James Mayes

Blog: Going off-grid

In Gadgets, Mobile, Personal, Personal Development, Social Media, Social Recruiting, Twitter on June 2, 2011 at 11:36 am

Regular Twitter followers will be aware of a phone incident a while back. It relegated me to using a Nokia handset from 2003 for a few weeks. I’m now fully back on the grid, and giving the new device a test run by writing most of this post on the touchscreen keyboard, on my way to meetings in town (I added the image & links on the netbook).

The best nokia everSo to the off-grid experience. I thought it might be worth reflecting a little. What stood out, what I missed, etc.

First up, I found it actually improved concentration and time management. You see, I’d got in to the habit of responding to emails on the fly, in the quiet moments between other things. This feels like great use of time, but I’ve subsequently started to realise that if I respond to a batch of mails in one session, I’m more focussed; I think it shows in the things I write. Maybe email should stay that way?

I missed Twitter, hugely. For me, there are numerous aspects and benefits to using Twitter, many of which are perfectly available through the desktop experience. Likewise, Twitter has some SMS functionality, so I was able to do certain things. The major thing I missed though, was what Benjamin Ellis calls “the watercooler“. The ability to dip in and out of the stream, in precisely those same moments where I now think maybe email is to be avoided. So glad to have that back, it’s impossible to accurately value the serendipity effect!

I’d forgotten how long a phone could run, if it’s ONLY being used as a phone. Most people I speak to charge smartphones once, often twice, a day. Travel back to 2003, I could charge that device on Sunday and have it run all week! I’m sure battery technology has improved since 2003, so this difference in operating time must relate to big screens, WiFi & GPS use, high-powered processors, etc.

Finally (when I relaxed into it) I loved the freedom. I’m highly active on numerous social platforms and the time-travel back to a less connected period was truly enlightening. At first uncomfortable and feeling out of touch, I gradually began to enjoy the absence of a device, platforms and virtual people wanting constant attention.

So now I’m back. Fully hooked into the matrix once more. I’ll be sticking with my smartphone for sure (and damn if this new one isn’t seriously impressive!) but I’ll be trying to keep some of the above in mind.

It may not be life-changing, but it’s certainly been enlightening.

  1. Hehe, totally know what you mean. The wife resorted to booking holidays for us in countries or locations without any Wifi or mobile phone signal for the same reason. After the first two days of panic a kind of calm returned, one I remember from the early 80s before all this Interweb thing caught on.

    Maybe Nokia should consider using this as a marketing tactic? Go for an old school phone and be more produtive.

  2. If you’re back on the grid I might have to buy a few more shares in you on Empire Avenue… 😉

  3. I love to go off grid – even with a switched on smartphone to hand.

    Lately I do this while navigating a river or a canal, going to places where the comms companies have forgotten to join up the dots in their matrix.

    Like James, I relax totally into this lack of connection.

    My only worry, as I enjoy an uninterrupted revel in the wonder of water and nature, is that I can’t show it to everyone else and share the joy.

    At least, I can’t until later – when I’m back in range of ‘civilisation’ and hooked back into the Matrix…

  4. I’m off to Italy shortly (to my brother-in-law’s hotel http://www.palazzomajo.com ). The whole family are coming, and it’s located in a hilltop village, overlooking the Tiber Valley, in the remotest part of the Umbrian countryside.

    Thankfully he has excellent wi-fi, as between 5 of us there’ll be 4 iPhones, a laptop a Mac Air and an iPad. Oh and junior has a DSi XL. all of which will be employed accessing the ‘information superhighway’ (thanks Al Gore).

    I recall my first holiday with a mobile phone, in Cornwall, where I’d get grief from HID for sneaking out to the car to surreptitiously check messages. I agree that whilst there’s no need to be sneaky, it’s important to be ‘present’ to fully enjoy your respite from a normal virtual existence.

    • Whilst I agree with the sentiment of the comment, I find myself tempted to ask for a discount should I head to Italy any time soon. Cheeky O’Donnell, very cheeky.

  5. […] post ‘Going off grid’ reflected on his time away from social media. I recently had my own two week detox and prompted by […]

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