Apologies for the radio silence – I’ve been on vacation. This time, I actually tried to stay away from the internet while away. My online withdrawal period actually went though several distinct psychological stages. (And yes, I know such stages don’t actually exist.) At first, I experienced a weird, existential anxiety – what if the world was about to end, or some cataclysm just occurred, and I didn’t know about it? Shouldn’t I peek at the Drudge? Then came acceptance: I was merely vacationing in the world circa 2002, before smartphones and twitter and online news alerts. I made it through 2002, didn’t I? Finally, there was euphoria, the sweet release of not being tethered to a virtual universe of email, political blogs and google. Alas, no sooner had I achieved a Thoreau-style acceptance of life in the wilderness then my vacation was over. And so here I am.
Needless to say, there is something very ironic about the way we’ve come to define “disconnected”. For the first few days of my vacation, I felt “disconnected” from the world, solely because I wasn’t checking my inbox every five minutes. But this connection is entirely virtual! What we’ve forgotten is that being “connected” to the online universe comes with a cost: we’re actually more disconnected from the actual world. We’re not noticing our surroundings because we’re busy tapping out a text, or worrying about that unanswered email, or fretting over the latest Ohio poll numbers. We’re “connected,” but connected to what?