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Arianna Unplugged

Somewhere deep in the Mediterranean Sea, one of Arianna Huffington’s beloved BlackBerrys now sleeps with the fishes. How did the Greek-born author—her latest book, Thrive ($26, Harmony), was released two months ago—TV personality and head honcho of the Huffington Post Media Group react to the tragic drowning? She did something few of us media addicts are brave enough to attempt—she let it go.

Arianna Huffington

Few among us are immune to the gravitational pull of constant connectivity. It’s about as constant as the pull of the moon on the tides. 

I personally carry one iPhone and three BlackBerrys (I know, I know). Once, while vacationing in Greece, I accidentally dropped a BlackBerry in the Mediterranean Sea. The only good to come of the loss was that it finally brought me face to face with my addiction—the reality brought home by the response of my friends, who all suddenly started treating me as if I’d suffered a major loss.

For these reasons and more, last December I decided to do something radical and take a weeklong unplugging challenge with Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, and Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which meant no social media and limiting myself to two email check-ins a day with our HuffPost editors.

Instead of being constantly connected, I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my daughters, my sister and my ex-husband, not photographing beautiful sunsets, not tweeting pictures of my dinner and not participating in Throwback Thursday on Instagram, but instead, you know, just talking about things that had happened in the past, and being immersed in things happening right now.

It was the difference between having real experiences and memorializing half-experiences.

If I could reproduce that experience this summer, here’s how I picture it:

I’m somewhere sunny and warm with my two daughters and friends. We cook a big Greek meal together—fresh fruit and vegetables, a great deal of fish, endless amounts of olive oil. No one pulls out a phone to double-check the recipe and everything turns out just fine. Afterward we go for a long walk and find our way back without the help of any GPS app or female robot voice telling us which way to turn.

Maybe we have a dispute about some pop-culture fact, and nobody takes out their iPhone to settle it with a real-time fact-check. We begin to understand the truth of what Louis C.K. said in one of his routines, about how parents can be so hell-bent on recording our children’s milestones that we miss them altogether: “The resolution on the kid is unbelievable if you just look. It’s totally HD.”

Likewise, my fantasy vacation is totally HD. My one iPhone and three BlackBerrys are far, far away—having their own vacation at the bottom of the Mediterranean. All I can hear are the voices of my daughters and my friends—and the sound of Zac Brown Band’s “Toes,” which is one of my favorite songs, though no one ever believes it when I say so. In my fantasy, it’s playing over and over and over.

Finally, when it’s time for bed, I notice there are no electrical outlets in my bedroom, so there’s absolutely no chance I’ll be struck by a middle-of-the-night temptation to check the latest news or emails.