Tag Archives: vacation

Email Sabbatical: December 13-January 10

I call this year my year of triplets. Over the last few months, I had my first child, finished my book, and kickstarted a research institute.

In planning this year, one of the things that I promised myself was that when Ziv was giggly and smiley, I would take a proper holiday and get to know him better. That time has come. Ziv, Gilad, and I are off to Argentina for a month of trekking and rejuvenation.

Those who know me know that I take vacations very seriously. They’re how I find center so that I can come back refreshed enough to take things to the next level. 2014 promises to be an intense year. It’ll begin with a book tour and then I’ll transition into launching Data & Society properly.

Before I jump into the awesome intensity of what’s to come, I need a break. A real break. The kind of break where I can let go of all of my worries and appreciate the present. To do this, I’m taking one of my email sabbaticals. This means that my email will be turned off. No emails will get through and none will be waiting for me when I return. I know that this seems weird to those who don’t work with me but I’ve worked hard to close down threads and create backup plans so that I can come home without needing to wade through digital hell.

If you’re hoping to reach me, here are four options:

  1. Resend your email after January 10. Sorry for the inconvenience.
  2. If you want it waiting for me, send me a snail mail: danah boyd / Microsoft Research / 641 6th Ave, 7th Floor, NY NY 10011
  3. For Data & Society inquiries: contact Seth Young at info [at] datasociety.net
  4. For “It’s Complicated” questions: contact Elizabeth Pelton at lizpelton [at] gmail

The one person that I will be in touch with while on vacation is my mom. Mom’s worry and that’s just not fair.

I’m deeply grateful for all of the amazing people who have made 2013 such a phenomenal year. With a bit of R&R, I hope to make 2014 just as magical. Have a fantastic holiday season! Lots of love and kisses!

Upcoming Email Sabbatical: December 13-January 10

It’s about that time of the year for me. The time when I escape from the digital world into the wilderness in order to refresh. As many of you know, I am a firm believer in the power of vacations. Not to escape work, but to enable my brain to reboot. I purposefully seek boredom so that my brain starts itching. This, for me, is the root of my creativity and ability to be productive.

2014 is going to be an intense year. I’m ecstatic that my book – “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” – will be published in February. I can’t wait to share this with y’all and I’m in the process of setting up a whirlwind tour to accompany the launch (more will be posted on my book website shortly). Additionally, I’m starting an exciting new project that I can’t wait to tell you about. But before throwing myself head first into these activities, I’m going to take some time to get my head in the game.

This post is intended to be a pre-warning that I will be offline and taking an email sabbatical from December 13-January 10. What this means is that during this period, I will not be reachable and my INBOX will be set to not receive emails. If you need anything from me during this period, now is the time to ask.

For those who aren’t familiar with my email sabbaticals, check out this post. The reason that I do sabbaticals is because I’ve found that closing down everything and starting fresh is key. Coming home to thousands of emails that require sorting through has proven to be impossible, overwhelming, and disappointing for everyone who expects a response. So I shut it all down and start fresh. During this period, you can still send me snail mail if you’d like to get it off your plate. And if it’s uber uber urgent, you can track down my mom; I’ll touch base with her every few days. But my goal will be to refresh. And that way, we can have a magically exciting 2014!

Taking a vacation? Take an email sabbatical!

This post was originally written for LinkedIn; see comments there.

Have you ever returned from vacation more stressed out than when you left? Is the reason because you came home to 10,000 email messages that managed to convey high pitched anxiety even in text (with a few exclamation points to add pressure)? Vacations should be a break from the insanity, not a procrastination of it.

Years ago, I realized that when I went on vacation, I needed a real break. I didn’t want to be tethered via email or social media. I wanted to go offline. But I also wanted to come back without the onslaught of messages that would take me weeks to unbury myself from. So I started instituting email sabbaticals. The idea is simple: turn off your email. Set up a filter and Send all messages to /dev/null (a.k.a. the Trash). Send a bounce message telling people their message wasn’t received and that they should resend it after X date or send you the contents via snail mail.

