I‘ve taken Fake Breaks from the Internet every summer since 2010. It’s become an annual thing for me—four to six weeks of letting other people exclusively post here on the blog, letting my email inbox grow dangerously full, and just popping on to social media when I feel like it.
But in the past three summers, during those breaks, we were either having a baby, moving to a different state, or moving to a new fixer-upper home. And so while I took time away online, my offline world was full of sleep deprivation, change, eternal checklists, and major emotional transition for all five of us. Not exactly vacation-worthy stuff.
This summer has been magically different. For the first time since I birthed this blog, my annual online break has truly been a BREAK. And I feel a million times lighter because of it.
There’s something sweetly soul-tempering about not knowing what happened on Facebook ALL WEEK LONG or realizing you can’t remember the last time you scrolled through Pinterest, just for fun. And it’s also a delightful surprise to be reminded that the world does, indeed, go on without you—no one’s dying a slow death because you’re not online.
Now, I call these Fake Breaks because, for me, they’re not truly a complete disconnect. (Though I love this recent cover article from Fast Company about an Internet-addicted guy who completely left the Internet for a month.) I still get online to check email a few times per week, I post on my personal Facebook account when I feel like it, I tweet just for fun, and I Instagram when a photo deems Instagram-worthy (on my own subjective terms there).
For me, the Internet isn’t an addiction. It’s work. I honestly don’t struggle (right now, anyway) with the temptation to find my identity online, or to dull my senses with an online escape. I get the temptation, though. My need for an annual break comes from craving more time in the 3-D world; a rumble in my belly to travel around or laze on the couch with my kids without wondering if a post has gone live and whether I should tweet it.
It’s my time to tell the Internet, “You can wait just a bit. You’re not the boss of me. I love you and marvel at your wonders and am thankful that you have provided me a place to work and provide for my family, but I don’t revolve my life around you. You serve me, and you do so well. I just need you to remember that.”
And then I go off to the pool with my kids.
It affects my writing for the better
And though I don’t force it, my Fake Breaks always, always help recenter the cross-hairs on my blogging scope. I re-enter my work with new ideas, a fresh perspective, and an eagerness to get back at it. I remember why I love blogging so much, and I come back after six weeks or so, excited to unpack my brain and put some flesh on a few of those ideas.
I started this blog on a whim when we lived overseas, and five-plus years later, it’s our family’s main livelihood. My passion has turned into my work, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. But by every May, somehow, I’ve forgotten that, and when my work feels like drudgery instead, it’s a signal in my life to stop and breathe.
And in those six summer weeks, I reclaimed my passion left in the coat closet while I was at dinner with social media and book marketing meetings. I dusted it off and put it back on my writing desk.
I’m going to ease back into regular work on the Internet this month, but mentally, I’m still going to focus most of my energy offline. As much as I love this blog, it only has the power to determine how much sleep I get, what I think about, or how I feel if I let it. My break was a sobering—and ecstatic!—reminder that the world is beautiful, colorful, full of life…and three-dimensional.