Getting Off the Grid

Posted on Truth Dig, by David Sirota, June 25, 2009.

As you read this, I am somewhere in rural China, probably disoriented, perhaps eating a fish eye, and certainly not paying attention to the news. This column was the last thing I wrote before embarking on what’s become an all-too-rare experiment in human life: I decided to see what will happen when I go fully off the grid.

Because I am completely cut off, you cannot call or text me from your phone; you cannot IM, Friend or Tweet me from your computer; and you cannot message me via my avatar on Xbox Live. You cannot even e-mail me or leave me a voice mail—my mailboxes tell you that all messages are being deleted, and that you will have to recontact me when I’m back. (Legend has it that Napoleon waited until he received two letters to respond to requests, figuring that most problems become moot in the interim—I guess I’ll find out if he is right). 

The prospect of going technologically cold turkey was daunting for me, one of millions of information junkies now hooked on connectivity. I vaguely recall a life without cell phones and computers (well, other than Nintendo), but my addiction has clouded that memory in sepia tones, making it seem a century ago. And so as I prepared for my current plunge into information deprivation, I felt like I was readying for a journey in a time-traveling DeLorean …

… Though we don’t talk about it much, it’s obvious that this rewiring of expectations will inevitably come with consequences for, among other things, families, interpersonal relationships, psychological stability and work. It becomes difficult to conduct face-to-face interpersonal relationships while Twittering, hard to find inner calm with a perpetually buzzing cell phone, and nearly impossible to be productive at a job when bombarded by e-mails all day.

That’s probably only the half of it, too—nobody really knows the full ramifications of hyperconnectivity. Either way, I hope my Chinese experiment gives me some deeper insight into the phenomenon, just as I hope the fish eye I’m probably slurping down right now tastes good. I’ll certainly let you know via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. But not until I get back on the grid in a few weeks.

And (as I keep having to remind myself) that delay is actually OK. (full text).

(David Sirota is the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover” (2006) and “The Uprising” (2008). Find his blog at OpenLeft.com or e-mail him.

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