Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.
I hid all those extra apps, and, for just a bit more than 48 hours, I avoided using the phone for anything more than phone calls and, when necessary, sending text messages.
What did I miss when I returned to Facebook and email? Not much. James Garner passed away. I didn’t get birthday wishes sent out to a couple of the people on my friends list. With an election just around the corner and early voting in full swing, there were also numerous “Vote for me” posts and the usual suspect posts offering new information about some conspiracy theory regarding our national government. I had about three dozen messages in my email, all offering me a great deal on this, that or the other.
In other words, all things that could wait a little while to be read.
What happened in the time I wasn’t glued to my little handheld computer, peeking into the lives of others?
Lots of things. Like, lots of rest. Lots of peace and quiet. Lots of laughter and lots of smiles. Lots of just enjoying being where I was right at that moment and making the best of it.
Was it easy? No. I had a few experiences that weekend that begged for a Facebook status update to share my frustrations. For example, I tried to buy a shirt at a local retail store which had been on display for several weeks. The computer said it was an unauthorized purchase. Thinking it had to be a mistake, I waited patiently while the cashier took the shirt, a white cotton button up camp shirt, to the manager on duty. Surely there was no need for ID to purchase a white cotton button-up shirt? The cashier said it may be that it had been put out too early, though I had looked at it and considered purchasing it no less than four times in the past six weeks, or it may have been recalled. I still don’t know what would lead to a recall of a white cotton button-up shirt. But, they wouldn’t sell me the shirt.
I was aghast. Surely the world of social media would support my indignation at this obvious example of customer mishandling!
But I refrained.
Then, immediately after that incident, my car refused to start — in the middle of a summer storm that was drenching the county. I was miles and miles from home and I had an appointment I had to get to staring me straight in the eye.
I popped the hood and fiddled with wires, as I had been told to do recently at an auto parts store should I experience this sort of non-start issue again. I did so. Nothing. I did it again. Nothing.
I called for help, and then I cranked the car again. It worked. It will likely work until after I have taken it to the mechanic. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
But then, I went to a friend’s son’s wedding. After that, I enjoyed a quiet afternoon at home listening to the rain and reading. I ran a few errands with the still running car and was then off to visit great friends I see far too infrequently.
All the digital tools at our disposal are great for staying connected with those friends and family flung far and wide, but many times, keeping up with the latest post on Facebook, the newest Tweet on Twitter, whatever, keeps us from enjoying the time we have with the friends and family sitting right before us.
We’ve all seen it. We’ve all probably done it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been enjoying dinner with friends and family and, when there is even the slightest lull in conversation, I’ll reach for the phone to see what’s up with all the people who aren’t with me at that moment.
Once upon a time, it would have been considered the height of rudeness to talk on the phone in the middle of a meal, but today we all regularly take calls right there in the middle of a restaurant, with our dinner party left to entertain themselves. We’ve had to pass laws on texting while driving because we just can’t seem to leave everything to it’s proper place and time.
After seeing how very little I missed in a weekend away from Facebook, and just how much more I gained in my offline world, I’m determined to do better. There is nothing on there that can’t wait to be seen and liked or shared until I have a few moments to myself. It doesn’t need to be done while I’m in the middle of a conversation with a friend. It can wait until after the family reunion. Everything will still be there after I’ve visited with my grandparents, walked my dog and enjoyed my dinner.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.