My vacation plans didn’t involve unplugging from my electronic devices. I am a plugged in kind of guy. Even as I type this post on a computer, I’m surrounded by electronic gadgets. I’ve got a myriad of them and I’ll be the first to tout the benefits of each one.
Besides, if my goal had been to unplug on vacation, then I wouldn’t have
spent wasted a lunch hour at the Apple Store trying to get my iPad 2 fixed. (Sidenote: All the Apple store Genius could do was offer to restore the iOS, which I’d already done twice, or let me ”replace” the iPad 2 with another iPad 2 for $249. Um, I think not.) Furthermore, if my goal had been to unplug on vacation, I wouldn’t have lugged my MacBook, Kindle, and spasmodic, half-possessed iPad 2 from Texas to Florida. I had every intention of staying connected.
If my goal were to stay connected and plugged in, what happened?
We arrived first at the vacation house near Rosemary Beach, Florida (excellent locale, by the way) and being the first to arrive, we got to choose the room we wanted. (Note to family members: That’s how the info was relayed to me.) We selected the cottage behind the main house. Sounds nice, right?
The lesson to learn: Before staking claim to your room, always – ALWAYS- check the wifi signal first.
On the first morning, I had flashbacks to the days of dial-up. Remember when the webpage would be white and blank while it seemingly debated whether or not to download the page. There might be a tease, like the top line of the webpage or you might get the error message, “This page is unavailable.” Meanwhile, I stood there, crossing my fingers, jumping up and down, exerting whatever mental energy I could to will the wifi signal stronger. My mental powers must’ve been lacking because one wifi signal bar wasn’t enough to download a page. If I held the Kindle up against the window and stood on one leg, I could get a strong enough signal to download a book.
There were options, of course. There’s always options. I could venture into the main house, among the babies and the eight year old boys and the chaos and the loudness and the running and the screaming.
Or I could try a week without the Internet.
Could I do it? Could I go a week without Twitter and Facebook and blogs and news and Netflix and all my bookmarked websites? Would I miss something? In January, I’d gotten rid of cable TV and hadn’t missed it. Could it be the same with the Internet?
A part of me wondered if it were possible.
Another part of me wondered what it would be like. When was the last time I’d been unplugged for any period of time? When my son had been born eight years ago? I think I might have had my computer with me then. How long had it been?
The idea intrigued me further since I’d read a number of articles and blogs (ironically) about people going unplugged on weekends or for Lent or for a month (see a recent Fast Company cover story). Each one of them wrote glowingly of the experience.
To be honest, I didn’t completely unplug, but I did go on a significant electronic diet. The iPad stayed in the backpack. Not that it was doing much good when I tried to use it. The MacBook only came out twice when I stole a few moments to work on a draft of my next book. As for the iPhone, I only carried with me when I went biking (in case of an accident, of which there was only one) or to the store (so family could call me with additional items to get while I was there). Otherwise, I left it on the kitchen counter and I only checked it in the morning and in the evening.
Yes, I actually went places without a phone. It was actually quite freeing.
As for the Kindle, there are limits to going unplugged, especially for a book reading junkie. Because of my need to read and my total conversion to ebooks, turning off the Kindle wasn’t an option. Everybody has their limits and that was mine. But without the other electronic distractions, I was able to read even more.
By the end of the week, I’d noticed a few things. Everywhere I turned- the pool, the beach, a nearby cafe, the store- I saw people locked into their electronic devices. In some places, I observed people more engaged electronically than with the person next to them. I can’t mock them, I’ve been that person. I’ve been to dinner with a couple of buddies, only to look up and see that each of us had our faces buried in our phones.
I’m not going to lie to you and say the food tasted better or the sky was more beautiful or I enjoyed more meaningful conversations. The food might’ve tasted better if someone other than me had been doing the cooking (although I enjoyed my cooking), we were near Rosemary Beach in Florida so the sky couldn’t get more beautiful, and I’m an introvert so there weren’t going to be many long conversations.
I was also reminded that I like being plugged in. I love everything an electronic device offers. One of the reasons we’re tethered to these devices is because they provide us with pleasure.
But I also learned to enjoy putting them away and to appreciate the day in front of me. I don’t need to know everything that’s going on and being written somewhere else. Besides, whatever’s happening eslewhere on the electronic screen will be there when I return.
PS- And if I’m listening to what others are saying, particularly strangers, I get to hear some great lines and stories, some of which might find their way into my writing. Without an electonic device, I had to write them down with actual pen and paper. Let’s hope I can read them when I need them. That part could be questionable.