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Unplugged for Thanksgiving
November 24, 2009 - 8:00pm

Do you plan to unplug for Thanksgiving?

Will you leave the laptop at home as you travel to spend the holiday with family?

Can you refrain from checking e-mail on your Blackberry, iPhone, or Droid?

Is it possible to drop your Tweets to zero, and make absolutely no Facebook status updates?

I'm guessing the answer, for most of us, is no, nope, nada and no chance.

As technology has become integral to learning the expectation has arisen that the systems, and support for the systems, will be always available. If not quite 24/7/365, the expectation that help will be available for technology issues - or that technology systems will be quickly fixed if broken - has moved into nights, weekends, and holidays. As educational technology people we understand that part of the bargain for doing the wonderful work we love is that we are basically always available. Some academic technology people, such as network and system administrators, are literally available 24/7, carrying a beeper in case any major systems go down.

The other reason that most of us will not unplug for Thanksgiving is that we don't want to do so. The Web is how we get our news, maintain our contacts, participate in conversations, and consume our media. Work and life come together in our devices. Unplugging from work would mean unplugging from the blogs we love to read, the sites we are spend our time on, and the communities that we participate in. Very few of us have much of a line between our homes and our offices, as work extends everywhere we are. Web enabled mobile devices have only accelerated this trend.

And besides, we love our work. The place where learning and technology meet is a fascinating place to be.

But this Thanksgiving I'm determined to unplug. I'm determined to be off e-mail, of the Web, and offline. I'll bring a stack of Economist's and a few books, and try to have zero screen time.

And when I return from Thanksgiving I'm determined to begin turning off the MacBook Pro by 5:30 pm each night. My Thanksgiving resolution (is their such a thing) is to spend less time in the digital world. In making this resolution I've been particularly influenced by a blog post my brother Max sent me called: Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers — and finishes by 5:30pm. Go check it out, I wonder if you will be as captivated by the ideas as I was.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Here's to hoping not to see you online.


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