Winter’s Cruel Grip (On My Data Connection)

Brrrrrrrrrr

It was a chilly March day, not unlike any other early spring day I’ve come to expect from Calgary.

The fire alarm in our condo building goes off.

Now, let’s put this into perspective – it wasn’t all that long ago that we went a good week straight with the fire alarm waking us from our slumber and urging us to evacuate the building (which really only resulted in an even more fire-hazardous congregation of residents huddled in the main floor lobby), only to be reassured by our valiant fire department that we could sleepily saunter back into bed. Instead of relief, this only left us wondering why we even bother heeding these perpetually false alarms.

Long story short, this time around there actually was a reason for the alarm, and it left us without power for almost 48 hours.

If there’s one takeaway from the whole ordeal, it’s the appreciation for the battery life of your devices (or lack thereof), as well as the connectivity to the outside world that those devices offer. It’s different when you intentionally unplug; this offers an opportunity to embrace the world around you and be free from the bind of the unlimited data use of your HSPA+ network. It’s on your own terms, at your will, and you know that it’s still there if you really need it. One situation when I would not recommend being disconnected (willfully or otherwise) is when you are relying on that connection to ensure you don’t end up homeless in the next 45 days. That kind of situation leads you to extreme measures such as sitting in your running car in a locked-in parkade with your phone plugged into the lighter outlet because it’s at 0% battery and won’t turn on otherwise. Or you end up walking to a hotel two blocks away and sit in their lobby to use their free internet while you charge your laptop. If the people on the other end of the emails that were exchanged while those events were taking place had any knowledge of such… well, I don’t even want to go there.

The point is, we have come to rely on technology to not only be convenient time-wasters and distractions, but also very functional and important elements of our day-to-day lives. This past week alone, there have been countless instances of my technological connectivity allowing me to accomplish things in a manner so timely and conveniently, that I can’t imagine getting those same things done without it; but that’s a discussion for another day.

The Importance of Doing Nothing

It is only by disconnecting from others that we are able to find ourselves.

While this statement might not actually ring true for everybody all the time (I’m only tenuously certain of my own belief in it), I know that even as a forward-thinking, future-tech-loving person, I get the urge to live in the moment from time to time and unplug from my social life. Granted, this happens most often when I’m sitting at home and relaxing with my fiancé, but every time I do it, I find it extremely rewarding.

You could make the argument (and many important people have) that we are too focused on always being available, and that this is a symptom of our modern society and the technological revolution that the internet has been. Let me lay out for you now a different idea…

In this decade, it is actually easier (or at least as easy) to disconnect as it ever has been. With technology, we are keeping in closer touch with people across the world than ever, but we also lose touch with those in closest proximity to us (like our neighbours).

However, with the increase in dependence on technology, we have also made it much easier to disconnect ourselves from the world, because many of our methods of communication don’t require immediate response. The excuse “I forgot/didn’t look at my phone” not only seems reasonable but somehow completely socially acceptable (though a few important exceptions spring to mind).

For me, it can be something as simple as leaving my phone upstairs. This eliminates my need to answer phone calls and texts (people who know me well already know that I’m much more likely to answer them if they use Hangouts or iMessage/ FaceTime or Facebook Messenger than SMS or a phone call), and I can go an entire evening without checking messages and not have to stress that I might have missed something.

I am definitely going to keep doing this, and trying to focus on using whatever electronics I do have nearby to their maximum potential, not needing to be surrounded in gadgets. More importantly, though, I am working on staying close to those people who are most important to me, and being conscious to unplug and minimize electronic distractions every once in a while.

Best of luck doing whatever you need to to find a balance between your digital and real life.