Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and while, you could miss it.
— Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

So yesterday I decided to go “Off the Grid,” or “OTG,” as I called it on Twitter. I got the idea from Vicki Davisblog post in which she stated that, due to a vacation, she would be ‘off the grid’ for a while. After reading her post, I began to reflect on my use (overuse?) of technology and how it affects my social life and my relationships. Then, a few days later, I read Beth Still‘s post about the same topic (both blog posts have great conversation in the comment area, by the way). I realized that this was something that people are really starting to think about and become concerned about.

I decided to do an experiment: 1 day, no Twitter & no blogging. I could check my email, but only respond to those that required immediate replies.

Oh man was it hard.
Every time I looked at my iPhone, TweetDeck glared up at me. “What conversations am I missing right now?” “I wonder if anyone posted anything good today.” The thoughts ran and ran. It was like having half a donut sitting in front of you and not being allowed to eat it.
Somehow, though, I made it through. I came home and I didn’t open either of my laptops. I went out with my boyfriend to the local bar we hang out at and had a couple of drinks with some friends. Then I came home and did some lesson planning. What was really hard was using the computer without opening up TweetDeck and trying to ignore my Google Desktop Gmail Gadget that scrolls new emails right on my desktop. (Even as I write this I just checked an email on the second laptop open to my right.)
The next day (today) I checked in to find I had a retweet and a Direct Message, but I easily responded to both. Unfortunately, the DM was about a live session I had missed discussing Math Web 2.0 tools with Maria Droujkova, who has started a #mathchat discussion on Twitter. However, her DM started with “In case you are back on the grid…,” which made me smile. It worked. By simply stating that I would be ‘OTG’ that day, people understood my absence in any discussions and I felt better about the experience.
Of course, today it is now almost 3 hours that I’ve been on the computer. I participated in 2 live Elluminate sessions (one on a new book, Liberating Learning and the other led by Di Bedard about protecting your Digital Identity) and now I’m completing a blog entry about the whole experience.
Sooooo….I’m working on a plan:
There are 6 days in the week (Sunday is a good day to be OTG!)
Except for the OTG day, time on the computer is limited to 2 hours/day.
1 day: Read a blog and comment for the One Comment Project or on Twitter, #OCP
1 day: Work on my blog
1 day: Attend an Elluminate or other live session
2 days: Look around and ‘play around’ on Twitter (one hour each day max!)
1 day: Be OTG!!!!! Send out a tweet in the morning letting people know I’ll be OTG.
Hopefully I will be able to stick to this plan and feel like I am slowly weaning myself off of the screen. Or at least practicing some self control and tuning into my face to face relationships.
I’ll keep you posted (no pun intended).
Click here for a previous post on how technology affects our personal, face-to-face relationships.
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


  1. Mr. Roberts


    Good for you! It's hard to go OTG. We develop habits that tend to blind us to the reality of life.

  2. mshertz


    Thanks. I'm trying! I will be going OTG this weekend to go 'down the shore.' It really is about changing habits.Thanks for stopping by the blog!Mary Beth

  3. Lee Kolbert


    Interesting post. Thanks for calling it to my attention, ironically enough, on Twitter. :)That constant pull to check email, update Twitter, check FB, zero-out the RSS reader, etc. can become stressful in itself and quite a distraction when you find yourself unable to suddenly tend to these tasks.I find myself stepping away when something else, with higher priority, occupies my time. I haven't yet felt the need to consciously remove myself from the technology for a set time period, perhaps because it seems to happen naturally for me. That's not to say though, that there won't be a time soon when I need to. Your post is a good reminder that it is an easy thing to do and you also give some great reasons to take that much needed periodic rest. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  4. Anonymous


    I recently went OTG as well — for almost 2 weeks. It is important….not only to spend time with others, but to see how dependent (not always a good thing) you have gotten to Twitter. Though, I think it is interesting that VD has not truly gone OTG yet. And she does need to.

  5. PNaugle


    Mary Beth,It took me a while to figure out what you meant when you "tweeted" out that you would be going OTG. Then I remember I had heard both Vicki Davis and Beth Still use that comment. Most of my friends find it unbelievable the amount of time I've spent online this summer. When I start feeling guilty about it, I just remind myself of all the professional development I've done. I attend a session almost every weekday for at least an hour, usually two or three. I read several blogs and add comments to many. I explore websites by the dozens. And how do I find all these great resources? I constantly have TweetDeck running and those "chirps" that resonate from my computer let me know that someone in my PLN has posted some new morsel on Twitter.Before I was connected to all these great people I did a lot of research online looking for the perfect website, lesson idea, or childen's novel to help teach a point. Now I feel like I'm in a room with everyone who is doing that same kind of research even though they are not physically present, and I'm not so lonely anymore. I also don't think I'm the only crazy educator on this planet who loves to check out everything. I have hundreds of friends just like me.I have decided not to feel guilty about my online time because I know it's coming to an end in three weeks when I return to school. I have never been able to as much as check my email once class starts each day. So come the second week in August I'll be pretty much OTG from Monday-Friday. Hope I don't suffer from withdrawals.

  6. mshertz


    Lee,Consider yourself lucky that you haven't felt the need to consciously pull yourself away! I think you make a good distinction when you say 'higher priority.' I think the problem may be a lack of prioritizing that makes the balance difficult!Paula, I agree that I have found some amazing resources through Twitter that I may have never found on my own! I am also wondering how I will manage when I get back to the classroom and can't have TweetDeck running all day 🙂 I'm sure many of our colleagues will be spending less time on Twitter, too.'Anonymous,'Wow! 2 weeks! That's a lot of OTG time! I hope you enjoyed it. I agree that Vicki kind of went OTG, but not completely. Twitter does become almost like a dependency, so I'm hoping to prevent that from happening!Thanks everyone for stopping by!

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