I recently spent 12 days unplugged. With nothing but vast wilderness, wild animals and 11 strangers. There was no internet access, no phone, no iPod, no road, and no way out, save a rendezvous point with a bushplane 300 kilometres downstream. Entertainment was exclusively low-fi: cribbage, fly fishing and outdoing each other with culinary prowess over the wood-fired grill.
And honestly? I didn’t miss any of it. I didn’t miss the incessant pinging of e-mail. I didn’t long for television, movies or music. I didn’t crave the instant gratification of the internet, nor the constant pestering of Facebook. I didn’t miss the inane twattering 140 characters can convey. I didn’t miss it at all. Not one single bit.
Now I’m no Luddite: I do embrace technology. I shudder at the thought of dealing with slide film and development costs again, trying to keep a little black book of phone numbers up to date, or searching for my favourite song on a cassette tape. But there is something to stepping away from it all.
Five years ago it was deemed unacceptable to answer a cell phone while on a chairlift. Now, if you believe everything that happens on MTV’s reality shows, it’s okay to text your ex-girlfriend while on a first date. The wonders of cyberspace have permeated our lives. The saying “everything in moderation” strikes me as sage advice, but is our intake of digital media moderate?
There are healthy and unhealthy influences in the modern world. And as I sit here, typing on my computer, feeling the radioactive warmth of its screen, watching the mail icon bouncing on the bottom of the monitor, I realize the irony of what I write. But getting away from it all, feels very healthy. Acknowledging that the digital world we create is, at times, meaningless, is an important reality check.
By the end of the trip we ran out of clean clothes, booze and very nearly, toilet paper. There was no way to keep going. But my mind achieved a focused clarity that it hasn’t since signing up for Hotmail 15 years ago. And I got to know 11 amazing new people. People I now call friends.
And honestly? I do miss them.