Digital Detox

 In Coastal Life, Health Matters, Uncategorized

You didn’t write this. But let’s be honest – you posted something like it on your own Facebook page. Or at least thought about it.

Is anyone else just “over” virtual everything? No, I don’t want to “create my own summer camp from home.” No, we will not be watching “virtual Vacation Bible School.” No, I do not want to go to a five-day conference from 8-5 p.m. online … and no, at this point I don’t even want to virtually see where the penguins are visiting (I already know it’s better places than me – no need to rub it in). I’m. Just. Over. It!

When the world as we know it screeched to a halt in March thanks to the coronavirus, daily routines were shattered and screen time skyrocketed. Personal interactions from big trips to little things like enjoying coffee with a friend or chatting with your bank teller in person vanished. 

As the weeks dragged on, whatever novelty there may have been worn off. Fast. From teachers giving online lessons to studios and fitness centers holding online dance and exercise classes to church services shifting to Facebook Live to endless hours of streaming TV to fill the quarantine hours, people chafed over their screen fatigue and eagerly awaited a digital detox.

When Dare County Schools students ended this most unusual year on May 22, teachers still had nearly a month of workdays to work on grades and planning for next year, but still enjoyed the idea of stepping away from the computer at least a little. First Flight High School English teacher Amy Powell, who just finished her 27th year in the classroom, joked about how much she was looking forward to social distancing – from her laptop.

I probably spent the first two weeks (of remote learning) 12 to 14 hours a day on the computer. I had terrible back pain and hip pain. It was ridiculous,” Powell recalls. “When we had spring break, it made me realize – even though I did work over that time, too – that I needed to do more to distance myself from school. But when you wake up and see your laptop in the chair beside the bed, it’s harder to separate.”

Teaching music lessons remotely led to long hours online as well. Cathy Kreplin, co-director of Ascencion Music Academy, experienced physical symptoms from screen fatigue such as headaches and also the psychological fatigue of simply being tired – tired of online professional development, even tired of video calls with family members.

“Early on, I did have to remember to do things like get up and walk across the room,” Kreplin says. “Having that awareness that it’s possible to sit still for nine hours at a time and not stand up, those things are surprising. I’m very involved with the students and trying to move them
forward. I’m not really thinking of myself until a lot of time goes by.”

Robin and Dock Sawyer are constantly on the move, so when the pandemic closed both the Outer Banks Family YMCA and Roanoke Island Fitness Lab, they had to get creative with their morning exercise routines. Mandy Savage from RIFL posted virtual workouts the Sawyers started doing from home.

“Dock and I turned our kitchen into our gym and RIFL also allowed us to check out weights and kettlebells and stuff, so we had everything at home,” Robin says. “The night before, I would figure out what we were going to do and write up a whole HIIT class. I even ordered a big ol’ whiteboard for us to use.”

Having to completely shift gears with how they operated their Ford dealership in Manteo under social distancing guidelines, the Sawyers found they missed their workout partners more than ever.

“While we stayed on our fitness path, you miss your friends,” Robin explains. “A lot of the people we work out with, we’ve worked out with them for years and years, and so you miss the camaraderie of that group of people that keep you going.”

That’s why when the YMCA offered its first in-person spin class – outside and separated, mind you – the Sawyers were there. “Everybody was smiling so big, just being together again,” she says.

Robin missed her trips next door to Front Porch Cafe but laughed at the memory of other regulars grabbing their morning coffee to go and then enjoying it in a nearby parking lot from their trucks.

Kreplin appreciated “Zooming in” to her students’ homes to see what their learning environment looked like.

“That gave the parents a much clearer understanding of what the music lesson is all about,” Kreplin says. “They’re able to observe, ask questions, be more supportive. Seeing how their setup helps or hinders the practice environment – students found themselves practicing more and getting better.”

With summer in full swing, Powell has contemplated doing a more thorough digital detox – deleting her Facebook account for a few months, for instance. Kreplin already had removed most apps from her phone to reduce her screen time, but when her
teaching went fully online…

“I got ruthless with what I use these very powerful tools for,” Kreplin says with a laugh, “so that when I was off them I was off them and not drawn back to them. I’m finding I enjoy just the regular old telephone.”

We all need a digital detox.

Steve Hanf is a former sportswriter who currently teaches the journalism classes at First Flight High School. He eagerly awaits his own digital detox this summer – after taking part in two online
journalism conferences.

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