For the past two weeks I've been on something approaching a full break from the online world. I've barely been on Twitter and Facebook till this weekend, I've skimmed my e-mail but only responded to the odd urgent message. News and internet drama have been kept at arms length by the simple act of not looking.
And off course I've been off the blog for over a month now - although that has less to do with any notion of an intentional break and more to do with starting a new job and getting on top of a new campaigning brief.
Now, I could take a break from the mediated online world and focus on the real one without breaking a sweat to some extent because I was on holiday. I didn't need to pay professional attention to anything, and the change to my routine meant I could drop habits like, say, checking the latest episodes of my favourite webcomics daily.
But it's been enough of a rewarding experience that I might well try it again if the opportunity arises without needing to be away literally as well as metaphorically. Most of all it has helped me find the head-space for different modes of being and thinking. Not necessarily better, but different - slower and deeper than the intense states of interconnection and communication we get through the screen.
What have I done with this time, other than being on holiday? Well, I've read five books for starters, which to put in perspective is probably about the same as I'd read in the past month. I've also scribbled away at a few draft posts for the blog (some of which are reviews of the aforementioned) and considered future writing projects, both in a way that I'd have struggled to find time for up to this point.
I've been able to practice a bit of slow thinking too. Which is to say I've peered, however dimly at a bigger picture, reaffirming the importance to me of the people who I love, the principles to try to live by, and the themes and thoughts which rise from within when everything's just a little less busy.
The notion of temporarily retreating from the world may be a common one in many religious traditions, but there is no less a need for it in a secular sense too, given the intricacy of modern life online and off. Social media may be a great tool for managing that arachnid complexity, but perhaps we should all take a break from the web when we need it.