28 May 2010

Only disconnect

I'm hestitating about writing this post because a) I worry that I will upset a lot of people I like and b) I'm not sure it really belongs on this blog. But I'm feeling strongly about it and in need of unburdening myself. Is this a 'being over 40' thing, do you think? This urge to complain? Anyway, on to my point...

When I was in England in April I noticed the 'smartphone stoop' a lot. Standing on platforms, waiting for trains, nearly half of the other people waiting with me would be standing with their head and shoulders hunched over, staring at their phones, in an alternate reality to the one we were all sharing. It made me uncomfortable, in a way I'm struggling to articulate to myself. Perhaps I was just worried that they were doing some serious damage to their neck and shoulder muscles.

One night, I had dinner with three friends, all of whom checked their phones at various times during the course of the meal, usually without any comment or explanation. To them, this was perfectly acceptable behaviour. And I found myself uncomfortable, again.

I do spend a lot of time (too much time) online, staring at a screen, for both work and pleasure. The insidious thing about the smartphones is the apparent inability of many of their owners to ever be offline. Even when ostensibly involved in other activities.

Does this matter? If everyone's doing this, isn't it absolutely fine? Perhaps it is and I'm just turning into an old curmudgeon who's technologically dropping behind the times. Maybe nobody else finds the Royal Horticultural Society's iPhone app disturbing. From the blurb:

...it gives you the chance to access horticultural advice from the UK’s leading gardening organisation while you are out and about in your garden with your iPhone.

When I read this I could feel my mind rearing up in rebellion. I value my time in the garden as a complete break from the outside world. No phones, no computers, just me and the land. Maybe I will make terrible mistakes, gardening without the instant help of the RHS to hand, but that's a risk I'm prepared to take.

I hadn't realised that there was a word for this kind of activity.* But Marieke Guy's post on 'unitasking' yesterday has taught me otherwise. I agree wholeheartedly with the benefits listed there of this uninterrupted kind of work (although I'm not so sure about the word itself!).

Oh dear, that's ironic. Half-way through that last sentence I was disturbed by a high-pitched, insistent beeping. The sun had come out and the temperature sensor in the greenhouse was warning me that the temperature in there had hit 40°C. I have just had to dash outside to open up the side walls and cool things down in there. It seems that I'm more likely to have my Internet use interrupted by my garden than the other way around!

I do think it's important to disconnect some of the time. It is good for your mental and physical health and doesn't do your social relationships any harm, either. ;-)

*Apart from 'gardening', that is...


Diana Studer said...

Time marches on. Either you run with it, or watch from the sidelines with interest, or horror. I feel like the last person in the world, without a cell-phone. (BTW If it interests you, it does belong in your blog). It is Your blog.

Linda said...

I have a pay as you go cell phone, which I forget to turn on. It was purchased for emergency use and that is what I use it for. Who really needs to know what I am doing every few minutes? I too think that technology should be turned off every now and then, and we should 'take time to smell the roses'.

Unknown said...

I love your comments about the ever-present phones in our society! I have an iPhone and love it and am guilty of it being with me all the time! I do agree that there needs to be some sort of "protocol for use". It seems that screens and phones take more priority over the human in front of us! I'm not the sure answer other than to keep bugging people about their social responsibility to those around them...or else they should sit in a room by themselves! That being said, I would be curious to know if they really do make my life easier!