I’m sitting at long wooden table that has been strategically placed in front of massive floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the Albion mountain range in Utah. The lodge has been built with deliberately natural details; wood and greenery fill the otherwise airy space. At its heart, it’s a ski lodge and spa, but during the summer months, it is home to what seems like back-to-back conferences. The wood-lined meeting rooms are filled with logo-heavy banners, branded swag, and people with a shared interest, mostly from academia or the corporate world. I glance up and see another group of people with plastic name tags walk by. Other than the branded everythings and fonts on the badges, this setting is completely different from the education technology conference I’ve just come from in Las Vegas.
But despite the change in scenery, and my inability to get used to breathing at this altitude, there is something that is remarkably similar about the two conferences. We’re all connected. And while I mean that in the philosophical – we all share a common purpose – I mean it in the literal sense, too. On all of those coffee mugs and portfolios and mouse pads and slightly-off-looking USBs, #s, @s, and QR codes make their presence known. There are contests for tweeting about the most sessions, there are hidden icons that are unlocked when the codes are scanned, and within four days, my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts have seen spikes that would surely fall out far out of the normal ranges.
All of these things led me to think about our class, and the blogs that have been written on the importance of disconnecting and how and when we disconnect. I think most of us tend to think about disconnecting when we are traveling, but oddly enough, because I travel mostly for work, that’s not the case with me. Being in Vegas and the mountains of Utah seems like the perfect time to disconnect, but I’ve been more connected these past six days than I ever am when I’m at home. Even when we took a few hours to play in the woods (or the casinos), I found myself posting live videos and using the conference and class hashtags to let others know what we were doing when we weren’t sitting in keynote addresses and breakout sessions. My professional network grows so much at these events, but I still want to stay connected to those who can’t be with me.
Yet I know how important it is to disconnect and take a break for more than a day or so. Although this summer hasn’t afforded me too many opportunities to do that, I think I’ve found ways to take mini-breaks without even realizing that’s what I was doing. I guess when we look at digital detoxing, mine tends to happen on those unexpected rainy Mondays when I am bathing the dogs, or on Saturdays and Sundays when I’m focused on planting new flowers in the backyard or organizing the towels and sheets in the hall closet.
For me, right now, disconnecting means quiet times when I feel like I can get back in touch with those things that fall aside when we’re so caught up in our day-to-day routines. It means being present and giving my absolute attention to the things that are right in front of me, whether that be a new lavender bush or my squirmy little pugs. And although that may only be for an afternoon or a weekend, I think that those mini disconnect sessions can be exactly what we need when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed with technology.