As you know, I just came back from holidays and had over 1,000 emails to sort through. We had booked a nice place by the sea, which advertised free wi fi on all premises. As you have gathered from this blog post –and from the impressive amount of emails that piled up- the wi fi stayed on for 2 days and then vanished into thin air. So, we were left for 5 days without any internet connection.
Electra managed to read 4 books and I finished 5. We went to the beach, took long walks, watched the stars (including shooting stars), swam every single day and drank cocktails in the evening. What do you know? Turns out people can live without internet for a few days and actually enjoy it.
For the last 3 months, our household has also survived without any public TV (some sort of problem with the TV antenna which we didn’t bother to fix), and we haven’t missed that either. We are really living a kind of Robinson Crusoe life, here!
As you may also have noticed by now, things happen in consecutive waves in my life. The universe just manages to provide me with answers to my questions; even those I haven’t asked yet. So, I ran into this fantastic article on QZ.com regarding how we (people born before 1985) are the last generation of people that know both the before and after of internet. If you belong to this age group –but even if you don’t- I suggest you read the article, as the thoughts and points the author makes are great.
So, we, the before-and-after-generation, know what it’s like to live without a mobile phone and how to find something in an actual physical encyclopedia (I can hear students crying in terror). At school and even at university, most of my papers had no Internet bibliography. In fact, I spent much of my first year of my PhD studies (1995) arguing with my supervisors about including online citations to my thesis. To this day, I remember how, in the late 90s I was still trying to convince a neighbor in Edinburgh to check Google as a search engine, rather than Yahoo which she used back then. She asked how I spell Google and promised to try it out.
Then, there’s social media. Obviously, I remember how life was without Facebook. I had no idea what my friends did or ate every single hour of their life, and that was fine. I clearly missed some very funny images of dogs and some silly ones of cats. I also missed some interesting thoughts from friends.
But also, it was harder to make friends so easily across the world. That’s not cool, especially for an author. Good luck promoting Pearseus or connecting with readers and other authors by snail mail!
And new friends I’ve made. One of the people I’ve met online this year told me yesterday that she’s getting a divorce. Both Electra and I were pretty upset, then it occurred to me that this is a person on the other side of the globe, whom I’ve never met in person. And yet, she means to me much more than people living down the street!
I recall how life was without Twitter, too: no funny tweets and no instant information about people or the world. I could probably live without some things, but I do rather enjoy my interaction with people!
The universe being what it is, this morning I told Electra that I was going through my Amazon wish list. I’ve bought around 100 books in 2014. But pretty few of them were on my wishlist, which consists largely of books too expensive to buy right now.
Because most of them are hard copies and paperbacks. All of them are priced above 10$ and a few, like a $174 Peeters & Schuiten comic, cost almost as much as I’ve spent in the whole of 2014 for books.
That’s when it hit me, and I told Electra how much of a revolution Kindle has made in the book industry. Rarely do I buy ebooks over $3, and this is thanks to the internet and Amazon in particular.
Going back to the QZ article, I particularly liked the following sentence: “One of the things that concern me about a media diet that is overly online, is that we lose the ability to decide for ourselves what we think about who we are.” We have become accustomed to getting instant gratification and approval for everything we do; we get ‘likes’ for things we upload on Facebook; we read comments about our blog posts (hint, hint!); we have people tweet back to us seconds after we post. If we get few likes or no comments, we start questioning ourselves: did I write it right? Was I not politically correct? Not funny enough? Wasn’t what I uploaded interesting? What did I do wrong? We expect people to immediately and positively react to us. It appears that we do not have the self-confidence to just be who we are (with the possible exception of my dear friend Jack, who makes a point of being outspoken). We require a social endorsement of our being.
The other thing that springs to mind is my previous article on how we never get bored any more. I was thinking about the comment many made, about the difference between getting bored and relaxing. Since we now have internet pretty much everywhere –including the IRS, as I found out today, when I wasted the entire day reciting Kafka in my head- we never get bored.
The moment we start getting bored, waiting for the train, waiting through the bus ride, waiting for something to get cooked- we just extend our hand and pick a tablet or a smartphone to keep us occupied. Did you notice the repetition of ‘waiting’ in the previous sentence? We don’t want to wait anymore! We fear that we are missing out on something important out there. Others are having more fun than us; we need to catch up with them! So, instead of lazily waiting, we flick through Facebook, check our emails or tweet something funny. I think that the great revolution of the internet is that we can never get bored, nor be alone. We have constant company and permanent entertainment, no matter where we are or who we are with. In fact, only too often we’re physically with someone, say having coffee or at a restaurant, while our mind is with another group of people altogether.
