Could you disconnect from the Web for a week and still work?
I couldn’t. I was unable to disconnect for even half a week and still work. Not even half a week! Weak.
I started my quest to disconnect by turning off my presence indicators (Skype and Gtalk) and I signed out of my Google account. I scheduled future Workplace Learning Today blog posts. I cleared my feed reader. I disabled Web access on my BlackBerry.
I learned pretty quickly that email is central to my work and couldn’t get much done without it. Most people working in corporations rely on email to communicate so I must also communicate that way. Without email I would not have known what was going on with the business.If I had planned ahead, I could have had enough work but that isn’t the point. So, I decided (within 24 hours) to go back to Outlook and see email only from co-workers and customers on my brandon-hall e-mail address during this social hiatus experiment. I’d only respond if absolutely critical (I said to myself). A very 1990s approach. I sent one email and responded to one other.
I don’t have a land line phone so really I would have had to locate a pay phone to communicate that way. I justified in my mind that email isn’t really social until you act on it (although that really isn’t true if you hold to the definition of social). Plus, email is one-to-many (web 1.0) vs. many-to-many (web 2.0).
I should have been more realistic and made a goal of not using the social web vs. totally disconnecting. Not using the social web, to me, means not:
- connecting with others online via the web
- collaborating online
- interacting with others on the web
Even though I was unsuccessful with totally disconnecting, I was moderately successful with my plan to abandon the social web (i.e., all things ‘2.0′). I say moderately because I did access the web (WEAK!) to make travel arrangements and used TripIt, an online travel itinerary and trip planner. (Making travel arrangements is like a half-day event for me. It’s a huge time sink and I was procrastinating the details.) TripIt is supposed to make it easier to manage all the details. (So far so good.) At least one person called me out for connecting online with others using TripIt… I thought you were disconnecting this week
TripIt allows you to share (or invite to share) your travel plans with people you are connected with on other social networks. I imagine the value in that connection is sharing (try this restaurant while you’re in Vancouver) and connecting (you’re in Vancouver, let’s get together). I thought I was just creating an itinerary but not so because my action of using it created other connections.
Could I have called various airlines? Yes, I guess I could have it I knew where there’s a pay phone. But that would probably be a bigger time sink than doing it online and not as easy to compare prices. I could’ve used a local travel agent. I believe either option would have cost me more money than doing it myself on the Web. Especially because I had procrastinated. The social web is great for procrastinators, people looking for greater efficiency, and/or those looking for services that previously were not free.
I also used Doodle to make my schedule available for someone setting up a meeting with multiple people across time zones. I would have been rude not to respond within a day to that invitation, because it was time sensitive.
Time. That’s a common denominator of my two digressions and was what I missed most about the social web. The immediacy. I lost the ability to learn, work, access, and retrieve in real-time. Clearly if the need for immediacy (without regard to time or place) is what you need, the social web is the way to go. Of course life is real-time but my social network is very small (fewer people and limited geographical reach) without the Web.
I also missed getting answers. I realized I rely on search engines and my networks for answers to many questions. I ask a lot of questions. Without the web, I felt lost.
Based on my very limited experiment, the social web is most valuable for me for the following:
- comparative analysis of digital content
- real-time communication in online networks
- time-sensitive digital tasks
- linkage between and among people
- greater reach (work with more people)
- development of relationships
I can’t imagine what work would be like without the social web. I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading this. I wouldn’t know many people who work in the e-learning industry. I wouldn’t be as far ahead in my thinking. It’s like playing up a level in sports. Where else could you connect directly with great minds in the field? It would be hard to do that even at a conference. Being a virtual web worker, I’d be pretty lonely and isolated too without the social web. My job wouldn’t be as fun and I’d be without some great relationships. Humorous, casual, frustrated, or even personal exchanges are the building blocks of relationships.
One last thing: productivity. I realize I have to find bigger blocks of time where I’m not doing anything. At least a full day with no social web. I also have to find bigger blocks of time for reading books, articles, and papers. Basically, I have to manage my time differently which really isn’t a social web issue at all.
I highly recommend trying this exercise or one like it. It’s been eye opening. It was also an epic fail.