In my previous life, I was well-connected. From morning til night, I found myself in front of a computer for nearly every instant that I was not working or sleeping. Actually, even sleep did not always dissuade me as I’d often pull my laptop next to my bed in case someone would message me in the middle of the night. (I did have friends in Australia, Europe and on the West coast after all!) I would get up in the morning and the first thing I did was sign in. I would get home from work – sign in. I had even set up my apartment so that while seated at my computer, I could watch TV. My life consisted of being online. I had become an extension of the internet.
It was during these years (the majority of my 20’s really) that I “disconnected” from the real world and connected electronically. All of my friends were chat buddies. I would spend countless hours in chat rooms, or just messaging my friends. I’d communally watch TV with people, chatting about the show during commercials. (How many “OMG can you believe that?!” conversations about Lost did we have Nat?)
LOCKE: Why don’t you want to go down there, Jack?
I’ve found myself, over the past couple of years, going in the opposite direction. By becoming more “disconnected” from the online world, I am becoming more connected in the real world. I still have my online presence, but it is severely limited. Even my net-surfing is almost nonexistent. There are 5-6 sites that I check once per day for various reasons (Facebook, email, local newspaper, wrestling news, t-shirts). I’ve realized on a few instances that I hadn’t even been in to check my email in over 24 hours, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. As another example, I started writing this post 2 days ago during my lunch hour at the office. I just needed to sign it from home, reread and add a couple of pictures. I didn’t touch the computer last night and had to force myself to finish this post tonight.
I’m wondering if this is something that is occurring due to my own life journey, or if it’s something we’re seeing more with my generation? For those of you in your mid/late 30’s, do you see yourself having a smaller online presence? Maybe it’s part of the fact that we’re growing up. We’re in the age of having children, families, real world priorities. Even in a world with constant contact via smart phones, I’m finding myself online less and less. I’m even too cheap to pay for a data plan, so only use WIFI on my phone. I just don’t see the necessity or value of having an internet connection at all times.
On our previous trips to Disney World, the one thing that my darling wife and I have loved nearly more than anything else was our disconnected rule. From the time we arrived at the resort until we were on route back home, we did not go online (in actuality, we would turn off our cell phones all but for 5-10 minutes a day in case there were any urgent messages from family, which there never were). We did not watch the news (or TV really, apart from Disney programming). We did not look at newspapers. We would completely disconnect from the rest of the world and live in the present moment – enjoying the magic and splendor that is Disney World.
On our last visit this past summer, things changed. Disney has now moved to an online-driven account to book your reservations for restaurants and Fast Pass bookings for rides. Their app would provide real-time wait times for the various attractions around the parks. WIFI is available in all resort hotels and in the four Disney parks. We caved. We both brought our phones with us the entire time we were there. While we did agree that we would not really “go online” other than the My Disney Experience app, both of us did. While the trip was still amazingly fun, I did have a sense of sadness over the fact that we weren’t able to fully disconnect the way we usually do.
Next week, I’ll be heading to a silent retreat for most of the week. No computers, no cell phones, no radios, no iPods, no books. I am very much looking forward for this chance to disconnect once more. Disconnect from the world in order to connect with myself; in order to connect with the universe. I can’t wait for the experience. While some people are uncomfortable with this type of activity, I’m very much okay with it. I like the introspection. As a call-back to the quote above, this Jack isn’t afraid to go down there.
So what do you think, dear readers? Do you think you could do it? Could you cut off any and all communication and connection for a few days and just be with yourself?