Sleep mask

You may not have noticed, but I’ve been gone for three weeks. Oh, I’ve been around, but a few weeks ago I decided to take a week-long blogging sabbatical to take care of some family matters. And then I got sick, and one week turned into three weeks. In retrospect, I needed those three weeks off to recharge and give myself a bit of a rest. Three years of blogging every day can certainly take a toll on you. But this less than voluntary break did take its toll on me.

In some ways, I really missed blogging, not just for the writing component of it, which I love, but also because of feeling disconnected from my blogging community. The members of that community have become a part of my daily life, and much of our online conversation takes place in the comments of various blogs. When that’s not happening, I definitely feel a void.

But while being disconnected for much of the time, and only on social media platforms for a limited amount of time, I gained a new sense of appreciation for the role that technology and the Internet play in our lives. Here are a few of my thoughts and observations:

1. The importance of connections – When you’re laid up in bed for a bit, the outside world seems far away. While I didn’t get online much, I was touched by the private messages I got from a number of friends wondering what was wrong. I couldn’t always respond, but it was nice to have people checking in on me. The importance of this for those who are truly confined to their homes for longer periods of times or permanently is undeniable.

As for my family, my wife was down in NC with her parents for a week with no Internet access at all. The ability to text each other throughout the day was what kept us both sane.

And since I get Twitter DMs pushed to my phone, I even had the chance to meet a few online friends who were swinging through my town for a short period of time. Even though I felt horrible, it was worth dragging myself out of bed to meet them.

2. The importance of online information – During the past month the Internet was a great source of info, from researching local retirement communities and nursing homes (not for me!) to laying in bed trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and to find the only 24-hour pharmacy in our area. When you’re in major pain in the middle of the night, you don’t want to lay in bed until morning in order to get your antibiotic and painkiller prescriptions!

3. The importance of mobile – While I was laid up in bed, I didn’t have my computer, so in the middle of the night I was limited to my small 5″ Samsung Galaxy Player (Android). It was a lifesaver. As I searched the Internet for information, I was grateful for mobile optimized sites, and painfully reminded of how difficult it is when a site you want to use doesn’t work well on mobile devices. The increased and rapid pace of mobile adoption by users makes it that much more important for businesses to make sure that their websites are ready for this shift. It’s already happening.

4. The failure of directory sites – I’ve never been a fan of the online Yellow Pages or other directory sites, but my experiences during this time made me dislike them even more. Trying a simple search for “24-hour pharmacy Lancaster PA” was excruciating. I kept getting directory lists of what SHOULD have been 24-hour pharmacies, but we only have one in the area. The directory listings did nothing but give me more lists of pharmacies, whether they were open 24 hours or not.

If you have a website, do your own optimization for search engines, and don’t waste your money on directory sites. Google is already a directory. Those directory sites do nothing but muddy up the digital waters.

5. The rapidly changing entertainment landscape – During the past month, Netflix has been my best friend. My 5″ tablet is perfect for watching videos, playing Words with Friends, and keeping up with other forms of entertainment, including the Olympics. Convergence is happening, and recent studies from Pew and others are showing some rather exciting possible futures for television and the entertainment industry. It’s pretty darn exciting, and we can’t even fathom where all of this will be in the next five years.

So I’m glad to be back, heading into a very busy Fall season with my work load and a heavier than normal teaching load. I’m looking forward to it, and now that I’m back on the blog, I’m also looking forward to really reconnecting with all of you.

Have you ever taken an involuntary break from the Internet and social media? Did it give you a new appreciation or fresh perspective on technology?