During the last couple weeks we've packed in a lot of summertime fun, traveling to Oregon to visit family and going on a camping trip here in Washington. I love everything about being in the outdoors—the sound of pine trees rustling in a breeze, the shocking cold of a mountain stream, the way a hot dog tastes when it's cooked over a campfire—but I think maybe my favorite thing of all is when those descending bars in the upper left-hand corner of my phone dwindle from five to one and finally, that lovely message that tells me there is NO SERVICE.
No service means no email, no text messages, no Twitter. No link to any world but the one I'm physically in. God, it's wonderful—relaxing in a deep, soul-restoring kind of way I can't even really describe.
So, you may ask, understandably: Why don't you just turn off your phone more often? Duh.
Well, I can't seem to make myself. That's why.
I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous. But I work at a computer all day long, I use a computer in the evenings for personal and freelance tasks, I have a phone on me at all times when I'm away from the kids. When I'm not working I habitually glance at my phone or click to see my email, just a peek, to see what people are talking about and whether anyone needs something from me. It's not like I'm staring saucer-eyed at the laptop while my children languish nearby, moaning for attention; it's a touch of a button and I'm back, but I do it all the time.
I've conditioned myself to be electronically connected.
Sometimes I think this is a byproduct of living a fairly isolated life where I work and spend time with family, but other than that, I don't get much social interaction. I connect with people through blogging, talking on Twitter, and emailing, and those things give me a lot of pleasure. I need friendships, and this is what I can do to fulfill that need.
The virtual world is a big busy place, though. Trying to stay on top of it is a lot of work. And sometimes I think that the more we connect ourselves with devices and screens, the harder it becomes to slow down and be in the moment. Our attentions gets pulled this way and that, information is flying at us, it's all about sound bites and pithy jokes and we're on to the next thing, what's next, keep talking, keep reading, keep multitasking and juggling a thousand balls at once.
When my phone goes dead, part of me becomes more alive. I can utterly disengage from the breakneck speed of the Internet and be fully present in the world I live in.
So maybe what I need to do is institute a no-electronics time of day, where everything just gets turned off. No peeking at email while I load the dishwasher, or glancing at Twitter while I'm cooking dinner. No snapping cameraphone images while the kids are playing, no tapping on the IMDB app to see what movie we should watch later. No screens.
Do you do anything like that? Or am I the only one with Moderation Issues in all aspects of life, including, apparently, Internet consumption?