(Image: The Italian Voice under the Creative Commons license).

The researcher tries to diet. A brief summary just after breaking the fast. I was certain this would not be a problem, and I’ve tried this before. So I shut down my phone on Sun 1/23 around 6pm and swore not to go online — take a full-on diet for 24 hrs.

But oh no. My awful, cheap ‘eco’ ‘smart’phone was the problem. At first I just routinely checked that non-functioning phone. Also, I don’t have a watch, or an alarm clock, and some addresses and other info were buried in text messages. And when I turned on my phone to check the time, and  saw a message…  I had already replied before thinking. I listened to some new agey music and more than once, hearing certain sounds, thought the phone is ringing. Admittedly, I also felt so anxious about all imaginary work emails. Truly stressful.

Now off to reply to those ‘important’ messages, 3 out of some 60 total that landed in my inbox actually require action. More soon.

*****

A day + later: I’m actually happy the experiment went as it did. It wasn’t a leisurely break from communication, a kind of mini-vacation during which I’d do what I normally wouldn’t (I’ve taken a few of those, as I frequently spend time in yoga retreat centers). It begun after a lovely brunch I threw for some 20+ friends (so I thought there was no need to keep in touch with any of them for 24hrs 😉

However, most of the diet happened on the Monday of the 2nd week of classes at Fordham where I teach. I was in the work mode, composing emails in my head, wondering whether it would be too late to email students some class-related details after 6pm when I’d officially be back on track. Maybe I shouldn’t go to my kickboxing class so I could be right by the computer when I can log on again? And what might my colleagues think of me if I’m not responding to work emails on a weekday!

It seems clear to me that the computer is my work tool, and my phone is the personal lifeline. As I noted before, during the fast I got a few nice personal texts — that I couldn’t help but reading, when I turned on the phone to see what time it was. And, I couldn’t help but responding immediately, once even routinely (meaning: without even considering or remember that I was dieting; almost like sleepwalking to the fridge). This echoes the instant response culture that my students documented last semester: We expect instant replies to text messages, unless the circumstances are truly extraordinary (the respondent is exceptionally busy, in a very special place/situation, or mad). Hence, I felt compelled to answer without delay.

Also, midday Monday, working from home, I all of a sudden felt the urge to call my best friend in Finland. I don’t do that often (so she’s an exception to the phone as personal communication tool rule); we normally Skype. But it was as if I just needed to use my phone, and to reach out to that person who’s dear to me but not physically close –as if all of a sudden it was so important to do, right then. I don’t know where that came from, subconscious at work?

So what did I do with my day? I planned things in my head, ran errands, did laundry, walked the dog, read — and a friend came for lunch and a reiki treatment (she knew I’d be dieting). All in all, the day passed quickly.

The biggest takeaway for me was my antsiness about work, about the need to perform 24/7, to be available for colleagues and students. As said, I’ve easily survived diets when traveling, or when staying in a place that encourages a media fast. Silence doesn’t bother me, not even the absence of texts. But now that protestant work ethic intervened, brought about a sense of guilt and irritation, that I’d be disconnected when I maybe shouldn’t be.

The U.S. pilot of our study will take place late Feb and early March. Stay tuned for more blog posts and insights from our wonderful participants.

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