Georgina Guedes

You just can’t get away from it all

2013-12-30 12:51

Georgina Guedes

While I was on holiday in the South Coast, I had one or two deadlines that I had to meet. We took along a laptop, used my phone to set up a wireless hotspot, and I did the work I needed to do with no greater inconvenience than slight frustration with the erratic download speeds (which is no different from when I’m at home, really).

Clients who needed some last-minute editing done contacted me on e-mail, and I was able to respond to them right away. I caught up with what all my friends and families were doing with their holidays on Facebook. And I kept abreast of news and trends by logging into Twitter and my favourite local and international news sites.

But, rather than feeling in touch and connected and entertained by all of this, I felt a weary kind of claustrophobia. There really is no getting away from it all anymore, is there?

The world over

When I was travelling around the world, I can remember arriving in some pretty remote places – the middle of the Bolivian Amazon, an island in the Mekong River, a village high in the Philippine mountains, accessible only by climbing through seemingly endless green rice paddies – and in each of those locations, either internet access, ATMs or satellite television were arriving along with me for the first time.

Of course, we did see places with no mod-cons at all – not even electricity – but almost every time that we expected to be out of e-mail contact, we’d arrive in a town to find that its first internet cafe had recently been installed. On one occasion, we alighted from our bus with a backpack full of dollars just as the first ATM was being rolled into position.

It’s wonderful that the world is becoming connected and smaller. The benefits to each small community of being able to comprehend the wider world are so important that the United Nations has declared internet access a basic human right.

Of course, things are lost in the process. Hill tribe children now watch television rather than climb trees and poke crabs with sticks, world travellers never really have that sense of awe-inspiring distance from home, and freelancers like me find their holidays interrupted with queries from clients, and deadlines not quite completed by closing time.

The compulsion of connectivity

The solution is simply to switch off. We should all have a “holiday Nokia” – that old phone that we keep in the back of our office drawer that can just about handle a text message – that we take on holiday with us and check for emergency messages once a day.

But what about the security company? The house sitter? The pets? My mother? My mother-in-law? My clients?

What about the news? Social media? The YouTube clips? The videos watched on a laptop by my kids on a climb-the-way rainy day at the coast? WHAT ABOUT MY KINDLE?

Unfortunately, the more we live with it, the more we can’t live without it. I made an effort to disconnect this holiday. My phone helped by developing a glitch that meant I had to leave it permanently charging (because, you know, it was unacceptable for it to be off).

While I can’t get away from it all, I am entering 2014 with a determination to put the technology aside a little bit more. It’s now an inalienable part of my job, my socialising and my entertainment, and I accept that. But I will be trying a little harder to remember that it doesn’t have to be a part of everything, all the time, and to appreciate the disconnected world a little more.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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