Ah, life at the summer cottage. Or cabin, camp, chalet or whatever they call it where you live, all words that people who live in the North call “a small house in the countryside, often by a lake, where people go on summer weekends.” Others go to the beach house and all face the same problem — how to disconnect, to get unwired, in a world where many people are addicted to their electronics.

For many, it is about staying connected to work; Leah Eichler writes in At the cottage? Step away from your computer that it has become an obsession. In a story for The Globe and Mail, she quotes a vice president of human resources:

We live in a mobile-driven business environment that creates a "24-7 connected" type of mentality. We can see this in the younger generations specifically who have grown up with technology and it’s a norm for them. But we have to be very careful, because as our survey shows, the lines are being blurred between our personal lives and our work lives, and it’s not surprising that more and more people are feeling overworked.

But it is much more than just work that keeps us connected. Many people cannot separate themselves from their phones at any time. Sophia Breen writes in Greatist about how it has changed the way we think:

For many people, the allure of being attached to a smartphone is the ability to keep tabs on family, friends, and breaking news whenever, wherever. Compared to reading a newspaper or calling a friend for a long chat on the phone, social media encourages brief, unfocused, multitasking-friendly “check ins” rather than long periods of absorption.

It has, in fact, been called Internet Addiction Disorder. Jenn Savedge described it in its extreme form:

Internet Addiction Disorder is marked by an uncontrollable need to use the Web. Sufferers generally spend unhealthy amounts of time online, to the detriment of “real-life” interactions at home, with family, or at work. Withdrawal symptoms of Internet Addiction Disorder include obsessive thoughts and even involuntary typing movements.

I don’t think addiction is too strong a word. I know I would use it to describe myself. I get twitchy if I can't check Twitter or Feedly. I pretend that it’s all for work — I write for a living and need incoming content, ideas and news to feed the machine, but it's beyond that. It has become an obsession. I can’t leave my phone because I might miss a good Instagram shot. Self-promotion is part of my job, so I can’t be far from Facebook. And now I even have an Apple Watch pinging notifications at me at all times of day.

It’s a hard habit to break. In the Globe and Mail, Eichler tells how she is renting a cottage with no Internet availability; she says that everyone in her family is an addict and she wants to see “what our family dynamic is like when we really, truly unplug.”

Lloyd Alter's deskTough working conditions here, I must say. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

I can’t go that far; I'm working from the cottage. But in Germany, many companies now stop forwarding emails after work hours. The Labor minister notes:

It’s in the interests of employers that workers can reliably switch off from their jobs, otherwise, in the long run, they burn out… Technology should not be allowed to control us and dominate our lives. We should control technology.

She’s right. Today at the end of my work day I will turn everything off. Close the computer. Turn off the iPad. The phone. The watch — after I check my twitter one more time ...<

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Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.