Of course, if you just turn off your email with no warning, you’re bound to piss off your friends, family, colleagues, and clients. So here are some tips to successfully taking an email sabbatical:

  • Step 1: Schedule a vacation. A vacation is not a long weekend. You need time to decompress. Schedule it ahead of time. I recommend at least two weeks so that you can really relax. You’ll spend the first week of it still shell-shocked from stepping away from the computer anyhow.
  • Step 2: Communicate with colleagues. Long before you’re headed out on vacation, tell people that you intend to be gone from X to Y dates. I tell collaborators months in advance so that I can make sure that we’re on the same page and that they have everything they need.
  • Step 3: Manage expectations. Talk to everyone who relies on you. Schedule a meeting before you leave and schedule one for when you return. Agree on the to-dos and create a contingency plan for issues that might arise while you’re unreachable.
  • Step 4: Create a backdoor for emergencies. Identify someone that is willing to serve as a buffer for you that you can check in with every 3 or so days who people will be afraid to contact unless it’s an emergency. I use my mother for this one. Colleagues feel weird about calling your mother, but they’ll do it if it’s an emergency. This is a good safety net if you don’t feel like you can be out-of-reach for that long.
  • Step 5: Send a final warning note. A week or two before you depart, send a note out to everyone reminding them that you’re about to leave in case they need anything from you. And then turn on your out-of-office notice to warn people that you’re about to disappear into the void. That way, you catch any notable issues.
  • Step 6: Make your email go poof! I’m a geek. My procmail file is absurd, but you don’t need to be a geek to make your email go into a blackhole. Add an away message / auto-responder that will catch people’s attention and inform them that you’re gone and that their message will never be received.  Then filter ALL of your email like you would if it were spam. Use your favorite mail program to send everything straight to the Trash. Bye-bye!
  • Step 7: Disappear. For realz. Seriously, take a vacation. You need it. There’s nothing like a vacation to rejuvenate and make you better at your job. If you come back refreshed, you’ll have better ideas and be more on top of your game. This isn’t a gimmick to sell you a self-help manual. This is basic logic. We’re all overworked and maxed out and when we’re stressed, we don’t function well. Use your vacation days. Use them well. Cherish them. And don’t work while you’re on vacation. That. Defeats. The. Point.
  • Step 8: Re-entry. When you’re back, quietly turn everything off. Reach out to the people who depend on you the most for a check-in. Make sure to schedule time to give them what they need. Be attentive, be supportive, be vacation-refreshed calm.

Communication is the key to an email sabbatical. Disappearing without properly making certain that everyone has what they need is irresponsible and disrespectful and people will get pissed off. They’ll be offended. They’ll think you’re all high and mighty. But when you go through steps to make sure everyone’s covered, it’s amazing at how well people respond. And, often, they too start taking email sabbaticals, guaranteeing everyone gets the reset they need.

People often ask me if I’m frantic about the thousands of emails I must’ve missed. Again, because I’m a geek and use procmail, I have log data. What’s funny is that, aside from the first 48 hours where people like to test my bounce message, people stop sending me email. With all of these steps in place, people actually leave me alone.

Are there things I miss? Sure. But I don’t fear missing out because I know how important it is to truly, genuinely, actually take a break. Being burnt out sucks. When I’m burnt out, I’m a crappy employee, a dreadful friend, and a terrible person to be around. It’s well worth missing out on a few things in order to make sure that I’m who I want to be.

So go ahead, don’t be afraid, don’t make excuses. Take a vacation. And take an email sabbatical!

Flickr Credit: Ahmed Amir

I’m back….

OMG do I love vacation. A chance to live a different lifestyle, explore the world, and refresh my brain. This year’s adventure began in Easter Island where we traversed the island looking at the amazing Moai statues and engaging in all sorts of discussions about the fraught/uncertain history of the Rapa Nui people.

Next, we headed back to the mainland of Chile and ventured down to Patagonia where we managed to do the famed W trek in Torres del Paine, finishing only hours before the park was shut down due to a fire started by a tourist. It kills me to think that most of the amazing trail we trekked is now burnt to a crisp.