I am no Luddite; I love how things have turned up technologically. I take pleasure in the buzz around me and I participate in it. I just have to admit, that sometimes, not having wi-fi is a blessing in disguise. And it doesn’t mean the end is near. Just that it’s time to get bored.
Don’t forget that for a few more days, The Power of Six will be on sale. Read seven short sci-fi stories for only 99c!
This is some real food for thought. I’m a child of the Internet age, so when my mom talks about how she wrote reports for school without Google or the Internet, I almost can’t fathom it at all. Though the increase at the pace of life has brought lots of benefits, I also find it frustrating how it has also brought a wave of impatience among many age groups, not just those of my generation. A lot of times it seems like when people want something, they want it immediately, whether that be a response to a message they sent you or something they found while browsing Amazon. And I just think, it wouldn’t kill you to wait. I think most of us are probably guilty of this from time, myself included. Though it’s probably just a natural result of becoming accustomed to a world moving at such a fast speed, it’s still sometimes frustrating to encounter, especially when I find myself experiencing this impatience.
Regarding the constant company of the virtual world, I also dislike when I’m trying to talk to someone face to face, and they’re too busy checking their phone to pay attention to what I’m saying. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine, and I try to avoid doing this as much as I can.
And I also agree – not having Internet can be a definite blessing and can free you from the urge to unnecessarily check your email every second. Plus, no Internet = an excuse to read as much as I want, which is always a good thing 🙂
As someone who distinctly remembers a time before the Internet, I love hearing from someone who doesn’t. Thank you 🙂
I must admit in the last 6 months I’ve been more absent from the social media sites and emails. And to be honest, haven’t missed it much at all! Of course I do love to connect with the many wonderful friends I’ve met on Twitter and the conversations but I do love the freedom of not being trapped by the hours spent on these sites.
I will now go and read that article 😀
Whaaat?! You haven’t missed reading my posts? That’s cold, love… Just cold… 😀
;D I do miss reading your posts but got to pay the bills.
Sigh… Tell me about it… 🙂
I have some of my best ideas when I’m bored so I try to precipitate boredom regularly. 😉 No internet, these days, is weird… but kind of cool (for a short time).
Good for you! I’ll send my next post by carrier pigeon. 😀
Oh wait – I thought you said you have no internet. Oookay, back to the keyboard.
With the tbr list I have going, I don’t think I will ever have time to be bored again, lol. I can’t remember the last time I ever felt bored. I’m so busy trying to keep up with everything. Your few days without wifi were like a blessing. 🙂
Who knew?? 😀
Nicholas, I loved this post. Like you, I can remember when there was no internet. Without the internet, I would never have worked up the courage or the inspiration to write. Without the internet, I would have missed ‘meeting’ one of my dearest friends, a young woman who lives thousands of miles from me. Without the internet, I would not have been exposed to the ‘bigger picture,’ but would have continued to view things in a more provincial manner.
I sometimes find social media tiring and a bore. I can’t recall the last time I checked Facebook…perhaps three or four months ago, and that was a fleeting look-see at that. I’m interested in the lives of my friends – but not the minutia that makes up their hours and days. I tend to spend most of my online time in either writing, reading, occasionally tweeting, but most of all blogging.
One of the happy ‘accidents’ of the internet was meeting you, and gaining the opportunity of reading your interesting posts.
I use Facebook to both keep in touch, and share funnies. As for your entire first paragraph, well, it could have easily been written by me! 🙂
And thank you so much for the last one. I appreciate and reciprocate the feeling. 🙂
Fantastic post! I love my internet friends and all of my other friends. However, I don’t feel I need to constantly be in the “presence” of others. It is nice to unplug for awhile. A day without internet means I can get a lot of things done that I wouldn’t be doing while online. A nice walk or lunch with a friend or doing something as mundane as cleaning the house are all accomplished and enjoyed without the internet. I think my greatest issue is when I am out with someone and they are constantly checking their email or Facebook feed. However, all this being said, I couldn’t unplug indefinitely.
