Last Sunday morning I slept until my eyes were ready to open, rearranged my apartment, ate cake for breakfast, and read online news in total silence. I did two loads of dishes, went for a walk and a short longboard ride, returned library books, and watched bike polo in the park. I then found my favourite tree and sat under it to think about how amazing the previous week had been.
I remembered the live-music of Tra-la-la Tuesday, the BBQ hotdogs and couch-laze followed by a Wednesday night observing a longboard jousting tournament. Then there were the after-work mini patio beers, the skate-friends bedroom dance party, and the late-night walk to transit on Thursday. I remembered the birthday celebration snack-for-dinner, the hundred-painting art opening, and the railpath walk filled with discussions of creative inspiration on Friday. The ache in my muscles reminded me of the hundreds of handstands, somersaults and cartwheels with my 7 year old cousin that peppered a beautiful Saturday afternoon with my family and one of my best friends, followed by a night of more live music, craft beer, card games, tipsy bike rides and late night pizza with Mario Kart. It was a VERY full week.
So, under that tree, at 4:30pm, when I thought about my activities on Sunday, I felt a bit of a twinge in my gut. It hardly counted as an inactive or boring day, and it’s not that I couldn’t find things that I love to do, but the pace seemed more drawn out and the activities less important when I was acting alone.
I hadn’t had a day without social interaction in more than two weeks, but that day, when I finally had some time to myself, I found that I would keep looking at my phone and try to decide whether to text or call or email or chat or bbm or ‘like’ activity or comment or message people. Amidst the solitude I had been seeking I still sought out the technological company of my peers, and strangers too. Sharing these experiences with people is what fuels my life, but the problem with being an extrovert, and a busy, well-liked one at that (cry me a river, I know), is that in the moments when you’re not surrounded by love and friendship, you feel very much alone.
Empty spaces seem bigger. The quiet seems quieter.
I don’t spend enough time alone, where I provide myself the space to notice what I notice. Earlier in my reflection, before I started the thumbscializing cycle of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and G-chat, I sat in that park on my own and just stayed still. Surrounded by seventeen full-breasted robins, who were capitalizing on the four minutes of sprinkly spring rain that scared some dopey worms into popping up out of the earth, I also got to see the two bolting dogs chase squirrels up trees, and their 3 adolescent pups hop along behind them, ears perked, but not in hunt mode. I saw two little girls, who looked like they had just recently become comfortable with a speed higher than ‘trot,’ tottle after each other, with their adoring father not far behind. Had I been responding to any of the number of alerts on my phone, I’d have missed the beauty around me for the digital existence that would, and will still be there for me when I’m ready to access it again.
Eventually, I succumbed to the compulsion of checking what was making that red light blink, and I responded to a few of the alerts adorning my status bar. And though I don’t regret doing so, I am glad I was able to hold off on them until I had appreciated my surroundings. I don’t always do so, but more often I need to. These lonely moments are necessary, particularly to an extrovert.
We function by way of external stimulation, but if we don’t give ourselves the time to wipe the slate clean, and to remember what it feels like to be unstimulated, we’re going to be in a state of sensory overload where we can’t even BE stimulated by the stimuli. We’ll just be trying to catch up with the alerts of the stimuli that just happened an hour ago, a minute ago, a second ago…
Extroverts! We need some time off! We need to trust ourselves that whatever activity we choose for the hour, afternoon, or even whole day, will be the BEST one. During the times when we turn our phones to silent or better still, leave them at home, we will be significantly more capable of being the best participators in activities, because we give ourselves to them fully.
I’d like to challenge you, extroverts, to risk the ‘loneliness’ of time without social/digital stimulation, and to give yourself a day of untethered, glorious freedom, to explore the stimuli how, where, and with whom you see fit at the moment. It’ll make you a better extrovert as you will have a wide variety of experiences to report, and be ready to take on the next great adventure. I know that the invite for such an adventure may or may not be discovered via your thumbs, but at least TRY to do it the old fashioned way, or once you do accept digitally, go full-force into the experience sans phone.
Leave Your Phone @ Home Day was April 14th, 2012, but it can be anytime you choose.
Part 1 of our LYP@H coverage “The Phoneless Journey” by Danny DeVito can be found [here]
Part 2 “They Really ‘Like’ Me” by Séamus Gearin can be found [here]
Part 3 “The Human Race Depends On You” by Jeff Halperin can be found [here]