In light of US Cellular’s new policy of email-free Fridays, reported by NPR, the tech/productivity blog Lifehacker asked its readers if they could forego email for one day each week. Since the site’s readers are undoubtedly among the most connected people on the planet, most of the answers in the comments section fall somewhere between “Only with great difficulty,” to “No. I am addicted.” These individual accounts square nicely with societal trends: the past decade has seen Internet addiction emerge as an acknowledged problem, with the establishment of recovery programs and treatment centers.
I’m pretty sure I’m not an addict (then again, denial is one symptom of addiction … ) but I do know that going email-free for a whole day would be a struggle. Email and other online communication has a way of flooding my waking hours until I’m unable to sit still with a book or magazine—or even another live human being—for more than a few minutes before wondering if I have any new messages.
Testimonials from self-described email addicts are available on the tech website ClickZ, including some suggestions for breaking the habit. Not surprisingly, the first step is getting the hell away from your computer and, if you have an email-enabled cellphone or PDA, leaving it behind while you go somewhere else—ideally, into the great outdoors. That's easier said than done, and only the half the battle: the other half is managing to enjoy this email-free time without obsessing over the news, assignments, requests, and social communication piling up in your absence.