You’re right. Thank God for Meli; she reminds us in no uncertain terms when it’s time to take her for a walk, forcing us to unplug. Cooking is another great way to do so, which is why I frown at the efforts to connect fridges to the Internet.
I am 61 so well before the watershed! What I find interesting is that most of the technology today developed because of us oldies. We were the ones who complained about dial up modems, 8 tracks, brick telephones, copper cables, slow response times and unfriendly software. We began talking about our problems on forums and finding work arounds…etc. The developers wanted to please us the consumers and used those forums to build leaner, meaner versions. Social media is another forum – covers hundreds of different topics – including cutes cats – and I rarely ask a question these days on Twitter or Facebook without an answer from somewhere in the world within a hours if not minutes. Can I live without it – not sure I want to but because i knew the world beforehand I know how to survive without it.
In that case, a big thank you for helping develop today’s technology! 😀
My pleasure and I also was instrumental in the development of chocolate and margheritas…..
Damn, girl! You rock! On behalf of all us dessertarians, a big thank you! 😀
Excellent post and most observant. I love my iPad and its many apps. I spend far to much time spying on people via Facebook. I watch very little TV (but it entertained the family I helped raise) and was an Encyclopedia and National Geographic nerd growing up. I’m pretty sure I was born in the perfect era at age fifty three. I can’t imagine doing without any of this internet stuff for any prolonged period of time. We had some thoughts about retiring to some obscure country, but I think not. We’ve grown accustomed to too many conveniences.
I am both a dessertarian and a comfortarian (I love both desserts and comfort). As such, retiring to an unplugged country would probably drive me nuts! 😀
Great post! We should have a unplug day once a week to reboot our minds:)
I’ve started doing that. Sundays are my unplugged days now! 😀
Very interesting post. I am glad to be part of a group of folks who can see the advantages and disadvantages of technology. It makes choices to embrace or avoid the so-called benefits much easier. My youngest was born after 1985 so she is fully engaged in what is happening now. Thanks for this.
It should make the choice easier, but I find myself so used to it that I have to make a conscious – and hard – decision whenever I want to unplug. Huh, maybe it’s just me and Maria, though. 🙂
No, I think it normal. I get about two hundred e-mails a day and taking time off from the social network is very painful. Also, my duties as a Twitterist for RRBC makes it almost impossible. I remember spending time on the Baja peninsula in the 80s with no phone in the hotel and life was very peaceful.
I’m drooling just thinking of the Baja gig, but am grateful to you for all your RRBC support! 🙂
I’m a lot older than you are, Nicholas, and as a student and then as a librarian I was used to researching things in books. However, when I got my first computer in 2000, I took quickly to the internet. For example, I made a couple of sorties to the neighboring college library and found practically nothing useful about termites! On line I found everything I needed to know to write my giant termite culture. So I’m a convert. It’s not that I don’t still support libraries, but I see their future more as archives – stockpiling hard copies of knowledge to preserve against the day when the oil runs out and the power grid fails and we’re back to using beeswax candles and the landfills are overflowing with useless electronic devices. That day WILL come!
As for social media, I too have made more friends that way than I ever did as a rather unsociable younger person. However, sometimes Facebook itself is a great source of boredom, in spite of the fun cat videos!
The Internet is a great friend of us Introverts! 🙂
Great post as usual! No, I didn’t do that on my holidays. I found I got antsy. I think I’ve been hit by IAD (Internet Abuse Disorder). I don’t browse, but I do need to check my emails constantly. What if someone asks something of me, I’ve gone AWOL, and they think I’m ignoring them? Also, being plugged helps me stay focused. Some minds, like mine, with a tendency to go where they’re not supposed to, are helped to stay on track albeit through electronic stimuli. It’s better than drugs. So, yes, I’m so so grateful for this era, having had a full thirty years of feeling bored and thinking myself away… 😀
Sounds like you’re suffering from a mild case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), in Elle’s words! 😀
I remember the joys of long, handwritten letters in my mailbox. I remember being in the car and needing to talk to someone and having to wait until I got home so I could call them. I remember having car trouble or being lost and having to find a payphone to call for help. When my son was born in 1991, the only people who saw him right away were those who were there at the hospital. I remember in 1996, logging in to AOL via dial-up and starting the download of the next version of the AOL client, and then going to work and letting it download all day. I remember having to go to the actual bank to deposit my paycheck. I remember having to call the airlines in order to buy a plane ticket. I remember having to fill out a physical form and mail it in, in order to buy something from the Sears catalog. “Those were the days.”
