Wednesday, April 8, 2015
In Other Words: Checking In and Checking Out
By Chuck Keller
I have rural property where there is no cell signal, no internet, and no television. I love it there. So I was flummoxed when a friend refused to visit because there was no cell signal. Really?
We have all seen this - people touching pockets to make sure that the cell is there, checking the phone to see if they missed something, placing phones on the restaurant table “just in case”, friends walking side by side carrying on texting conversations with others. Sidewalks, halls, offices, and restaurants are full of bowed heads checking in. We are never far from a screen - TV, laptop, tablet, or mobile. Well, you get the picture.
Brittany Lawrence, a recent Criminal Justice graduate from Eastern Kentucky University, told me that “My phone is a prime example because being a smart phone it has everything on it I need for my daily activities. My email, a calculator, a flashlight, Facebook, and the news of course.”
So what did she do when she walked away from her wires? “Reading novels I definitely missed. I read too much on my phone to even have the time to spend reading in my free time. That free time was spent on my phone. I'm always afraid of the question, ‘How much time a day do you spend on your phone?’” But without her device she said that she felt more “there”, “more attuned” to her surroundings. So the device meant to connect disconnected its user.
I am as wired to the world as the next person, but it wears me out sometimes. I have laptops, tablets, phones, and a smart TV. I am in touch via social media and texts with friends and family around the world. I can even diagnose the car from my phone. I mean, every molecule just vibrates with data. I am plugged in to the world - by choice.
So when we visit the other property, we are forced to cut all of the wireless wires because it is not financially viable for any company to offer wireless or even cable to so few people. But as it turns out, though, it’s lovely. We talk, walk, read, play games outside, explore the surrounding woods and water, and sit around the fire pit at night and look for satellites in the night sky. The irony does not escape us.
The problem comes with what we call “re-entry day.” I am just plain grouchy. And, like so many things in life, it took some time before I realized why. The answer appeared on screens bar by bar. I was reconnecting all of the wireless wires and I was reconnecting to all of the tugging. With each connection I became a servant to social media, texts, and e-mail. I finally understood what Thoreau meant when he wrote, “We do not ride the railroad, it rides upon us.” I found myself being the servant to the technology that should be serving me.
I read about how people detox themselves from sugar, gluten, fat, and other real and perceived dangers. And I get it. Purification is important. Now I am not giving up my electronics and I am just as guilty as the next person of falling victim to e-distractions, but I don’t mind being out of electronic touch either. Data is not life. Data is not wisdom. Life is so much more than a screen because if you are always checking in then you are not checking out what’s in front you.