How important is it to switch off?

Sleep deprivation is once again upon me. It happens sporadically, yet this time I can’t blame the kids. Another international crisis, more all night 24 hour news fests, but this time with added twizzaz. The first discovery this week was Al Jazeerra, a good reason to prolong bedtime during a Middle East crisis, but more engaging (and therefore worst for sleep) is Twitter.

Yes I am very new on the tweet block and did still think until yesterday that a DM was a letter from Capital One. Clearly a whole new angle on my ability to oversaturate myself with news. Unlike the Iraq war, with this crisis I can actually get involved. While the UN were in session yesterday, I was signing Avaaz petitions and retweeting to encourage others to do so. Then another fascinating report on how to use social media diverted me for a bit (am I following the wrong people, where’s the witty banter, all I get is war and SM, maybe I should add an & to my interests).

Then I get a teasing link from the Guardian. A thoughtful piece from Jonathan Freedland about how while new media has enhanced our lives, we may need to make an effort to learn to switch off. Half way through reading I started having a mild panic attack. I’m signed up for a 5 day silent retreat next week. I think that’s going to mean no phone, no email and no twitter. Who will feed my status updates. Could I pretend to still be alive online through a carefully planned use of tweetdeck? Could I snuggle my iPhone into my room and just peek a look at my emails overnight? Will it really help my meditation to be worrying about unanswered emails? Maybe the teacher will give me special compensation to use twitter if I tell him my ancestors are from the Middle East so I have a very special affinity with the region.

An few weeks ago I tried to give up my emails for Sabbath and it was partly successful, but I gave up on the phone ban quickly after realising I had too many arrangements with kids that relied on it. To prepare myself for my retreat I am going to try a complete iPhone shutdown this Saturday, and I am going to compile a list of tips for switching off.

Have you got any practical ideas that can help us in this world of media overload?

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