Duncan garner_ no wi-fi, no worries _ stuff. co. nz
OPINION: The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
My thanks to the worried people who checked last week if I’d met my demise – I’m glad to say I’m not dead, but I have been to heaven and back recently.
So what sparked fears for my safety?
I disappeared from social media. For. A. Week.
No phone, no Twitter, no Facebook, no emails, no internet – no nothing. How did I cope, you might ask? I absolutely
bloody loved it.
I admit it wasn’t originally my choice. I took the wife and kids to Rarotonga for six days last week for a family wedding. My iPhone and a data plan experienced a conscious uncoupling and I found myself off the grid.
As I’ve written previously, I have one of those jobs where I struggle to switch off and put down my phone. It just about rules my life and we all know that’s not a good thing.
Much like kicking heroin, the first 24 hours of smartphone withdrawal are the toughest. It took every ounce of mental strength to leave it behind at the accommodation (a strangely tough decision even though it was useless to me).
I spent most of that day having mini panic attacks every time I checked my pocket and realised it wasn’t there.
Over the following days I had some lapses. I picked the phone up twice in six days and turned it on to see if it had some life in it.
Was there a text or email that had slipped through? Could I get Twitter? No.
But I’m proud to say I quickly adjusted to life without a smartphone. Otherwise known as … a life.
I could feel relaxation wash over me as I went for swims and just hung out with the kids. I really enjoyed this time with them. We talked, laughed, and had proper conversations, uninterrupted by some request, or some text, a pointless email or a meaningless tweet. I loved it. I think we used to call this phenomenon “quality time”. It was pure bliss.
I realised how mature these wonderful children have become. They’re young adults now. And as teens do, they brought their phones everywhere and took plenty of photos.
You can imagine their elation when we arrived somewhere that had free wi-fi and they jumped on Instagram to share their pics with friends back home.
But this is the world we live in now isn’t it? We crave instant gratification. We need constant online feedback and endorsement. It’s not enough to go on holiday or even out for a meal. Now we take photos of the food to share with our devoted followers. Does social media exist for us to follow what’s happening in the world – or for the world to follow us? Might need to Google that one.
Just look at the crowds at this week’s All Blacks victory parades. A sea of phones, unleashing a tsunami of selfies. This week Richie McCaw rocked the world not once but twice, by winning the World Cup and by joining Facebook.
Our world, and our place in it, has fundamentally changed.
I stopped tweeting for six days and people thought I had died (one wag was worried I’d been sacked, how very amusing).
So what happened when I returned from Raro and my phone chirped back to life? Just under 500 emails – only five of which told me something I actually needed to know.
Truth be told, I missed nothing. Now that I’m back on the grid and checking my device every few minutes I don’t feel better off.
But this is our world. At 10pm on Wednesday night this week we were back in our lounge, TV on in the background, she loading holidays photos on Facebook, me on Twitter. Back stuck again in a digital rut.
What did I learn during six days free from electronic civilisation? Try going off the grid, even for just a little while.
Maybe you can tweet this advice to friends. Or better still, try telling them face to face.