Monday, July 18, 2011

When your employer sends you to rehab…

I never thought I would receive a phone call for an intervention while still in my 20s—especially from my employer—but I did.

It turned out this wasn’t the kind of intervention you’d expect to find on A&E. My producers at The Early Show were sending me to digital detox. Yes, digital detox.

Less than eight hours after the call came, in true Intervention-style, I was swept out the door. Visions of beach resorts filled my head—the Bahamas, Hawaii, Cancun. “This will be easy!” I thought. Then, I found out where I was going: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I gripped my iPhone tighter at the thought of it.

With the “Zen and the Art of Detox” package, Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is one of many hotels now offering a “digital detox” vacation. It’s a chance for i-addicts, er, guests to unload all gadgets and, in theory, relax. The hotel actually plans a retreat for you, offering books, games and outdoor adventures. A few hotels across the country are even offering up to 15 percent off if you put your devices under lock and key.

Sound like an idyllic vacation to you? For me, this was akin to removing a limb. You may have noticed that I am obsessed with technology. I have been since I was kid, and since I could convince my parents to get a landline. Back then, when my friends were heading off to Disney World, I was begging my parents to send me to computer camp. In fifth grade, I figured out how to wire my own digital ice cream truck Halloween costume, and took home the school’s costume contest prize. In my teens, I mastered sophisticated computer programming and earned my networking certifications before graduating high school. I earned my degree in IT New Media from the Rochester Institute of Technology. I am not ashamed to say it:  technology completes me.

All of this is going through my mind as I travel to Pittsburgh, getting the shakes at the thought of what’s to come. I mean, my producers are intervening with the best of intentions. But I’m not sure they even know the extent of my techno-philia. The only time I’ve tried to distance myself from it is at the gym, and that’s only because no cell phones are allowed. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I found a way around that. I use my iPhone for tunes. That also lets me bang out a few emails between sets. Typing that, I’m realizing how pathetic it sounds.

When I check in at the rehab resort I give up my entire tech armory, all of which I regularly travel with: an 11-inch MacBook Air, a 3DS, a Nano, an iPad, a BlackBerry and an iPhone. I also find a few scrolling LED name badges buried inside my Pac-Man bag. Oh, and even my toothbrush is electric.

I have an anxiety attack while handing it over. The hotel attendant had to literally pry my iPad from my kung fu grip after I got in one last game of Bejeweled.  How am I going to navigate this town without my smartphone GPS and especially my AroundMe app?  How will I even know what time it is?  What if an urgent email comes through?  What will life without the Blackberry ping every two minutes sound like? 

Well, you can see for yourself how it all went down. Here’s the Early Show segment.


With some suffering, I did manage to learn a number of things in detox, and I’m grateful for the eye-opening experience. Here’s the rundown:

- I like sharing things. I felt alone on my kayak trip without the insta-connection my iPhone offers me. I saw the perfect sunset, and if I’d had my phone I would have snapped a pic, put a fun filter on it and shared it with friends and family, or maybe even Twitter.

- One day of detox is not enough. Despite my adverse reaction, after my brief stay, I didn’t feel like I truly escaped. I suggest taking at least two to three days to really get away.

- As I said on The Early Show, it would be great for businesses to send employees here, instead of those boring work retreats that everyone secretly hates. If work forced you to disconnect, even while mandating group activities, I think it might actually make an impact.

- The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel was beautiful. Overlooking the Allegheny River, it sits on a bridge that leads to the football and baseball stadiums, and it’s an easy walk to the games and all the bars downtown. There are all kinds of activities, from kayaking to yoga camp, and the staff couldn’t be nicer (they brought me a giant Pez dispenser!). Still, the 1920s board games and literary classics they stocked the room with were not happening.

- I felt the most naked without my phone. Aside from missing calls and emails, I had no apps for easy access to just about everything.  I had to actually go Lewis-and-Clark-style and buy a map.

- One of the most important things the experience taught me is that my ever-connected digital life puts unfair pressures on my associates. I place the same expectations on others as I do myself. If I don’t have an email response within a few hours, I am disappointed. This getaway helped me realize that this isn’t fair.

- We all could benefit from more device disconnection. But at the same time, I’ve realized that I am only able to disconnect when I know everything is in a good place. At the end of the day, I like to check my BlackBerry and make sure that everything is okay, and no one needs anything from me. Only then can I truly relax.


  1. At least you found out you could survive the one day without tech. If that dreaded doomsday EMP were ever to occur though...

  2. I am humbled by the torture you put yourself through to edify us, your Fans. However, Welcome Back to the e-world where we troglodytes of technology missed you.

  3. I underwent a similar non-voluntary detox in Costa Rica in early June. I had an iPhone mishap early on (forgot it was in the pocket of my swim trunks when I took a dip), and was iPhone-less for the remainder. The first couple of days were hell. But eventually I learned to let go (it was an 8-day trip). One of the things I found is that it really helped me live in the moment -- with my phone I'm often too concerned with snapping an awesome picture and posting it, or sharing something on social media, and I don't actually end up enjoying the moment as much.

    I now find that it's best to enforce some "unplugged" times for myself. Like I don't check email for a few hours after work, just so that I can unwind fully, as one example.



Copyright © 2012 Katie Linendoll