2014-07-25 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

Unplug!
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

Ahh, the lazy days of summer, filled with the beach, barbecues and picnics, renewing connections to family and dear friends, vacationing, and plenty of rest and relaxation. Or at least that’s how it was before the Internet tethered us to our digital devices.

The Internet, of course, provides many advantages, professionally, commercially, and socially. There are clearly many good reasons for our addiction to real-time communications and immediate access to information, commercial opportunities, and entertainment.

But always being connected can make it hard to take a break from being online. We have grown so used to reaching for our laptops, phones, and iPads to keep in touch, stay current at work, keep up on professional reading and current events, and benefitting from the latest online sale. Internet withdrawal come vacation time can be challenging.

Non-stop connectivity to all types of data can be draining mentally, which isn’t helped by taking a vacation but not a true break from being online. When you return to work, instead of feeling rested and rejuvenated, you can be “fried” and your productivity diminished.

Furthermore, in our age of technology, texting and social media, electronic communications are often more commonplace than actual human contact and interaction. When we don’t take a break, relationships with our friends, family, and community can suffer.

The purpose of vacations and taking time off from work is to take a break from the workplace, rejuvenate ourselves with relaxation and leisure activities, refresh ourselves by having new experiences not available to us during the daily grind, and to spend quality time with loved ones. Withdrawn and preoccupied technology users, with their blackberries, smart phones, iPads, etc., will not be able fully to reap the benefits of downtime.

Constant connectivity is often at odds with the purpose behind taking vacations and time off. Recently in France, a law was passed prohibiting employers in the technical and digital sectors from contacting staff after work hours. Not a surprise, from the same country that has a strictly enforced 35 hour work week, and that so values the benefits of time off from work that it awards its workers six weeks of annual paid leave.

We all face the economic demands of supporting ourselves and our families. Having a job, and keeping it, is critical in this difficult economy. Deciding whether you are secure enough in your position to take time off and fully unplug can be a serious consideration.

But if you do have the opportunity, there is something wonderful and liberating about unplugging. Interpersonal communication becomes more profound. You reflect more deeply on life’s blessings. The splendor and awesomeness of nature is more evident; even the air smells better. You are more “in the moment.”

Here’s to a refreshing, rewarding summer, and to the benefits of not being connected, if you are lucky enough to be able to unplug.

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