By Sean McVeigh
This weekend I had an offline weekend. It was a family vacation, and we did not have any sort of rule about putting the phones away, but because of the nature of the vacation and the number of activities it involved, it just kind of happened.
I have not had one of these weekends in a long time. If I am being honest, probably not since before I had a smartphone. Most of my life, I have known the cell phone. (I just tried to look up when the first smartphones came out and Google had the audacity to tell me 1994. I would like to see this “smartphone” because I have a feeling it would not be smarter than a fifth grader.) The first iPhone was released in 2007. I would say I got my paws on one about a year and a half later and for the past 15 years, there has been one buzzing in my back pocket.
Something that always fascinates me is what it was like before that time. I really don’t remember it too well. I was a kid, so nothing was important enough for me to really remember how I got through a specific event without my phone. Something as simple as the drive up to this vacation seems like it would have been impossible without my little personal supercomputer. Turn by turn directions on a printed-out piece of paper to navigate the windy roads of middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania? Are you kidding? Hilariously, I cannot even fathom the paper map times. I guess when MapQuest—now the butt of many a travel joke—came out, it must have been a gift from the heavens. I miss turns when I have an omniscient computer lady talking me through the drive while simultaneously showing me a real-time GPS map of exactly where I am and need to go. Could you imagine if I had to use a paper map? Might as well use the stars. “Guys, that North Star looks like it’s heading right for JFK.”
Even during this “offline” time, we still shot the occasional group text out: “heading down to dinner in 5” or “thinking about going to the show at 8, who’s in?” How did people make plans before the cell phone? This doesn’t just go for a trip like mine. This is applicable to life as a whole! Sporting events are where it always comes to mind. OK, I am at Yankee Stadium, along with 60,000 other people, let’s go find my one other friend. We last spoke ten hours ago, so I am almost positive they are here. Maybe by the 9th inning I will find them. We can say hello, what a great game and then goodbye.
When I got into the car to head home, I had literally hundreds of emails. What an awful feeling. Technology has done so much good. Countless amounts of innovations that have made our lives so unbelievably easy and enjoyable. It is almost sickening in that regard. For every give, there is a take. And in this case, it is our always “online” life. Leaving work on Friday at 5 p.m. and not hearing or seeing work until Monday at 9 a.m. is no longer an option. I got a little taste of that this weekend, and it was incredible. I know I am not the first to say it, but I think we could all use a little break from “it all” more than we even think. So do me a favor: shut it down and go have a beer with some family and friends. Those hundred emails will still be there when you get back.