After finishing the W, we ventured into Argentina, first to El Calafate where we got to listen to Parito Moreno crackling its amazing glacier sounds. And then we headed up to El Chalten in order to trek all around Fitz Roy where we miraculously got a brilliantly cloudless day for our trek to the base.

And then we headed up to Buenos Aires. Needless to say, lots more happened amidst all of those adventures, but I’ll leave you with one final fun image. This is of me wearing my Selk’Bag (a fabulous alternative to sleeping bags for those who can’t sleep like a mummy).

Anyhow, I’m back and will be back to work momentarily. I hope you had a fabulous holiday!!!

I’m on Vacation!! (Until January 10)

Penguins and statues and glaciers oh my! I’m off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of … OH MY GOD I AM ON VACATION!!!! Can you hear my enthusiasm? My complete and utter joy? Cuz I’m bouncing up and down here. For the next month I will be here:

And here:

Yes, that’s Easter Island and Patagonia. OMG OMG OMG.

During this period, I will be properly off the grid. No email, no internets, no nothing. More importantly, during this period, I will be taking an Email Sabbatical. What this means is that my INBOX will not be receiving any email. None. Zilch. All headed off to /dev/null for a cruel digital death. If you need to reach me, email me after January 10.

I know that asking for people’s patience on this one is hard, particularly for those of you who don’t know me and think that I’m a cruel evil diva for needing a break. But I’m a workaholic who works constantly during the year. In order to function, I need to take time off. And the only way to get a proper break is to vacation just as hard as I work. And this means saying goodbye to email and, more importantly, not letting myself anxiously worry about all that’s waiting for me when I return.

Vacations are precious. Life is precious. Have an amazing holiday season and I look forward to seeing you in the new year!

Photo Credits: Peter Albrecht and Stuck in Customs

I AM OFFLINE! On Email Sabbatical from December 9 – January 12

I am offline, taking a deeply needed break while traveling. During the duration of my break, no email will be received by my computer. All email sent to me during this period will be redirected to /dev/null (aka “the trash”). If you send me a message during this period, I will never receive it and never respond to it. If you need to contact me, please send your email after January 12. If it is urgent and you know how to reach my mother, I will be in touch with her every few days. But I am intentionally unreachable during this period. Please respect that a girl needs a break and this is mine.

Credit: Betta Design

Background on Email Sabbaticals…

Years ago, I realized that there was no way to take a vacation and manage the always-on, always-in-contact lifestyle that technology affords. Initially, I thought that it’d be possible to simply ignore email while on vacation and deal with it afterwards but I realized that this was untenable. It takes months to catch up on thousands of emails and I’d come back and immediately burn out again trying to catch up. I’d end up declaring email bankruptcy, thereby failing everyone who contacted me because of my delinquency. I knew that I needed a different strategy.

I decided to start taking email sabbaticals as a systematic and respectful way of publicly communicating my boundaries. Six months before vacation, I let close collaborators and colleagues know that I intend to be wholly offline during a set of collectively known dates. A month before I leave, I write out to everyone that I work with to make sure that we all know what I need to accomplish before I leave and make sure that we have a check list to get it all done. I also publicly blog that I will be departing, letting everyone else know that they should get in touch if they’re going to need something from me. A week before, I message out again warning people. In this way, I systematically make sure that I take care of others’ needs before I depart. Communication is key to an email sabbatical. Disappearing without properly making certain that everyone has what they need is irresponsible and disrespectful.

When I am on vacation, I am confident that I have taken care of my responsibilities before I left. I have contingency plans set up for anything I can predict might happen while I’m away. I make sure that my brother, mother, sysadmin, and housesitters all know how to reach me in case of an emergency. But most importantly, I know that my email spool is not filling up with a big To Do list that will haunt me when I’m gone. Do I miss things while I’m on vacation? Most certainly. Inevitably, I will receive numerous emails from journalists covering year-end stories about teens, people wanting me to review journal articles, students wanting help with their term papers, and perhaps an invitation or two. I do feel guilty not personally responding to these people to say that I’m unavailable but that’s precisely the point. I need to let go in order to truly take a break and refresh. Are there going to be people pissed off at me because I’m on vacation? Sure. But I’m also used to getting pissed off emails everyday from all sorts of people yelling at me for my attempt to explain teen life. Part of me feels a guilty pleasure knowing that I will never see 5 weeks worth of angry emails.

