2 min read

A week without technology

Without the Internet to keep us plugged into the world how did we survive? Easily

Along the lane leading to the cottage where we spent a week’s vacation in July are lots of fireflies.

Walking the dogs down that lane at dusk, my partner and I started talking about how fireflies work. But we couldn’t answer the question in the usual way.

At home, a question like that would lead to one of us strolling into my office and popping up a Web browser to look for the answer.

At the cottage, though, we had no computer, no Internet access – not even a telephone other than my cellphone, which could sometimes get a signal if I stood near the door from the living room to the kitchen and held it vertically at about eye level with the aerial extended, provided the wind was blowing in the right direction and there wasn’t too much interference from the fireflies.

There’s nothing like a week away from the technology we depend on every day to help you realize what you miss – and what you don’t miss.

It shows you how dependent we’ve really become on the ‘Net. Even though we’re basically book people (our house holds a couple of thousand of these legacy information storage devices), when we’re looking for a piece of information we turn more often than not to the Web.

It shows you how dependent we are on the phone, whether mobile or otherwise. Even though I’d notified my various employers of my absence and left a voice message warning callers I was on vacation, it was still necessary to check messages in case of a family or home emergency. Doing so in an area with very sketchy cellphone coverage was sometimes a challenge.

The cottage wasn’t terribly low-tech. My childhood cottage experience involved a wood stove, an antiquated refrigerator and a radio that could pick up one station, so the presence of a microwave, stereo, TV and DVD player seems like pretty advanced roughing it to me. But I’d miss any of those things, except maybe the stereo, less than my connections to the outside world.

Then again, sitting down on the first day back to clear out the week’s accumulation of several dozen spam e-mails, the advantages of a week off the net were a little more obvious. And it’s not just the spam: that at least you simply throw away. For most of us, daily life is a seemingly endless series of things that need attention immediately. Resisting the supposed compulsion to be reachable any time, anywhere, offers a chance to stop being bombarded with quasi-urgency and focus, undistracted, on something a little less urgent and a little more significant.

Like books, of which I read more in one week than I’ll probably get through in the rest of the year put together. Not only that, but I remember books I read at the cottage better than those I squeeze in a few pages at a time.

Like spending time with your significant other. Like watching a dog who thinks he’s died and gone to heaven spend hours splashing around in the lake.

The test of a technology is that when you don’t have it, you miss it, and the Internet certainly passes that test. But sometimes, it’s a good idea to turn off the information highway onto a country lane, and watch the fireflies.