Turning Off, Tuning In

By Sandy Burgham

turning off tuning in

Take the cellphone challenge – if you drive off leaving your smartphone on the kitchen bench, how far away from home can you be before you turn back? I live in St Heliers and have decided that my turn back zone extends as far as Fergs Kayaks in Okahu Bay, about seven kilometres down the road. I’m not sure why I feel the need to go back, since I hardly use any functions on my iPhone5, aside from the phone itself, email and a few apps. I only found the torch function in January. But I like to be wired in, an irony that does not escape me in my hourly rants to my son requesting he gets off the iPad we had to buy as an educational requirement. I don’t want him wedded to screens, but an incident that happened recently revealed that maybe I am modelling some pretty bad behaviour.


I’ve often said in jest that my life runs off my Macbook Air. But I am almost too embarrassed to tell the black teeshirt, lanyard-wearing hipsters at Yoobee how little I know about driving it. It’s said that Macs are “intuitive” and indeed over the last two years my laptop has been warning me about lack of back-up – it knew something bad was about to happen. I had meant to get around to backing it up, really. So can you imagine my anguish when I turned it on and the screen flickered and died? I may have cried. My 1500 word university assignment, my work files, my photos, the presentation I was about to give, my life history … vanished into cyberspace. It was 6.30am when that happened, which meant an agonising two and a half hour wait until Yoobee in Newmarket opened. I ended up hovering outside menacingly before opening hours then burst through the doors at 9am, raced up the stairs, and sat on the service centre buzzer to get the attention I didn’t deserve.


The calm computer nerd had seen it all before. I felt like I was in a therapy session when he enquired — gently and knowingly — if I had backed up the information (read: my life’s work)? Confessing my sin, I begged him to find a way through this mess almost as if one of the children was in intensive care. I could hear the faint voice of my inner-self telling me to get a grip. While the calm man said he could probably save the information, doing so may take up to a week! A week without my laptop?! How would I cope? It was enforced Digital Detox. The universe had staged an intervention.


For those of you who heard digital publishing maven Arianna Huffington speak when she flew into Auckland recently, you may still be processing her strict rules on restricting digital to increase sleep. Her basic rule is get all screens out of the bedroom. Yep, you have to buy yourself an old fashioned alarm clock, and no more dual iPads in bed or scanning emails and Facebook in the middle of the night if you can’t sleep. Apart from the complete time-wasting aspect of scrolling through Facebook, there seems no real point in checking emails just before you go to bed. It’s a bit like reading the news — there is a higher chance of it actually ruining your sleep. And Huffington’s key message is that sleep will get you further in life than screentime.


She also suggests long periods of no digital devices to give mind and body a break. After experiencing this by force, I can attest to what opens up when you do. Even with one screen down, I found I was a bit calmer and strangely more efficient. I think I delegated more at work (although the team suffered from hearing about my digital woes) and I was certainly more present to what was going on around me, rather than the world within my computer. When I got my laptop back, I looked to see what it was that I would really be missing should the computer’s illness be terminal, and found that the situation was not as dramatic as I made it out to be, there is always a way through. As a precaution though I deleted a hell of a lot of files to get myself more of that “white space” I harp on about. You can’t take all this information with you when you die — but then again maybe you can now that everything is now safely backed up in . . . The Cloud.


— Sandy Burgham


This post first appeared in The Hobson November, 2014