I was about to go home after staring at different screens—desktop, laptop, mobile phone, TV—for 12 straight hours today. Hours have been like this almost every workday for the past month, the cost—or prize?—of having spent blissful months without them, I reckoned.
I was, well, forced by circumstances to go offline during a discovery travel to Indochina in June. I turned off my phone when I realized I have P4,000 (US$92) new charges on my second day, no thanks to almost 40 mobile news a day that jacked up my roaming charges.
Three weeks of limited communication went by almost unnoticed as new cultures, different cuisine, history, sights and daily interaction with fellow travelers kept me entertained. New discoveries continued when I returned home, spending bonding moments with my father while shoe shopping in Liliw, or listening to a long lost friend as he reminisce the old over cups of coffee. Perhaps it was the joy of learning something new everyday from real people and places that I personally visited, a treat I could have not appreciated as much had I simply read about or watched them on “the screens.”
There were short “breaks” from my offline mode, but I limited status updates and turned off internet access on my phone so I could focus on the experiences around me, not on the virtual ones of others. I was conscious that my 3-month-long semi-vacation, which is rare, would come to a halt soon.
I think I was detoxifying from the fast pace and the “perpetual nowness” of the online media, which is my industry’s emerging platform and has dominated the last 3 years of my professional—and personal—life.
I haven’t questioned my ability to do 10 things at once as I’m not even the Zen-type (I have type A qualities), but the call of “now” from all the devices and the endless alerts had me thinking during a walk along the banks of the Nam Khan river in Luang Prabang if these had made me a better person or just a manic one.
But after almost 3,000 kilometer-long road trips, an almost finished major house renovation, hundreds of pages of book and magazine pages read, I was restless. No, perhaps I got bored. I had ticked off most of the items that stayed on my to-do list for a long time. I knew it was time to go back to the world of virtual but real.
I had enough of staring back at my old friends and relatives, who I saw very little of during that period, when they ask about my opinion on something. How could I spew out my usual ready opinion on current events when I was away from my Netvibes news aggregator page for days and days? It wasn’t fun missing birthday greetings on my Facebook wall, the important email messages, not to mention events that I have religiously followed through Googlecalendar and links posted on Facebook or Twitter. And it took me about a week to reduce my over 50,000 unread emails to a more manageable level.
The detox experiment seemed like a step backward from the usual pace, but I needed no less than a sprint to catch up.
As I was about to log off after another day of doing online news, I paused to reflect. Would I dare take a step back again? Would I still retreat from the “perpetual nowness” if I know there will be a list of urgent and important that awaits?
Occasions to recharge and do my own Eat-Pray-Love permutation, quench my soul and revitalize the spirit. That retreat made me less of an armchair critic and more connected with the world’s realities. A quintessential being, a friend noted.
I’ll do it again and again. Touch, after all, is more powerful than clicks.