How Long?

21 01 2012

Every year, many of my friends observe Lent. It’s six weeks of sacrifice and spiritual growth, with some folks giving up meat, others forgoing the booze. Whatever the sacrifice, the goal is to make it real by skipping something of personal importance. In other words, if it doesn’t hurt a little, it really isn’t much of a journey, is it?

I have a former student who for the last two Lenten seasons has eliminated social media from his “diet.” I know that it is difficult for him, because he is a social media expert. In other words, he lives on social media. To disappear for six weeks is huge. But I also know that his spiritual quest is made all the richer by his resolute abstinence.

Apart from spiritual journeys, others have sought to go an entire year forgoing something of great importance, or by doing something for a similar period. A.J. Jacobs wrote of The Year of Living Biblically, which must have been tough for a self-professed Jewish agnostic. Some of those Old Testament laws can get tricky. Others have sought to spend 365 days buying everything via e-commerce, or eliminating technology.

Which raises the question posed by USA Today: How long could you go unwired?

Heck, my former student has my undivided praise for six weeks of social media abstinence. Jacobs has my $25 (it sits right up there on my shelf). But self-imposed Ludditism (yeah, I made that up) for anything longer than Lent is just crazy. Sorry.

I have a one-word reply: Why?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know we all lived without this crap not too many years ago. We read newspapers. We talked to people on wired telephones. We wrote letters. And before that, as comedian Louis C.K. points out, we went cross-country on 30-year journeys in which the group that arrived was vastly different from the group that started.

If anything, all this technology from our oh-so-wonderfully wired worlds has made it possible for us to stay in touch with our peeps, and for companies to stay in touch with us. And you know what? I don’t wanna go back to Egypt (to pick a handy Old Testament story). I kinda like the techno-Promised Land.

I remember my first cell phone. It was one of clever “bag” phones that weighed about 7 pounds and had to be plugged in constantly in order to work. It was around 1997, and I used it while directing the bicycle Race Across America. In the span of 3000 miles, I racked up over $700 in calls. Cell phone service was a little more expensive back then.

Today, though, I am seldom if ever more than a few inches away from my iPhone4. My iPad is usually withing another two feet.

Even when I sleep.

And for those times when a mobile device just won’t cut it, my MacBok Pro is waiting quietly to be fired up.

So, to answer the rhetorical question, I probably could not go more than about a couple of hours being unwired. Sure, there are exceptions (like the 9 hours it took to fly to London last May). But we had no sooner hit the tarmac at Heathrow than I had lit my internet cigarette and checked in.

Addictions can be funny that way. Hell, I was five hours into the future. I needed to tell everyone back home that all was OK and they would at least make it to breakfast.

Sure, I can imagine a world in which I am unwired, but I do not like the picture. I rather like being wired (in a wireless kind of way, of course). I don’t want to go back to Egypt or the Land of the Luddites.

Furthermore, I like being in touch with everyone important to me…and that includes companies and media outlets. I don’t want to wait to read about it tomorrow. I want it now.

And if I ever get brave enough to try a six-week period of spiritual piety and abstinence, I know who to contact. But it’ll have to be on a land line.

Does anyone remember how those things work?

Dr “G—the G Is For Gigabyte” Gerlich



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