The advantage of an email sabbatical is that I can truly take time and decompress and ease back into everyday life in January without an overwhelming and unmanageable list of To Dos. Personally, I think it’s a whole lot more respectful to preemptively and openly communicate that I need a break than to screw up and declare bankruptcy when everything crumbles. But maybe that’s just me. I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking that I’m a royal bitch for saying enough. Or think that I’m a privileged brat for being able to carve out time for myself. Personally, I think that we all need to start looking inwards and understanding our limitations and articulating our boundaries. Breaks aren’t a bad thing; they’re a fundamentally important way to refresh. I know that I will be a far better scholar when I return than I am right now because I’m too burnt out to think straight. I need this break. And I bet you do too. And taking a long weekend isn’t the same as taking a serious break. Which is why I’ve been saving all of my vacation days so that I could take a serious pause.

Anyhow, I wish you a happy December. Chag sameach, happy holidays! And please, for your sake and mine, take some time for yourself. {{hug}}

NOTICE: Email sabbatical will start December 9

If you don’t know me, you probably don’t know that I work obscene hours for most of the year and then take a proper vacation. As in no internet, no work, no geeking out on research. For me to continue doing the work that I do, I have to refresh. In order to refresh, I go offline. No email, no Twitter, no blogging. And only pre-downloaded Wikipedia-ing (because how can you tour foreign countries without wanting to know weird information about the universe?).

More importantly, I have learned that vacation isn’t vacation if you come home to thousands of pending emails. Cuz then you spend most of vacation worrying about the work that’s piling up. So, over six years ago, I started instituting “email sabbaticals” in my life. While I’m away, my lovely procmail file (aka “filtering software”) will direct all of my email to /dev/null (aka “the permanent trash”). I will not be reachable. The only person that I stay in contact with while I’m gone is my mother because it’s just too cruel to my mom to disappear entirely. Twitter and my blog will also loudly proclaim my MIA-ness. But the bigger issue is that I will return to a zero-inbox. Nothing sent to me during my email sabbatical will survive. All senders will receive a lovely bounce message saying that their message will never get through. In this way, no one can put things in my to-do queue while I’m trying to take a break. I need to recharge and there’s no way to recharge when the pile-up grows ever unmanageable.

From December 9-January 12, you will not be able to reach me. More importantly, you won’t be able to put things in my to-do queue. So, if you need something from me, holler now. Or wait until I come back. But please recognize that I need a break.

Vacation, Vacation, Vaaaay-kaaaay-shun! (offline till Sep 8)

This is the time when all of the crazy people run off to the desert to “survive” with tons of art, fake fur, and countless supplies. Burning Man of course. Normally, I’d be playa-bound, but I’m rebelling and inverting the whole thing. Today, I leave for Iceland where I will make friends with lagoons, greenery, and puffins. Oh am I excited about the puffins! Thanks to my favorite cereal, I’ve been staring at a puffin every day since college. Now it’s time to see them up close and personal. OK, maybe not that close.

I’m not bouncing email on this trip but I’m not checking it either. I will be offline so don’t expect a response until after I start digging out post-September 8. Or perhaps just resist the urge to contact me in the meantime. It is after all Burning Man time! Go offline, have an adventure! (I’m not commenting on the presence of cell towers on the playa. Hrmfpt.)

Anyhow, so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye!

obsessively recording and sharing our vacations

At Blogher yesterday, the issue of “addiction” emerged in the keynote. A woman in the audience noted that she twitched for the first day of vacation because she desperately wanted to tweet the things she was seeing and witnessing, like the bald eagle flying by. On stage, the conversation turned so that we talked more generally about being able to take a technology free vacation, but I want to address the tendency to tweet the things we see directly for a moment.

