Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Disconnecting - 06-10-09 Editor's Column

By taking a simple glance around, there is no way that any of us can deny how connected we are to the rest of the world, whether by our phones, the Internet or television.

We literally have libraries of information readily available to us at all times; we have the power to call other countries with just a few button pushes; we can even complete tasks on our mobile phones that once required the use of a high-end desktop computer.

And we are content. Or are we?

It interests me to see so much connectedness in my everyday life. I have access to my email - both work and personal accounts-, Facebook, Twitter and the Internet nearly 24/7 - just on my BlackBerry alone.

However, as I look towards an impending vacation during the month of July, I have already reasoned that I will be setting aside my digital window to the outside world to experience something that I haven't in a very long while: a disconnect.

The interesting part about this to me is that I am very much looking forward to it and find myself curious about what it will be like at the same time. In a time when many smartphone users - including the President - are addicted to their "CrackBerries," and we can't walk down the street without seeing at least one person with a Bluetooth headset in either ear, I feel like I'm going to be embarking on a strange journey.

Still, I believe wholeheartedly that everyone should pursue a disconnect of some kind at some point, if only to (ironically) reestablish that connection with the real world that is often lost when we find ourselves consumed by the time we spend in the digital one.

A great example of this is a friend of mine by the name of Chris Moody. Chris decided that following his graduation from college in 2007, he would spend some time as a commercial fisherman in Alaska. However, while he did this, he would have no access to a cell phone or computer for the entire duration of his trip, which was approximately three months.

While he was away, he received mail in one to two week increments and hardly had any time to catch up on what was happening in the news unless he was sent a magazine or a newspaper.

When he came back, he said the work he had done was some of the hardest he had ever experienced. He talked of going weeks without showering and going for hours and hours with no sleep. He shared the experiences he shared with the friends he had made.

But, never once did he mention that he missed connectedness that we so often feel is necessary for everyday life.

So here I find myself wondering, will it really be that big of a deal when I leave my phone and computer more than 4,000 miles away? Or will I find myself caught up in the wonder of the world that has been right under my nose for so long?

One person who is very excited to see my BlackBerry and computer usage to take a hiatus is my wife, who often tells me I spend too much time on both on a regular basis. To that end, it is a bit disappointing to think that there are people who there who spend more time on their phones and computers than I do and to just think of the loved ones that they might be pushing away for the sake of being "in the know."

I'm sure I will have those instances where I will reach for my phone out of habit, probably with the intention of seeing who has e-mailed me or to see what's going on with my friends on Facebook, but something tells me, breaking myself of that habit for a few days may be worth more than the cost of the trip itself.

In the same regard, perhaps one of the best things we can do for ourselves, as well as the ones that we love, is take a break for a day, or a week, or a weekend, and just enjoy the here and now.

That being said, I issue this as a challenge to anyone out there that finds himself or herself spending large amounts of time on a phone or a computer to take that leap and turn the power off. If you fear you won't be able to do it (and there are people out there who won't), take the battery out and give to a friend for a while. Put it somewhere that you know you won't go looking for it for a day or two, or take a trip and leave it behind altogether.

Whatever the case, take some time away from the digital world for a while, and take the opportunity to get back to reality.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I was happy to read this, you sound like you sympathize with my growing wariness towards web 2.0 and the burden of the Cell Phone. My fears were confirmed when the deletion of my facebook account brought out many shocked comments from my friends. The idea of Neal Stephenson's "Metaverse" doesn't seem so perverse or unrealistic.
    I also have found vacation the best time to disconnect- yukkin it up in the sweltering heat of Louisiana for a week left me with little inclination to sift my inbox. Yet, my desire to find a local concert schedule, the convenience of the internet, and my lack of facility with search engines led me to spend all of 30 minutes reading this blog. Ah, hypocrisy.
    I wish you luck in "disconnecting", hopefully you will be assisted by the lovely prescence of nature in Mahomet. I recommend the botannical gardens.