If you follow me on social media, you know that I was unexpectedly offline for most of last week when work to lay underground fiber optic cables cut existing cables that deliver landline phone and internet service to my home.
As someone who is almost always connected to the wider world, I was all of a sudden marooned with only my cell (mobile) phone, and a vague promise of repairs six days hence.
Not only did I feel cut off, but there were inconveniences large and small.
Sending out my quarterly author newsletter was delayed by a week. (If you aren’t already signed up for my newsletter—a letter to readers with new book news, giveaways, and book recommendations—visit my website to register here).
I couldn’t access Facebook, Twitter, Google, or send and receive email.
And since I was also laid low with a flu-like cold, I wasn’t well enough to trundle to the library or a local coffee shop to access free Wi-Fi.
I also incurred large cell phone charges making and receiving long-distance calls related to English Rose’s medical appointments—calls that would otherwise been covered by our landline plan.
Not least, as a ‘news junkie’ (a bit like Charlie Gibbs, the heroine of my first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake), I missed having news and weather at my fingertips.
Embracing the offline world
Yet, I not only ‘survived’ but, once Tech Guy told a few key people I was offline, and I taught him how to post a message on my Facebook author page, I learned to embrace my week of disconnection.
I listened to the news on the radio at scheduled times and never before bed. As a result of being at a distance from current events, I was considerably less stressed.
For several days, I escaped to the American South through Karen White’s Flight Patterns, a wonderful women’s fiction novel about a fine china expert—part historical, part romance, part mystery and entirely engrossing. Karen is one of my favorite authors and her book was just what I needed as I coughed, sneezed and sniffled my way back to better health.
And when I came across a new-to-me word, instead of Googling it, I dug out my old Oxford English Dictionary and looked up said word, learning other new words too from browsing those tissue-thin pages.
I listened to music on CD instead of online and rediscovered some old favorites.
And since English Rose couldn’t connect with her friends via FaceTime and Snapchat, she and I talked more together. As she grows up and further into her own life, that extra mum-daughter time was a special bonus.
The electronic leash
While I didn’t want to be offline longer than I was (and indeed relished being able to pop into social media when English Rose and I went to Toronto for a hospital appointment), the cutting of those cables also cut what is in some ways an electronic leash.
Being offline reminded me that I need to build more of that time into my everyday life by:
- Leaving my iPad and phone outside my bedroom at night instead of on my bedside table;
- Being stricter about no screen time (and no news) after eight in the evening;
- Removing social media alerts from some of my electronic devices.
And while I value the friendships I’ve made via social media, I’m also now more determined to stop, smell the metaphorical flowers and consciously pay attention to what is going on in my real, as opposed to virtual world.
While I wouldn’t want to live without technology, my time offline made me assess what (and how) I’m using that 24/7 connectivity for.
Meanwhile Tech Guy, who helped build the internet infrastructure and then the mobile devices that feed it, is puzzled by social media and was happily surprised by the messages in response to his post on my Facebook author page.
“Why would people like a technical difficulties message?” he asked.
“Because they’re my friends and readers,” I answered. “There are real people out there, you know.”
But since he’s also negotiating with our provider for a refund for the days we were without service, I refrained from mimicking English Rose and adding “duh.”