It seems as though humans absolutely LOVE to 1) record the minutia of their lives; 2) (over-) share the details of their experiences. And for some reason, each new technology seems to get used by people to do precisely this. I really wouldn’t be surprised if we found a cave painting that outlined what the dwellers ate for breakfast. So why are we so offended when people use the internet to do this?

Let’s talk about that vacation for a second. Why is it so wrong that people tweet their experiences when it seems to be so right that they spend their vacations stuck behind their fancy new camera recording every moment? Personally, I’m more frustrated by those trying to capture the perfect shot than those who mull over the perfect 140 character version of the event before quickly pumping it into their iPhone. Those behind the camera are far less present than those mulling over the language to express the moment. Yet, somehow, we accept one as the epitome of the vacation while the other is a rupture of it. Why is this?

Then there’s sharing. Sharing recordings of vacation events is also not particularly new. Sure, usually those who were vacationing waited until AFTER the vacation to share, but that was more a matter of practicalities. If you needed to get the film processed, you had to wait till you got home. But sharing events is a part of bonding, whether its an oral accounting of those events or a sharing of the recordings of it. One value of sharing records is the ability to share in a way that goes back to that time period.

For example, my grandfather has this brilliant album from the early 1940s when he first came to the States to train American pilots for the war. I’m fascinated by what he recorded – and what he didn’t. The album is filled with images of 1940s Georgia and Texas, young British men goofing off before facing their most harrowing hour back in Europe. (My grandfather was a bomber pilot; he lost most of his friends and was shot down himself.) What I particularly love about this album is his little drawings, the white pencil on black background that makes it clear that he put this album together to really record this period in time, a period that he thought would be his only trip to America. I can page through this album forever.

We like when people share their records. Until we don’t. Cuz we also know that there is the notion of Too Much. There are only so many baby photos you can take of a baby that’s not related to you before you scream Too Much. There are only so many home videos that you can take until you scream Too Much. And there are only so many vacation photos you can take until you scream Too Much.

Y’see… the ease with which we can record and share today means that there are too many people around us who push our Too Much limits. There was something beautiful about only being able to photograph 24/36 images on the entire vacation. I can stomach 24/36 images of anyone’s vacation. But who in their right mind thinks that I want to sift through 1000s of photos just because they were able to take them? Hrmfpt I say.

Can we please have a moment of silence for the power of constraint? Kthx. The issue with recording and sharing in contemporary society is that is far far far too easy to go overboard. This is where we struggle to find balance. Just because you can share every detail doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Just because you can record every moment of your day doesn’t mean you should. Part of the problem is that the technology doesn’t force you to think about your audience. When your mother brings out the photographs of your childhood, she can watch you squirm when you’ve had enough (usually after the third photo). She may ignore you, but she knows. But what does it mean that we are unable to see – and thus able to ignore – our audience online? When people bitch about folks sharing what they ate for breakfast, they’re noting that this kind of sharing of minutia is clearly ignorant of the annoyed audience in preference for the ability to record everything.

We keep building technologies that allow us to do what we like to do better, faster, more efficiently. The practices of recording and sharing are not new and we seem to love technologies that aid in these practices. As for vacation… well, recording and sharing vacations are also not new even if the newfangled technology allows us to do this better, faster, more efficiently. And, personally, I’m totally with the audience member who expressed the need to put away the technology (including the camera!) and be in the moment. But I should also take a moment to highlight that there are very good psychological reasons for wanting to record and share our vacations.

The processes of recording and sharing help make things “real” by expanding their significance in our lives. These are tools to aid us in building memories. We forget most moments in our lives, but when we record and share, we take the steps to solidify these memories. Vacation is a luxury and it’s (usually) filled with happy times that we want to remember. So when we record and share, we seek to keep these memories close. I cannot fault people for wanting to do this (especially in a country where people get so little vacation on average). I understand the desire to just be present on vacation, but I also understand why people are so determined to lock down these memories and contribute positive stories to the information flow of their friendships. I can’t fault them for this, even if I’d prefer that we all took a break and just enjoyed the moment. So before we mock those who are documenting their memories through the crazy new technologies, let’s also recognize that this is just one in a long line of recording and sharing tools. And, I would argue, not the most annoying one yet.