your life for the better ... so join me as I make my resolution:
I, Lisa Anne Miller, resolve that during 2012 I am going to take one full 24-hour day off every month from all information technology, including cell phones, smart phones, pads and pods, desktops and laptops, Web-surfing, linking, facebooking, tweeting or twittering, television, live streams, and all digitally based forms of communication and/or entertainment.
Let's face it, as nurses we are already working in a highly stressful environment and shouldering a great deal of responsibility under frequently conflicting pressures (eg, safety vs economy). And the majority of us are now “connected” pretty much 24/7, whether it is through a phone, pad, or computer. We have access to so much information; it can literally overwhelm us. For example, while I was researching and writing this column, trying to determine whether there really is such a thing as “computer addiction” (the answer is not yet, see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1037/h0087741/abstract), I was unable to resist links related to the development of the computer mouse (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Engelbart), the history of the Internet (http://www.walthowe.com/navnet/history.html), and at least 3 others that do not warrant mention here. Don't get me wrong, I am all over technology. I love the fact that I can stay connected daily to my sister with an ongoing game of Scrabble thanks to an “app” on my “smart” phone; I am excited to be working now in the realm of educational “webinars” that allow me to reach an audience from the comfort of my home (and, yes, in my jeans with a cup of my own delicious coffee made just the way I like it); and I am certainly not embarking on a cross-country road trip without an up-to-date GPS system. But I have seen the ugly underbelly as well. Adults who cannot disconnect from texting during the dinner hour, children sitting glued to a glowing screen for hours on end, and the endemic lack of patience in everyone because our world has become a never-ending series of queries with immediate answers. Although it was gratifying to be able to prove that my recall of Neil Young's lyrics to After the Gold Rush were actually correct, did it really enhance my evening out with friends? And is it truly a forward evolutionary move for you to be talking on the phone while you are going to the bathroom? As entertaining as I find that particular habit (airport bathrooms are prime real estate for cell phone eavesdropping), does it really improve our lives?
I know what some of you are thinking. Really, Lisa, I get your point but I simply can't disconnect, what about my children, or if there is an emergency in the family? I get it, and I certainly don't want to endanger anyone's family. But why not make it a family experiment? Oprah did, with some amazing results (see http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/What-Can-You-Live-Without-Experiment-Steps). Or just try it yourself for a few hours; see if you can enjoy being disconnected. I know that small periods of true peace and quiet have saved my sanity, and I have had the great pleasure of a nearby Japanese garden to visit and meditate in when I am home. So in 2012, I just want to try to unplug from the technology world for 1 day a month, and I am inviting other nurses and their families to join me. For those of you who are interested, but somewhat stymied by the idea (what will I do without Angry Birds?), here are 10 lovely possibilities for your time:
- Read a real book (no electronics) or magazine.
- Take a long walk in the woods or a garden.
- Make or create something (pull out that craft project, bake a cake, learn to make those cool origami birds).
- Play a board game or charades with friends or family.
- Soak in a tub, with or without bubbles.
- Take a nap.
- Have a massage.
- Give someone a massage.
- Write a letter and mail it using a real envelope and stamp.
- Tell your children (or someone you love) a story from your own childhood.
Get creative and make your own list of things to do on your tech“no” vacation. Yes, your friends and family may balk, people may think you are strange, and your inbox will likely be overflowing the next morning, but I think you will find it refreshing to “reboot” yourself by hitting the Ctrl/Alt/Delete buttons on technology for a day.
I chose 2 quotes from very different sources to open this column. Gertrude Stein was nearing the end of her life just when Louis V. Gerstner Jr was beginning his, but I think they would have enjoyed each other's company. Both recognized the dangers inherent in too much of a good thing, and although Ms Stein did not live to see the Internet explosion, she would likely have agreed with Mr Gerstner. We should celebrate the benefits that information and technology provide, but we must also remember to nurture the human within each of us and those qualities that drew us into the nursing profession in the first place.
—Lisa A. Miller, CNM, JD
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