If I ever need reminders about how much my life has changed over the course of the last 20 years, my last vacation to Cancun clears things up. First, 20 years ago I could not have afforded the trip (hooray for being more financially stable). Second, if the 22 year old Ryan had taken the trip, the fact he was unplugged from most of what was going on in the world would have been normal.
Both Sheryl and I wanted to really be on vacation. This meant we did not pay for international connections for our phones, didn’t bring a laptop, decided we wanted to be away from the distractions of our daily existence. Obviously, this was more meaningful for Sheryl as she is the one with a career and responsibilities far beyond the home. Not checking her email was very difficult for her, and I am a social media fiend. Being offline for even five days was an act of will.
Of course, being unplugged in a place like Cancun isn’t saying much. There are people everywhere and if news needs to be shared, it gets shared, but I was completely unaware of most of what was going on at home. It is interesting to realize how much I have come to rely on access to information, being accessible at all times, everywhere.
The last time I was completely unplugged was the summer of 2011, when my family spent 5 days at a shared family cabin. We had limited electrical power, but no media connection at all. The first two days were painful as I tried to remember how I lived, what I did before I had all these things to distract or entertain me. By sundown on the second day, I put my phone away to stay in my bag along with the iPod. The silence was wonderful. If not for always feeling completely filthy (reason number 2 why I don’t camp much) I would have been content.
That said, I was giddy driving down the canyon and my devices came back to life.
I don’t think that always being connected is necessarily a negative thing. One thing being unplugged teaches me-I love the world I live in with the conveniences and instant availability of information.
School is completely different then it was for me. I graduated from college in 2000 and even then, few of us used laptops in class and while the internet was very useful, most of us used books and magazines when we wrote papers. My kids will most likely never spend hours at a library, flipping through text after text, trying to find the right article, right sentence to use in their paper. Their experience will be completely different, with different challenges. They will never know how difficult research can be, but they can learn more in less time. The possibilities are endless.
The internet is a fascinating place and sure, you can become addicted and distracted to the point you shut down from real world connections, but there is no reason one has to follow the other. I have mentioned before that just because I enjoy time on social networks, it does not mean I do not interact with friends or family offline. I find that readily available means of communication have made my life much simpler. Any drawbacks I am willing to accept and work with. Sometimes, I imagine how many high school or early college arguments could have been ended in a minute with access to a smart phone and an data plan (if it is on the net, it’s true, right?). So much wasted breath!
Finding a balance is key. If I start to feel tied down to devices, I leave them behind for a bit. It may seem silly, but I don’t take my phone at the gym. I take it walking, but only in case of an emergency phone call. Those tiny breaks can go a long way in resetting your life.