This weekend I met a woman who, like me, is constantly connected to her work via the magic of technology. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a day completely off, without so much as a glance at Twitter, Facebook or email for work purposes. Unlike me, however, she is an actual employee of a company and not a freelancer. What we did have in common was an apparent need to disconnect, which is why we met to share an old-fashion passion: knitting.
My new friend, Maggie, never mentioned any resentment about her constant connectivity. Like me, she genuinely loves what she does for a paycheck and enjoys the relational aspect of the web. She also blurs the lines between work and pleasure by using the same tools for both arenas. In fact, we met on Twitter, and I can’t remember if I started following her work or her personal account first. I don’t even have a separate account for work or personal use; @missbritt is as likely to tweet about a new article as a new pair of shoes.
However, we weren’t meeting in a coffee shop to talk about social media - or even to put a face to the avatar. We got together to knit, because that’s simply not something you can do online. Maggie has been knitting for six years and was working on a sweater for her niece. I just picked up my needles a few weeks ago and am still trying to complete my first project. We are both invested enough in our creative endeavors to put aside four hours on a weekend afternoon, four hours that were mostly spent disconnected from the rest of our virtual worlds.
As we talked and knitted (and tried to figure out how to fix my most recent mistakes), I realized that knitting provides a unique opportunity in my modern life. It not only doesn’t require checking in, tagging or sharing, but it makes doing most of those things impossible. I’m not one tab away from a client email, and I didn’t even see Maggie’s iPhone until two hours into our get together. My two hands are totally occupied in an endeavor that is 100% undigital - and it’s fantastic.
It’s not that I don’t do other things in the “real world”. I hike, go to museums, see movies, watch TV, shop and go out to eat. I also post photos to Instagram from the trail, notify Foursquare of my arrival to the theater, tweet with others about how Parenthood made me cry (again) and get entree recommendations from Yelp. I do make an effort to disconnect when I’m spending time with my husband and kids–I have learned to prioritize the person in front of me over the person behind the screen–but I have a really hard time staying unplugged when I’m alone, which interferes with the experience of actually being alone.
Knitting, which predates analog, is helping me fill a need I didn’t even know I had.
Sure, I have knitting board on Pinterest, and I have shared my frustrations and mini-triumphs online. But, for the most part, the fabric art completely occupies my mind and my thumbs. It pulls me out of the matrix and reminds me to reconnect with the things I can touch. It helps me be present, and for longer than my 10-minute morning meditation. Ultimately, this old school hobby is helping me find more balance in a 2.0 world.
Do you knit? Do you have another hobby that helps you unplug?