Oh yes, so many memories… I was one of the first to log into BBS (a primitive form of chat) in Greece, back in the early 80s. I almost threw a party when I upgraded my modem to a brand new, 9600 bps one.
I might as well be reminiscing about having BBQ’d Pterodactyl wings for dinner outside our cave… 😀
As a 57 year old I definitely remember the before and after. I remember that I got my first computer and internet connection when my daughter went away to college in 1997. I have totally embraced the technology and just love it all. I think the internet has given us introverts an easier way of feeling connected without having to actually make conversation.
My friends are far and near – my dearest friends no longer live nearby so email was a huge boon to keeping a close relationship vibrant. And as a grandmother living 300 miles from my grandson, I can’t imagine what I would do without the “free” long distance we have on our cell phones now.
Thank you for writing this.
Hear, hear. And an excellent point on the introversion side of things. I appreciate the ability to control the pacing of my interactions – from the comfort of my chair, too. When I feel like connecting, I enjoy doing so, but when I feel the need to withdraw, I can do so without a fuss.
Unplugging is a like a vacation in itself. It’s such a relief. I make sure I unplug on Sundays, my day to be lazy and read. Without a break, my brain slides into a dead zone and since I don’t like zombies, I step away from the keyboard. 😀
A fabulous post. We need to be reminded every now and then, there is a life aside from being connected 24/7.
I’ve started doing that lately. I need at least one day off, and Sundays give me the perfect opportunity to do so.
It’s only when I switch the PC on on Monday that I realise the extent of my folly… 😀
Do they still make Encyclopedias? I haven’t seen one in years. I do remember when Internet citations on papers started up and it was like a peace treaty negotiation with the teacher. We had to agree to a certain amount of paper sources per Internet source. One teacher wanted those sites to double-check them in advance before we wrote the paper.
The social media thing is rather crazy in a way. I’m always perturbed by the lack of non-Internet communication though. I’ve stumbled onto discovering that friends are engaged, divorcing, pregnant, on vacation, in my area, and so many things due to Facebook. Yet no message to make sure I know. So I do forget that we may depend a little too much on it. Still, my closest friend is someone who lives in another state who I’ve never met. Guess I’m not one to talk.
I do the email check while ‘waiting’ a lot. Mostly to clear out the ones that I don’t want to deal with. I think that’s what drives me to my iPhone so often. It’s that sense that things are piling up and I have the power to make it manageable before I get home. Ever wonder what would happen if something happened to make all Smartphones stop working? Not the Internet turning off, but people losing that portable connection. Think we’d have a society that never leaves their houses.
I’m not big on smartphones. I find the connection too slow, the screen too small and the typing excruciating. I do check my FB page when bored and on the road, but since I work from home, I’m already part of the society that never leaves its house! 😀
My old phone died and I didn’t really have a choice, but to get a Smartphone. I admit that it helps with cleaning out email, checking for information I need in a pinch, and doing a few small things when I’m not at a laptop. Mostly it lets me keep talking to FB friends and handling WP comments while the son has me sitting outside.
Electra once had me wait outside a shop for 45′ while she “popped in to have a quick look”. I so wish I had a smartphone back then… 😀
Comes in handy if the wife convinces me to go shopping with her. Though she knows that I have the car keys, so she can’t waste too much time and money. 🙂
Speak softly and hang on to the keys, huh? 😀
Or just wander off to another store or the food court if it’s in the mall. Thankfully there’s always somewhere I can disappear to and make her waste as much time searching for me that I spent waiting for her.
Oh man, that is just so mean! *whispers* I love it!
The typing really is annoying. I’m also going ‘I hit O! Not I’. Autocorrect is a pain too.
I can’t wait for speech recognition to become the norm!
Not sure how well that would work for fantasy authors. I got to use one in college and the poor thing didn’t stand a chance.
Thanks for your thought provoking post. The first time someone described it to me as FOMO I did a double take. He meant fear of missing out, fear that if I didn’t do something, go somewhere I was invited or participate in an activity something more exciting would happen and I would miss it.
He was so right! There is always the possibility of something else better, more exciting, more relaxing, more, well, something. The revelation for me was that it’s okay. I like the quiet, I like the silence and sometimes missing out is perfect.
