How Airplane Mode Saved My Sanity

Frequent flyers can probably repeat the stewardesses spiel requesting flyers to turn off personal radio-transmitting devices, or to turn on airplane mode, for which How To Geek gives this explanation:

Whatever device you’re using — an Android phone, iPhone, iPad, Windows 8 tablet, or whatever else — airplane mode disables the same hardware functions each device. This includes:

  • Cellular: Your device will stop communicating with cell towers. You won’t be able to send or receive anything that depends on cellular data, from voice calls and SMS messages to mobile data.
  • Wi-Fi: Your phone will stop scanning for nearby Wi-Fi networks and attempting to join them. If you’re already connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll be disconnected.
  • Bluetooth: Airplane mode also disables Bluetooth, a wireless communication technology most people associate with wireless headsets. But Bluetooth can be used for many other things, including keyboards and mice.
  • GPS: Airplane mode also disables GPS-receiving functions, but only on some devices. This is a bit confusing and inconsistent. In theory, GPS is unlike all the other technologies here — a device with GPS turned on is only listening to GPS signals it receives, not transmitting any signals. However, some aircraft regulations do not allow the use of GPS-receiving functions for some reason.

However the function was intended to be used, that’s not what this post is about.

Not unlike…well, most people with smartphones, I guess…my phone or iPad are my near-constant companions. It’s next to my computer at work, and both are on my nightstand every night. Whether I’m at work or at home; manipulating a spreadsheet or playing euchre on my iPad; notifications are a constant, not-so-seamless interruption.  Naturally, I appreciate text messages as a form of communication, and when someone responds to a tweet, and so on, but let’s be real: how often do we receive notifications that really deserve to interrupt us?  Time Magazine reported that average attention span is less than 12 seconds (8 seconds, to be exact). Our ability to multitask has improved, but it doesn’t mean we’re more efficient than giving as much attention as possible to a given task.

And that’s where airplane mode comes in.

I use it when I need to concentrate intensely on something at work (if an emergency arises, everyone has my office number).  The urge to check for messages (or *the phantom vibration* effect) wore away after a few days, and most days my phone sits off to the side until lunch or quitting time. I use it on my iPad, at home, when I’m doing a crossword or a wordfind. I value my leisure time; I don’t take much of it, and new Medium articles, Facebook tags, and Instagram likes can wait until I open the apps themselves.

When I say that it has saved my sanity, I mean that it’s modified my behavior in other elements as well. Fans of Eggers’ “The Circle” might remember the pressing anxiety that emanates from the pages when the main character is faced with multiple newsfeeds, and the need to comment, like, respond, ENGAGE in the digital medium. It’s annoying at the end of the day, and leaves little time for actual living. When I use airplane mode, I forget that it’s on. And that means unintentional, extended periods of time to get lost in a great book, complete a project, or just chat (in person) with another being. My sleep has improved as well (I also utilize a blue light filter for nighttime, plus the Casper!).

Obviously, I haven’t reduced my digital facetime. I read ebooks, play games, and am constantly sifting through different forms of media.  For me, it’s more about turning off notifications and other intrusions. It’s like optimizing for a smooth, pleasurable day. Or night.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s