Saturday, June 26, 2010

Technology Break

A break from technology is good for the soul

By Arthur Glazer
POSTED June 25, 2010 11:32 p.m.

This column is usually written from home on my laptop. Most times there’s a TV on somewhere in the house; my cell phone is nearby and there is the ever-ringing land line. All of these potential distractions could keep me from writing.

This column’s first draft comes to you in longhand, written on a pad in front of a campfire from the woods north of Blood Mountain. I am here, camping with my daughter for a few days.

You surely realize that I enjoy technology as much as, if not more than, most everyone else. But on this occasion, I left my laptop at home, my phone in the car and have used electricity only to blow up my air mattress.

I’ve traded in my cell phone and computer for s’mores and a sleeping bag.

Why give up a perfectly good bed and all the conveniences of home, you ask? I believe that leaving technology behind every once in a while is healthy. As much as I like my computer and the Internet, a break is good and actually writing with a pen won’t kill me.

There are no emails, calls or text messages to reply to. There is no television or radio and the only sounds I hear are the wind in trees and the crackle of the fire. The only thing I have to connect with is nature, and it is a nice change. It’s like fasting; it’s good for your soul to give up what you like, at least temporarily. You may appreciate it that much more when you get back to it; at least I do.

Nothing is worse while in the woods when you are forced to endure the electronic noise of a fellow camper. I choose not have a TV, yet may still hear one from two sites down. Some folks just don’t understand camping etiquette.

I can’t understand why someone would go to the woods in a camper with a satellite dish strapped to a tree and a microwave bolted to the counter. Part of my enjoyment out there is being away from those devices. I especially enjoy making a fire and cooking with it and sitting by it.

iPods are great, but there are so many other things to listen to in the woods. You can always hear the Top Ten later. Give nature a chance for a change. Watching a stream or a waterfall and not hearing it is like walking through a flower bed without being able to smell it.

I used to know when the sun set, what phase the moon was in and the names and places of various constellations. I think technology helped to take that away from me.

Instead of trying to find Cassiopeia or Orion’s belt in the night sky while pondering The Big Bang Theory, I now tend to answer emails and send text messages while watching CBS’s Big Bang Theory on TV instead.

I used to listen to the wind and the birds, now all I hear is voice mail and my hard drive rebooting.

Sure, technology is great. Don’t get me wrong. I make a living using technology. I often stay up late researching various aspects of computing with my laptop. There is always a late night movie on TV, classic rock on the radio, catching up on Facebook and more that I couldn’t do without my techno-toys.

All I’m trying to say is taking a break is healthy. Your toys will be there after the break, for however long it may be.

Taking a vacation doesn’t have to be a trip to the Bahamas. Often all it takes is a change of your daily routine for a short while. That includes giving up your electronic devices. Like the old jingle went: “No phones, no lights, no motor cars; not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be.”

Do it in the woods, the beach or in your own back yard. Just try it without TV, email or texting. You will find other, more basic things to do.

Primitive can be fun. Go for a walk; gather firewood or your thoughts; take a swim or take a nap. There is so much you could do.

Live dangerously: take off your watch, turn off the phone, ditch the to-do lists, the schedules and write a letter to a friend – a real letter. Surely you’ve got a pen and paper somewhere underneath all those CDs and cables.

There will be plenty of time when you get back for catching up on voice and e-mail, responding to texts and for reformatting your hard drive.

Email your friends when you get back and tell them how nice it was being incommunicado – what a nice change it was. Or wait and see how they respond to your letter that the mailman delivered to them.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly.

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