Aug 31

Offline

by in America, Everyday Journeys, US Road Trip 2014

Back in 2005 when we did our first road trip across the US wifi was rare, mifi was unheard of and cellular data was not yet for the common people. Connecting to the world – which usually just meant picking up emails – was done through a good old telephone lead plugged into the laptop, or at savvy places like Starbucks who would provide free wifi which justified paying for overpriced bad coffee.

English Hubby and I shared a single laptop, and we would fight like teenage girls over who would get to plug in to the magical-inter-world-wide-wonder-web first. After a few “you got to use it longer” “but I need to finish this email” squabbles we came to an agreement that a timer would be set for 30 minutes and like the contestants in Master Chef, once your time was up, it was hands in the air and your fingers could no longer touch the keyboard. This was the only way to equitably ration precious stopover time at Starbucks, as a lot was at stake – the connection to the big world beyond just the two of us.

Our friends who pioneered a road trip before us kept in touch with the world at large by phoning a special service that would read out emails that were sent to a specific email address. It didn’t take long for Uncle Phil’s brother to realize he could have a bit of fun with this bleeding edge technology and started leaving provocative messages that a robotic voice would then relay!

Fast forward nine years and everyone who’s anyone is walking around with a mini supercomputer in their pockets. We now have Facebook, Instagram, Skype, MMS, texting, FaceTime, IM, personal blogs and the list goes on. Between the two of us (Baby Boy O doesn’t count in this one) we have nine devices – two iPhones, one Samsung, two iPads, two laptops and two kindles – and still only two hands each with which to operate them all. With 10 gigabytes of data that we can play with each month, this is a whole lot of connectedness.

 

Tech devices including laptops, phones, kindles and more

Tech frenzy

 

With a touch of three buttons, a photo can be taken, uploaded on Facebook and shared with all and sundry. Feedback is near instant with likes and comments whizing back at the speed of light. It makes me wonder what being so available and connected actually means?

There are countless articles and opinions written on this topic, from all different angles and schools of thought. Mine is just a personal first hand account of what’s different between our first road trip and this current one.

Firstly, it is a slippery slope from sharing a significant treasured moment with loved ones to performing like a well trained dolphin. I’m a big subscriber of being in the moment. Appreciating a scenic view with all your senses before reaching for a cell phone camera to click and capture. Regardless of actively practicing mindfulness, I find myself slipping into performance mode. It gives me a thrill to know that my audience is applauding (a.k.a. the number of likes on Facebook) and enjoying my theatrics. Isn’t this cool – snap. I’m having so much fun – snap. My kid just made a cute face – snap, snap, snap. You know you’re on that downhill slide into instant gratification when you are constantly checking Facebook not for new stories from friends but rather for notifications of who liked your post and what comments you’ve received. Been there, done that, and now in a self imposed quarrantine to restore the balance in the Facebook enabled narcissistic universe.

Secondly, I’ve realized the value of a secret. In September of 2005 English Hubby drove me out to the middle of nowhere Utah, sat me on the edge of a cliff with a 1000 foot drop and proposed. We were engaged under the stars with only a cheap disposable wind and click camera to memorialize the occasion. It was an excruciating three hour drive back to civilization and decent phone reception before we even had the option to tell anyone. We chose to hold our moment only between the two of us for a little while longer before breaking the news to our eagerly awaiting family and friends. The wait made it even more special. It was ours and ours alone. It wasn’t broadcast instantly, replicated across channels, pinned, tweeted, posted or liked. It wasn’t for anyone but us. But now in today’s world there is an underlying current that sweeps along even the most diligent of us and that few would openly admit to…so here it goes – like the proverbial tree falling in the forest on deaf ears, if events aren’t shared, do they legitamately exist? I fear we have forgotten the art of treasuring a secret, holding a moment in our mind’s eye for no other reason than to savor it ourselves.

Thirdly, being offline for the last three days feels like what I imagine rehab to be. We are currently staying at a campground where the promise of wifi is more a dream than a reality, and there is a hole in AT&T’s data coverage. This means patchy to no email, Skype, text, Internet and the other usual accoutrements that accompany our connected lives. I’m getting jittery, crusing locations for a hit of unprotected wifi. No more weather app. Instead we actually have to step outside and look at the sky. No instant blogging. Instead I have three days to think and refine a piece to make it worthy as opposed to a free flow of random, hastily thrown together thoughts. And no more delegated decisions or crowd sourced thinking from Yelp, Google and other information wells. We actually have to take a chance on a restaurant with an outcome unknown, or even worse, actually have a conversation with local folks and ask them where they go.

At the end of three offline days, these are just my observations, not an opinion on good or bad, right or wrong or even whether we have moved forward or backward. I personally would not turn back time and trade in today’s connectivity. I like it, I need it, I want it, but I do choose to be conscious and mindful of how it can sneak up and dilute the moments that really matter. At the end of the day it is a choice, and I choose to kick some old digital habits and mindfully cultivate new ones.

 

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More musings…Crazy Messy Love

 

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