Going off-grid – a necessity or a self-imposed exile?

Vacation time approaches.

This year, I’ve made the decision not to take the various items of personal computing technology that I normally use multiple times every day. No iPad, no MacBook Air, no movie library, ebooks, digital magazines, Ara subscription, Seinfeld episodes…* and my phone will be switched off except when I call my parents on my birthday. Real books? Yes. MP3 player? Yes. But that’s it. The aim is to achieve about 3 weeks of non-connectivity, what some people call going off-grid. Why? Because I spend so much time every day looking at and interacting with a screen of some sort that I really feel like it’ll benefit me to go all early 90s on my brain for a while.

Part of me feels a definite need for disconnection: sometimes I’m not sure I can take another day of reading asinine comments on Cif about how if the Spanish had worked a little harder, they wouldn’t be in crisis currently. I lack the self-discipline to disconnect on ordinary days and I do feel that I should take advantage of the time away to just not worry about that stuff so much.

But is that true or am I just imposing a sort of analog fast on myself for no reason other than I think it makes me feel clever? And would that be such a bad thing anyway? And wouldn’t I probably do my body and brain more good by simply giving up wine for three weeks (which isn’t going to happen… not on vaycay anyhow)?

Mention disconnecting for a few days at work and generally you get a knowing “Oh that sounds so amazing we really do spend all our time in front of computers, right?” sort of response. But one of my colleagues, tech blogger Elena, simply shrugged and asked me why? Why bother?

I read an essay (or rather, book review) a few months back that talked about the way our brains are physically changing thanks to the internet. That’s not as grave a thing as it sounds: our brains physically change thanks to all sorts of stimuli and systems we subject them to. But given that we, you and I, represent probably the last generations for a long time who’ll have spent at least some time growing up without ubiquitous computers, I think it’s interesting that I can even consider see-sawing back into my early internet-free headspace. I guess my little sisters wouldn’t understand the point. Elena doesn’t, so clearly her brain is younger and more advanced than mine. But I do feel there’s something to be said for at least experimenting in changing one’s habits from time to time. I think I’m the kind of person who can only do so radically.

I’m no luddite. I adore technology and my career is based on understanding, using and thinking about it all the time. So I don’t agree with Jonathan Franzen when he says that Twitter is stupid. I like Jonathan Franzen’s writing… and I do think that great writers have an important secondary role as geist critics. But I also love Twitter and blogs and the internet. That said, perhaps I actually am just a secret traditionalist trapped in the body of an information technologist? Perhaps when I warn colleagues not to get too nostalgic, I’m less worried about them confusing our readers and more worried that I’ll slip up and start writing about how great the old days were. Maybe I secretly yearn for a world without the internet? Maybe I really just think that I’m being way cleverer than you?

Is going off-grid then a sort of cultish fast that I’m just telling myself I should go through? Will it really benefit me to revert to pen and paper for the notes I’ll have to write, and just hard copies for the research I plan to start while in Menorca? Is self-imposed exile necessarily such a bad thing? You see, I already have too many questions to try and answer, and the internet won’t help with that.

I’m going to give it a try. If anything, maybe going off-grid for three weeks will help me focus and remember how to write in a way that doesn’t produce a jumbled mess like this blog post.

The apartment we’ve rented has a TV, anyway.


*Burglars: I will be depositing all said computer equipment in a safe place. So don’t even think about it.

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