RECONNECT BY DISCONNECTING

no internet no cel lori welbourne jim huntCamping at the beautiful Mabel Lake Provincial Park in B.C. came at a price last week: I had to function without the Internet for the first time in several years.

I tried to resist this from happening. I went to Telus Mobility a couple days prior to leaving for my trip to buy more data with a plan to hotspot from my phone to my laptop once there. Unfortunately since the campground was located so far off the grid and had no cellular service, there would be no way of getting a Wi-Fi connection.

A week without it might not have bothered me if I didn’t have my “Stolen and Missing Dogs of the Okanagan” Facebook page that I update throughout each day. Luckily my friend Gina, who manages the “Okanagan Lost and Found Pets” on Facebook said she’d take care of my page while I was gone, which solved my problem.

As I drove the two and a half hours to Mabel Lake I surprisingly started looking forward to the forced disconnect. No emails to check, Facebook updates to review, or messages to respond to – it would be my life as I used to know it.

But even en route, as I began to relish this reprieve, I found myself pulling over a few times to see what I was missing online. This confirmed to me that the constant cyber connection I’ve grown accustomed to over the years is probably more of an addiction than I realized.

About half an hour away from the campground I noticed the cellular service was severed, and for the rest of the drive I felt like I was entering into another universe. When I arrived at my destination it appeared that way as well.

My husband and friends had come up a couple days earlier and none of them were on their phones unless they were choosing a song to broadcast for everyone’s listening pleasure. Instead they were playing games, riding bikes, participating in water sports, painting rocks, relaxing on the beach or sitting around a campfire.

I’m not a big fan of camping, but I can’t deny that I liked what I observed. What parent doesn’t appreciate seeing their kids laughing, playing and communicating with those around them rather than focused on their electronics? And what child doesn’t enjoy seeing their parents involved in such healthy interactions as well?

By the end of the week I felt more connected to my family and friends as well as with myself. Without the constant distractions of the Internet I felt de-stressed, slowed down and suddenly with ample time to read, write and do nothing. I also caught up on some much needed rest, and didn’t miss falling asleep or waking up to the newsfeed from my phone.

I easily survived a week without the outside world and it easily survived without me.

My family and friends have another camping trip planned before school starts, but this time there will be Internet and cellular service where we’re going. Will we be sitting around the campfire and on the beach reading our phones instead of talking to each other? Unless we agree to keep them turned off and only connect for designated time periods each day, I imagine we’ll revert to old habits.

Some of us might find a voluntary disconnect more challenging than others. People with a large social circle and a strong interest in news, pop culture, sports or work can sometimes feel more addicted to their phones. From my own recent experience I found it liberating to turn the outside world off temporarily, and I plan to incorporate more of that into my daily routine.

Before the Mabel Lake camping trip I can’t remember the last time I was without the Internet for more than a few waking hours. As someone who’s easily distracted, I’m now looking forward to seeing how much more I can accomplish by only allowing myself to access it at certain times during the day. I’m also expecting to reap some of the other benefits I enjoyed during my week in the boonies.

I wouldn’t want to give up cyberspace completely though. For all it’s negatives it’s outweighed by its positives and I feel fortunate to live in a time when I can communicate with people from all over the world, have information readily available at my fingertips and possess the ability to express myself publicly whenever I wish.

Like most things, the Internet has its pros and cons and using it with moderation and discretion can curb its harmful effects. It’s up to us to monitor our usage and put ourselves on a digital diet when needed.