09 July 2011

The Glory of the Internet being down

Let's be honest, we all have an addiction.

I don't know what addictions you have, but I know that everyone reading this post shares an addiction.

We're addicted to technology.

I understand that technology is a part of the modern society. In fact, I know that it has changed society. I know that you're reading my thoughts right now using the very technology that I'm claiming we're all addicted to. Obviously, I'm using technology to write those thoughts out. In the past, I've even written about how technology is hurting students.

Today, I want to use some technology to talk about the glory of being without that technology, and since blogger is free, and I have some off time on my hands, I'm going to do what I want. If you don't want to read it, go ahead and close the tab, and send your brain back to your virtual world prison.

Oh, that's right, I just called the Interwebs your virtual prison. Think about it. What is the longest you've gone (not counting sleep) without checking your phone or something on the Internet in the last week? An hour? Yeah, if you're lucky. In the modern world, we've chained ourselves to our mobile devices.

However, as most of you know, I spend my summers working at a summer camp. We have a very strict no-technology rule for campers, and pretty strict restrictions for staff. We feel that there are massive benefits to this. To whit:

1. People actually have conversations, and learn to interact. Meals at camp are full of the sounds of conversation and laughter. There's no TV for us to stare at, no phone to check. It's amazing to watch children (and adults), learning to have a meal-time conversation.

2. People build real, strong relationships. Sure, you have 643 friends on facebook, but they're really just acquaintances. (to be fair, Zuckerberg never called it "friendbook". facebook is actually pretty accurate. You know the faces of the people on there, after all). When you take away the distractions, people learn about each other. They share experiences. They bond. That bonding is powerful. Unfortunately, more and more children are insulated from those kinds of experiences because of their addiction to technology.

This isn't to say that we have NO Internet at camp, in fact,  we use the Internet for running camp. Counselors on their time off have access to the Internet. I can get on during lunch and see what's happening in the world. Well, at least until last week.

Last week the Internet wasn't forbidden, it was down. Over the 4th of July holiday. For five entire days.

For me, at least, it was glorious.

Wait. What?

Yeah, I said glorious, and now I'm going to back it up with the why. I think one of the things that technology, and the Internet in specific, does is that it gives us access to so much information that we live in a condition of constantly knowing. We know the scores to obscure baseball games. We know what humorists on the Internet think about grammar. We know what dummies on the Internet think about spelling. All of this knowing has changed the way we think in general. We (or maybe it's just me, but I doubt it) live constantly trying to know what's coming.

This is especially true for me as I try to find gainful school-year employment. The Internet tells me when jobs open and if I got them or not (some openings, obviously no job yet.....). When the Internet went away, I no longer worried about those things. Instead, I could focus on the right now. By the second day of the Internet being down, I wasn't even thinking about the lack of Internet (though I know the people who use it more for their jobs certainly were)

By the third day, we were going down the hill to upload pictures for parents, but I was feeling freer than I've felt in a long time. I had a list on paper, I worked on those tasks. I solved problems using my brain. I didn't just look up the answer. I even took time to organize a shed.

I don't know that it made my life easier, but I certainly appreciated when the Internet went away. I didn't worry as much. I reached a kind of zen. What happened happened. It was, indeed, glorious.

Now, I'm no Luddite. Right now I'm listening to my iPod while typing on my laptop while connected to the Internet. However, I think that it's healthy for all of us to totally unplug once in a while. I'm tired of seeing status updates about how nice the weather is. If the weather is nice, leave your phone at home, and go out into nature and enjoy it. You're at work: I don't need to see that status. Be with your family. Spend time with your friends, without the Internet, texts, or calls interrupting.

I know it's going to be hard. Fighting addiction always is. And if you manage to free yourself, you'll still be living in a world full of temptations. You'll be a recovering alcoholic who lives in a bar. But nothing worth doing was ever easy. So, for a day, walk away.

Don't update your status. Don't answer (or even check) your texts or emails. Don't cruise twitter or facebook. Just live.

I bet you'll feel freer.

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