Plugged vs Unplugged

I know people who stubbornly refuse to plug-in and engage with technology. They have a basic Nokia phone, can create a very basic Word document, can’t use the internet and like to say how bad it is that all people do these days is swipe their phones. Five minutes later they will ask me to look something up on mine, which is kind of funny so I point it out.  Whatever, it’s fine. That’s their choice and apart from the frustration of not being able to text them, they are not hurting anyone, they are still nice to people, they demand nothing.

I know other people who stubbornly refuse to unplug. They have email conversations with work colleagues at 3 am (hero-mail) and like to cc others so everyone knows that they were hard at work at 3 am. They will jump online at 10 pm and send out a raft of emails after spending half the day talking to people in the hallway. I was once told by a boss that they and another worker were in at 2 am on Sunday morning and my commitment questioned (true story). These people stubbornly refuse to unplug and expect everyone else to be plugged-in all the time too. This is definitely harmful to others. I’m not so concerned about them because they choose to live like that, but they have no right to expect it of the people around them.

These examples represent two ends of the PvU (Plugged vs Unplugged) spectrum, most people fall in the middle somewhere. We can choose how and when we want to be plugged in and when to put the phone or tablet down. It is as simple as that. Or is it? I’ve been told often enough “you’re always on your phone”, so maybe it isn’t.

After deciding that I wanted to join in the conversation ‘Plugged vs Unplugged’ I started jotting (typing) notes and sentences that came into my head as I worked on other things. I couldn’t come up with a story though, or an argument or a theme. 

Plugged and unplugged are great.

Plugged and unplugged are lonely and awful.

Plugged and unplugged take self-discipline.

Ah yes, but there are no revelations there. So I went to the internets and googled “the argument for plugged vs unplugged” hoping to find a bit of inspiration on the topic of whether or not to be on the internet (irony?). On page two I came across this article by Casey N. Cep in The New Yorker from March 2014 called The Pointlessness of Unplugging. The author talks about the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging and how people participate in the event, the reason they participate (the enlightenment crowd vs the efficiency crowd) and how the next day they return to being plugged in and whether it made any difference. I liked this piece, you might too.

I glanced at a blog post in which Facebook is described as “shallow comfort”. This description really resonated with me. When I was a postgrad. student Facebook was a massive time waster, along with the rest of the internet. I had Ph. D. friends who deleted their accounts because it was easier than trying to manage it. I went through a phase where I deleted almost everyone from Facebook so that I was left with less than 30 friends, and they were actual friends. Not people I had met once, or see every day because I have to, or because I spent 12 years at the same school with them, they were people who I cared about, would meet for dinner or coffee and who I thought about often. It was good for a while, I had unplugged a little from the world. I didn’t have Twitter or Instagram, I had very few Facebook friends, it was so much easier! I was cynical about all social media, it seemed like every photo on Instagram was over-styled or over inspirational, I didn’t get it and I didn’t want to. Then without realising it I had stagnated. I wasn’t engaging with the world unless I had to. I wanted to curl up in my cave, read, water the plants, craft, and take bite-sized pieces of social interaction from the select few. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, but I learned that for me it is not a good permanent state. I needed to engage and I needed technology to do it.

Students from the online Inspiration Information Class.
Inspirational and Informational friends. Thank you technology!

On a whim I signed up for an online course and long story short, the people were lovely and I ended up with 6 more Facebook friends. Then I tiptoed out into the world a little more and I ended up with two more, then four more Facebook friends. I also see these people on Twitter, Instagram and in person. We get to share images, GIFs, dumb stories, crafty stuff and local events. We feel connected and in touch without the pressure of one of us having to entertain at our house or all of us spend a lot of money on eating out.

Super Mario Bros.

Facebook if used inappropriately can still offer shallow comfort, for me the key is to recognise the warning signs. Ella talks about scrolling and scrolling until you feel slightly nauseated and then wanting your lost minutes (hours?) back. I have done this many times. Not a good use of technology! This used to happen to me playing Nintendo when I was a kid, suddenly 2 hours had passed and I felt weird and it was time to go outside!

Lisa talked about going off the grid for a few days and it sounded lovely. Once I was on a ferry from Alaska to Washington and there was no wifi for most of the trip. Like Lisa we read, played cards, stared outside and wandered on deck. It was so good, and it was windy and freezing outside so you felt refreshed. The Magpie Diaries talks about FOMO and my goodness do I GET her! What IF I just deleted all those emails? Maybe I will. One day.

The Mummy and the Minx muses on letting go of her phone so it can be repaired, spending time on social media and being aware of how we use it. I try to be aware but often I fail miserably. Iris and Edie talks about her balanced approach to technology and the opportunities being plugged-in provide.

I’m really enjoying reading all Plugged vs Unplugged posts and being part of this conversation. You can read the inspiration for this conversation at Design for Mankind. Erin’s piece covers the good and the bad, and was the trigger for this conversation. And check out the link-up brought to you by our super nice motivator Pip Lincolne.

Signing off from one platform to check another,



14 thoughts on “Plugged vs Unplugged

  1. I think it’s easy to dismiss social media as meaningless. But what it’s taught me is it’s a gateway to meaningful connection. And when I talk to other patients and medical professionals, they are agreeing. Great post!


    1. Thanks Carly! I totally agree with you, it is a gateway to meaningful connections. And much less scary than walking outside and trying to get to know people! It’ll be interesting to see how social media use evolves and how we will be using it in 10 or 20 years.


  2. Really enjoyed this, Deanna – and thanks for the refer! I do think it is something we have to accept as there is such widespread usage, no use pretending to be too principled about it. You just need to find a balance so that you don’t get caught up in filling your mind with junk. I’m certainly not perfect at avoiding that trap but I try!


    1. Yes! That’s what it is “filling your mind with junk”! That describes it perfectly. I find the more busy I am with work and other tasks the more social media I consume to balance it, but my head can’t handle all that information and it becomes confused and choppy and a little murky. That’s definitely the time to unplug!


      1. It’s like sitting on the couch stuffing your face with chips. Feel sort of grotty inside. Then it’s definitely time to kick yourself up the butt and get something more wholesome into the body.


  3. Great post and love the Mario reference – was that the start of it for us do you think?? I also get told ‘I’m always on my phone’. Oops. But then I turn around and my husband is on his. Argh. FOMO. Thanks for shout-out 🙂


    1. Haha, yes it was! I loved that game, still do! The boyfriend doesn’t have a smart phone so he gets the higher ground on this one. Or does he? Maybe only those that own a smart phone and show restraint can have a dig 🙂


  4. Great post Deanna and I agree , it is really good being part of this conversation and reading other peoples opinions and insights. I also like what you said about engaging. Being plugged in has given me so many great opportunities to do that. ( and of course I got to meet you !) x


    1. Thanks Emily! Everyone’s post is different and comes a the topic from a different angle, which is sooo good! Haha, yes! Meeting you and the Inspiration gang has been one of the biggest rewards 🙂


  5. I remember that fuzzy – too much screen time feeling as a kid. Your right – that’s exactly what a scrolling binge feels like. Empty, disorienting and leaves with you a keen need to get fresh air.


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