Unplug: Thinking outside the inbox

Remember when Nirvana played live on MTV Unplugged, but bassist Krist Novoselic looked like he was playing an electric bass? Yeah, that irked me too—for the past 27 years.

I finally looked it up today—the internet is still a marvel in this regard—and learned Novoselic was actually playing a Guild B3OE semi-acoustic bass rented for the occasion.

“Semi-acoustic.” Isn’t that just another way of saying “semi-electric?” Music geeks can musician-splain the difference to me later. Right now, I’m fixated on the fact that Nirvana’s semi-unplugged performance set a precedent for life as we’ve known it since. Few of us are ever completely unplugged these days. 

Case in point, I recently turned on the vacation autoresponder for my work email but found myself still checking it like a voyeur peeping into my own inbox. 

More to the point, people who have received my robot response persist in emailing follow-ups. How did they know I was actually checking my email? Is this compulsion mine alone, or do they share it? I think the pandemic has given us all a rabid case of FOMO on our own lives.

To wit, if I could impart any advice this season, it would be to truly unplug—at least for a moment. And also—stop emailing me.

I finally figured out how to remove my work email from my phone and later learned how to remove my phone from me. Performing my own appendectomy would have been easier. And less bloody.

But once I overcame the withdrawal symptoms of this digital detox—panic, boredom and worse, panic about boredom—I finally arrived at a kind of psychic quietude. Sure, I still heard voices—turns out it wasn’t the earbuds—but at least they were from my own head. I bet.

Since I’m an unabashed workaholic, unplugging from the newspaper biz was only the first phase of attempting to take a break. Like most micro-media-moguls, my professional life is an ever-extending constellation of side hustles—less bright lights, big city; more small town, dim bulb. Unplugging from them en masse would cause the local utility to assume the grid went down. 

Despite my misgivings, I finally ginned up the courage and pulled the plug. And you know what happened? Not a damn thing. The world didn’t end, and my empire was no nearer imploding than usual. Sure, some publicists were flummoxed—but they would be anyway—but on the whole, everything was fine. So do it—unplug—if only for an hour. It may not be the way of our hyper-productive culture, but it will get you that much closer to Nirvana.

Semi-acoustically first published at Bohemian.com.

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