The Unplug and Recharge Challenge: Breaking Our Always-Connected Addiction

Ellen and Arianna are addicted. Find out how both got on the road to recovery.


ellen-arianna
Hello, our names are Ellen and Arianna, and we are PDA-aholics. No, were not addicted to public displays of affection (as nice as they may be). Were addicted to our personal digital assistants—our iPhones and BlackBerrys, and all the other digital devices we cant live without (iPods and laptops and Kindles, etc.). Thankfully, were both on the road to recovery.

Ellens story: I first realized I had a serious problem during a family vacation in Key West last February. At breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, even at the pool, I was never untethered. I was even on it during our Everglades tour, as my husband, my kids, and I stood a few feet away from about 20 alligators—at least I think they were alligators. What's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, anyway? Hey, let me Google that for us right now! My husband told me that he was going to throw it (and my laptop!) into the swamp. Or me.

Between my BlackBerry, my laptop, my iPod and oh, yeah, the TV too, I literally dont have a single “unplugged” moment all day. And boy do I feel wired—and not in a good way!

Ariannas story: My “aha moment” also came on vacation. It happened a few years ago, as I stepped off a tender to board a friend's boat anchored off the coast of Cannes. My BlackBerry was tucked into my shoulder bag. A shoulder bag with a small snap. A small snap that came open. A soft splash drew my attention. And I watched my BlackBerry sink into the sea. The finality was absolute. It wasn't as if I'd misplaced it and, after tacking up fliers and putting out a household-wide APB (All Pursue BlackBerry), would eventually track it down.  Sure I had closure, but closure of the worst kind.

The only good to come from the loss was that it finally brought me face-to-face with my addiction—the reality brought home by the response of my friends, who all suddenly started treating me as if I'd suffered a major loss. And that's when it hit me: If my friends assumed that losing a small electronic device would devastate me, I must really have it bad. So I cut back from having three PDAs to two (you gotta start somewhere) and began dedicating myself to the idea that the best way to reconnect with myself is to regularly disconnect from our always-on world.

We realize that this is a widespread malady.  Consider these stats:

  • In 2009, the average American watched more than 151 hours of  TV a month—an all-time high



  • 84% of people check their PDAs just before bed and as soon as they wake up—and an astounding 85% peek at their PDAs in the middle of the night!



  • One survey found that over a third of smartphone users would pick their BlackBerry over their significant other if they had to choose one to live without!





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Ellen Kunes and Arianna Huffington
Last Updated: May 04, 2010

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