I can’t imagine you as a FOMO… Meditating, exercising, healthy eating; surely all that grounds a person! 🙂
People with jobs that require phone/net connectivity are very aware of the benefits of a bit of downtime. A sysadmin I know purposefully moved to a place that had no mobile phone reception to avoid early-morning ‘emergency’ calls, and that was a decade ago!
Me, I have a secret place I like to visit for a few days now and then — it has no phone reception, no wi-fi, and only very limited solar power, so you may only get a few hours of electricity in winter, less if you plug in a laptop. It’s a great excuse when co-workers ‘forget’ to respect your holiday time. You get some connectivity on the beach, but it’s patchy and you don’t want to be there during a storm (and there are many of those).
Hi and welcome! Fancy meeting you here! 🙂
“A sysadmin I know,” huh? Is this like, “Hi doctor, I have a friend who has this rash on his… you know… What should he take for that?” 😀
Pause for thought! Yes, my boys react with horror and amazement when Conor and I talk of ‘time before computers, video games and mobile phones’… it seems so far-fetched and unreal to them, because these technologies are so much a part of their daily life.
The times you mention of waiting were always times when I would pick up a book pre phones and tablets, and so would many people I know, so I dont think we can blame technology completely for our inability to wait patiently without the need for entertainment.
I do think its wonderful that ereaders and ereader phone apps have made books so cheap and therefore so accessible to the masses. When I was a youngster we didnt have much money for buying books. I had to rely on my local library, which for an avid reader, was quite frustrating, the choice was so limited.
My 12 yr old son was recently devouring a particular series of books but just could not get his hands on book9, he even scoured 2nd hand book shops but no, he couldnt get it. So we downloaded it to his phone, his first ebook, it was such a revelation for him! My 10 year old is currently reading my first book, paperback version… one happy mama!!!
I love the thought of my kids reading my books (have to have kids first, though)!
A time before computers, huh? I hope you’ve explained this was because there was no electricity in the cave, what with all the dinosaurs roaming around, knocking down the power lines all the time… Thank goodness for my trusty wooden club, which I used to drag Electra into my cave!
You can imagine how I felt at age 65 when I attempted to use my first computer. My two sons are geeks who earn a living in the “world of clicks”. By phone they made various attempts to teach me “how to’s”. Fifteen years later, I not only write my short stories on the computer, but have a website, teach the over-65 crowd Creative Writing, facilitate a writers group. I & my husband are converts to the Kindle and cellphones. This year I bought a “smart” phone that truly was smarter than me! I refuse to “go softly into that dark night”.
Sounds like you’ve got everything under control! Well done! 😀
The internet never really took off until after I had died… So I sort of associate it with being dead.. Which is funny really. I can’t imagine the difference it would have made in my life. I suppose I’m glad I never had it, or I wouldn’t have had the life I had.
Oh Auntie, you’ve missed so many funny cat videos…
Thank you for this fantastic post, and glad to hear you had such a lovely holiday without technology!:)
I was born in 1946 and so am definitely of the group who have lived with and without, and am very pleased that’s the case.
I love the internet…and have written a blog and been an avid user of social media for seven years. Through cyber space I have met so many wonderful people from across the world and quite a few in person.
However, I am also able to live free of all the techie trappings. When I go away to paint or give a workshop, I always take a break from it all…..which is wonderful. Of course this only makes coming back to the now ‘real’ world that much more pleasurable.
It sounds like an ideal balance. Perhaps I can reach a similar one some day. You could sure teach me a thing or two about it! 🙂
You write really well-reasoned posts and it was great to hear your experiences without internet! I’m a little spooked at what’s going to happen now that we’re getting rid of textbooks in schools and pulling out ipads. I only just got a phone in the last year. Oh, I mean a ‘real’ phone that has the internet and touching and things. I never thought I needed one, only got it for work purposes, and then about three months later I had a moment. I just… had to… put the phone… down. I really had to force myself to stop, take a breather, and wait a full seven minutes for that train to come. It was scarily liberating. I was so surprised it had taken me so little time to get addicted to this thing that’s always with me. Now I manage it all in a very adult manner, but that kind of freaked me out. The internet changes people.
Thank you! 🙂
Seven minutes doing nothing?? You are some kind of superhero, aren’t you??
Excellent Blog today! Continue taking holidays : )
Believe me, I’m trying!!! 😀
Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