I spent the weekend at the Alabama Gulf Coast, our gorgeous "redneck Riviera." It was the first time I'd been there since the horrendous BP oil spill, and it has changed beyond recognition from the sleepy vacation destination it was in my childhood.
As I came back to work today, I thought a lot about the people pointed towards the beach with their (inevitable) iPhones in front of them, or squinting at their iPads, barely legible in the shade of their umbrellas while their children splashed in the hotel pool. So many people were altogether oblivious of their surroundings, and I was sad for them.
Over the past few months, I have deliberately pared back my use of digital tools in non-working hours. Over spring break, I did not even bother to get international data roaming, not contractual OR pay-as-you-go. The end result is that I'm happier and sleeping better. Sometimes, I do feel a pang over the weekend. Should I check my email? I've found that pretty much everything can wait until Monday morning, and that compulsion I feel to check in, for that affirmation of social media, is slowly being extinguished.
I love computers, I love networks, they are amazing and empowering, but they are not the end-all, be-all for the human condition. They might even occlude the human condition. I'm starting to feel like a broken record. Can't we check the devices sometimes? Might it make life a bit more civilized?
I personally haven't brought electronics to the beach since 1989, when some Estonian sand killed my then-top-of-the-line Sony Walkman. Looking back, I think that I should have been listening to my fellow exchange student friends, not Salt-n-Pepa.