Vacations from Cyberspace
This past week we were away on a family vacation, which meant a week away from my computer. A whole week. What would that be like? It seems to me that the way we respond to periods of separation from our computers reveals something important about our relationship to our machines and our lives in cyberspace.
I remember in years past feeling a distinct separation anxiety while away on long trips. What was I missing in my online groups? What important emails were waiting for me? Things move fast in cyberspace, so even a few days absence could seem, in net time, like weeks or months. I remember devoting much time during car drives or airplane flights to ruminating about my online activities and relationships, composing emails in my head, formulating plans of action for when I returned to the net. When I bought a laptop, I'd sometimes bring it along, hoping that the hotels were wired. Or I'd hunt down an Internet cafe. Sometimes my concerns weren't just about keeping up with cyberspace happenings, but preventing problems - especially problems that could trigger a breakdown in communication. For example, would my email account fill up with spam, causing incoming mail, including important messages, to bounce?
At the very least, these kinds of ruminations reveal the prominent place cyberspace holds in our psyches. Separated from the net, we might feel separated from important parts of our identity, or from that sometimes soothing or exciting, and maybe even oceanic feeling of participating in something bigger than ourselves. Extreme responses might be a sign of what some call Internet addiction - a withdrawal reaction complete with anxiety, depression, and unrelenting cravings.
Curiously, during my family vacation this week, I felt very few of these things. I gave some thought to my online living, but mostly I felt refreshed to have a break from cyberspace. This was probably due, at least in part, to the fact that my machine was not especially nice to me last week. The problem with crashes that I mentioned in my previous post forced me to call Apple tech support and then reinstall the OS and all my third party programs. It took a whole day to get all my configurations back to "normal." And what caused the problem in the first place is still unknown.
My low net separation anxiety during this vacation might also be attributed to the fact that my attention was more focused on my new Canon slr camera. Sometimes we substitute one technological preoccupation with another.
My personal opinion is that it's a good idea to take time away from computers, cyberspace, and technology in general, including longer vacations as well as a routine weekly respite - a day of rest, a Sabbath for appreciating in-person living. There aren't many things in life that you should do every single day. It might not be a good thing to ALWAYS be connected. In Inherit the Wind, the Clarence Darrow character mentioned the "charm of distance." Important lessons can be learned in cycles of disconnecting and reconnecting.