Monday, 6 February 2012

“Disconnected” for 90 Days -– Young Man Finds Real Connection

Heather Callaghan
Activist Post

Imagine if you suddenly had many hours of new-found time each day and could have more meaningful connections with true friends? Even enough to find love? A wish come true? Jake Reilly had no idea he would find this and more with his “Amish Project.”

Reilly noticed most people's real love affair, their only quality time, was poured over gadgets and profiles. When he and his roommates had some out-of-town friends over for football, every single one of them was on a laptop or texting, with no one talking. “...this was what we were all looking forward to and we're just sitting here numbing our minds,” he said.

For three full months, October to December '11, Reilly lived life without any social media, texts, emails and cell phone activity. He quit his phone and computer cold turkey, set an email auto responder and began his journey.

After a difficult start, e-withdrawals, it didn't take Reilly long to figure out how to communicate outside the realm of electronics. He wrote letters and visited friends – it became fun. With so much new-found time, his productivity soared and his coursework grades improved. He enjoyed riding his bike to visit people.

He felt more awareness and had more time to read. The Power of Now especially helped him during his social media fast.

When deciding to quit social media, people's biggest fear is “Won't I become isolated?” Yes! Initially. People who he had thought were friends dropped away and the real ones met him where he was, often returning his handwritten correspondence. His project demonstrates that real isolation is the false feeling of connection in virtual reality. When he shifted, he found real friendship.

He makes the point that what others think is intentionally fun downtime spent surfing, facebooking, tweeting, and texting is actually time unintentionally lost in a “blackhole.” He says he'd rather create real memories, and won't think back gratefully on hours spent conquering Angry Birds.

When he uses social media now, he is aware of how he is using his time. He catches himself before sending a text during a real social gathering.

When asked what the difference is in level of thought and feeling put into letter writing, versus the standard social media 140 characters, he responded:
What we do now, on e-chat, is people just flying off with whatever comes to mind. It's so much different to have it really thought-out. I'm a writer, so it's time consuming. I think it takes 20 minutes or half an hour to write a letter and really get it the way I want it. I think it's a better, purer way to communicate. People appreciate it so much more when you send them a handwritten letter or even a thank-you note showing that you're taking the time to think about them.
Jake had had a longtime girlfriend, who, during the beginning of the experiment he was no longer seeing. Maybe this period gave him time to reflect about the relationship -- they somehow found each other again. The time previously lost in cyberspace, he found for her and made thoughtful loving gestures. The two spent time really being together, connecting.

It stands to reason, that a social experiment like this can improve anyone's life. Especially considering that Facebook depression is now an accepted medical and psychological term! His social experiment pulled him out of comparing his life with the appearance of others' Facebook activity.

Many of our readers' comments have encouraged others to take back their lives by throwing out the TV and getting offline to reconnect with real people. Perhaps shortly, a new revolution will counter the technology age as we leave the false connections of cyberland in droves. We'll remove the wires, ignore the signals, and return to real human connection: face to face, hand to hand, voice to voice, letter to letter.

More about Jake's project:


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