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The Rules of Disengagement: My Quest for the Ultimate “Get-Away” Vacation

IMG_2232_optI was up for the challenge.  A vacation “truth or dare.”  I made a choice to live a week without engaging in all Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.).  So as engines revved, wheels went up, so began my quest for real vacation. As I departed, I detached, i.e. from my virtual world.  I did this, I got away.  I took the dare and discovered some eye-opening truths.

Everyone needs a vacation of some sort.  Whether we opt to stay home or travel to take that break, we all yearn for a respite from the mundane. But vacations are personal.  For some, it’s kept private, and yet others opt to post their travel experiences publicly on the Internet in real-time (myself included). As one who’s very active on Social Media both personally and professionally, I was curious about how this experiment would impact me.

Prior to take-off,  I glanced at my last e-mails, FB news feed, tweets, texts, and “shut down. ”  When I landed and turned my phone back on, the buzzing notifications of incoming e-mails, voice mails, and texts were manic. It was already interfering in my day. My initial impulse was to read and respond to all.  As I looked around waiting for my baggage,  I noticed everyone else’s heads down and glued to their phones.  No surprise there.

It was in that moment that I had a significant shift in thinking.  Other than my personal texts, it could all wait, couldn’t it?  It occurred to me that if I were to resume my activity as if I weren’t on vacation, what was the point of getting away in the first place?  Other than a change of scenery, would I really feel like I was on vacation?

As for my professional web presence, I could have automatically scheduled consistent posts to “appear” as if I were still in the office, but I was committed to an out of office status.  Fighting off the demons of job spill, I chose to be “invisible.”

I’m not going to lie, early on during this exercise, I suffered from a little FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  So I confess to a quick and curious scroll (now and then), to my FB news feed, checking my e-mail senders, and opting not to interact.  But that was the precise moment that both the challenges arose and epiphanies were revealed.  I caught myself automatically wanted to “like” a post or a pic, but I resisted the urge and the tug to connect. I knew that with one simple click, I could be lured back into a habitual interaction.

Stepping away and removing myself from my virtual reality provided me with a different perspective.  On the outside looking in, my familiar newsfeed felt estranged.  I had distanced myself from my fans, friends, colleagues, and followers.  I disconnected.  I let go. At first, I felt compelled to keep up with the 24/7 broadcasts, but as the days wore on, it became increasingly irrelevant to read older posts from days earlier.  Personally, not having to update my own postings, blogs, or interact with others felt very liberating. I was on vacation and it felt great!

It reminded me that there was a time and life before Facebook. Like old school, I wasn’t distracted with what other people were doing and went about my days visiting with family and friends.  I limited my text messages and made real phone calls to anyone I wanted to contact. While I took one week out of my life to “get away,” I acknowledge it was only a week, and not a life-altering decision.  It was my virtual cleanse, if you will.  My claim is not to undermine the phenomenon or value of any social media.  Above all, I don’t mean to appear hypocritical.  I understood that I would jump right back in upon my return.

But I have to say that this imposed “time-out” was a clarifying experience. The consequences of my disengagement poked these questions;

    • Did I really miss out on anything?
    • Did anyone even notice my absence?
    • Does it matter?
    • Have I regarded Social Media too high a priority in my daily life?
    • Did the vacation feel different?


While the answers may seem obvious, asking the questions was very enlightening for me.

The most interesting part of this experiment was not immediately sharing a very exciting moment in my life.  While golfing with a foursome of friends, I got a hole-in-one! We were jumping up and down and screaming with disbelief. After taking the pics, my first instinct was to post to Facebook and share with the universe. But I realized that this too, could wait.  It will be no less relevant or exciting if I posted it when I returned home.  This will be memorable forever.

Now back home, I’m back, both physically and virtually.  I’m blogging, posting, tweeting and liking it, lol.  I just needed the break. Can you do it?  Truth or Dare?


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The Social Phenomenon That Can Impede on Your Vacation

man-plugged-in-on-beach-300x199_optAre you one of those?  You know, the ones that can never disconnect from their cell phones, blackberries, laptops, or iPad?  The operative word is never.  The social phenomenon of being connected to our personal and professional worlds, 24/7, is part of our pop culture.

The job spill dilemma is the most challenging of all. If your’e always connected, you can never really disengage when you’re on vacation or relaxing on a beach somewhere.  Isn’t the point of a vacation to enjoy a “get-a-way?”  Can you resist the pull and self-impose a disconnect? The job will be there upon your return, so make the most of your time away from it.  Stay in that moment while it lasts.

If you really want to get the greatest benefit from your vacation, try reading a great novel, engage in any physical activity that you don’t normally do, or take a nap. Defy the temptation to hook up with your work-related life.  Don’t be a victim just because the hot spots are there because you know then you’ll feel compelled to connect.  It is the ultimate exercise in self-control.  It’s difficult to ignore the lure of the Internet, but it will still be there when you get home and so will Face Book, Twitter, your Inbox, etc.

How we manage our leisure time correlates to how we balance our lives.  Social media may be an addicting phenomenon, but we can control it by making choices.  This is the ultimate exercise in time-management. Maybe connect once a day, or check e-mails every other, or not at all.  You choose. We all like to think that we are indispensable, but life still goes on in our absence.

Focus on reducing the brain clutter, re-direct the barrage of thoughts spiraling through your brain. Allow yourself to slow down, drift off, and feel the calm.

It’s hard to remember a time when weren’t connected to our technology.  I can remember when leaving the office really meant leaving the work behind.  Ahhh….vacation.   Take it and run.  Let go. Relax. Escape. Disconnect.  Can you do it?

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