Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Huh. She's Not Dead Afterall.

It's been a good summer and it was nice to be a little less plugged in than usual. Which brings me to my point.

I don't keep Miss Vickie's Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar chips in my house because they would last no time at all. They would whisper to me from the cupboard and my plans to have a small bowlful would result in frenzied gobbling and licking of the bag. I know that about myself. It isn't pretty, but it's true. My self control takes place in the store; if the chips get past that line, there is little defense remaining.

Likewise, the matter of being digitally connected. When I go on holidays, part of the joy of the vacation is being disconnected from any electronic existence. Being freed up to live in the moment, rather than keeping track of the world and my world. When we were in Ithaca this summer, we missed two big news stories: the US senator/congressman who said that rape never caused pregnancy, and some celebrity hookup or breakup I've already forgotten.

I also have regularly maintained a different kind of disconnect: while I use a laptop that is perpetually connected to the Internet, I have the cheapest, oldest cell phone with a pay and talk plan and no real data plan that I know of. In other words, I don't text and I can't check the Internet while I'm walking my dog, getting groceries, sitting at soccer games, having dinner with friends, etc. (I may not be dead after a two month hiatus, but I certainly am a dinosaur, no?)

I do rush home from any and all events and -- before I even use the facilities -- I run to check what I might have missed in the ether. But my point is that, like my lack of resistance to chips in my house, I am firmly convinced that I would never again make eye contact, notice birds and sunsets and telephone poles were I to give in and buy myself a smartphone. I would be texting with the best of them and frankly with all of them, all the time.

But, I have a nonagenarian in my life who has decided that the fax machine is the Last Communication Technology She is Willing to Learn. Although she has been given an iPad and has wireless access in her home, she has declined to adopt any more technology, even though she forfeits the chance to see most photos of her great grandbabies as a result. And I'm scared of being like that. Our fax machine broke a few years ago and we never replaced it. There may well come a point when the only option is a smartphone and what will I do then?

Unlike my elderly friend, I am not being a Luddite about this. I get the convenience, the opportunity to text with my kids, the apps, everything. But I'm actually trying to protect myself from myself. You can say all you like about quiet hours, but seriously, I'll eat those chips until the skin is hanging off my tongue and my ankles are swollen to bursting. (I exaggerate only slightly. And really, do you know how dangerous it is for me to even write about chips?)

Once in a while, I use my husband's smartphone simply to keep up with the cool kids, to make sure I'm not left behind altogether on the information highway. But I'm wondering about how to stay being a person who is connected and yet who wants to wander -- literally, not metaphorically -- keeping my eyes open on the very real world around me, rather than glued to a small, blinking screen.

How about you? How do you work this one out?

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