My on line life is important to me. I value the interaction with others, many of whom live too far away to make meeting up on any sort of regular basis possible. I value the fact that those who live closer share aspects of their lives that I would not otherwise be aware of on their social networks. I value the opportunity that the internet offers me to read the opinions and musings of interesting people who I would be unlikely to meet in any other way.
As I have trimmed and tailored my social life to better suit my fluctuating moods over the past year, my on line activity has offered me a lifeline. However down and insular I have felt, I have been able to log on and reach out to a world that keeps turning whatever personal crisis I am dealing with. There has always been somebody out there, however near or far they may be, willing to offer me wise words.
Last weekend I set off with my husband and sons for a few days camping in the New Forest. With my daughter away from home for a month this was to be our main family holiday. Last year we took a cottage near the coast for a week but did not consider the trip a success. With lots of space and comfy beds the children felt too much at home and did not interact with my husband in the way that he likes when on holiday. Sleeping in a tent forces us all together. With only natural light available we sleep and rise at much the same time; with only limited space and facilities we survive as a team.
Although my ageing bones can only cope with sleeping on an air bed for a few days at a time I am happy to share the adventure that living under canvas offers. What I had not expected was to be totally cut off from the rest of my life for the majority of our time away. Before setting off I had topped up my smartphone and packed the in car charger. When the phone battery ran down at the end of the first day and the charger failed to work, I found myself off line for the remainder of the holiday.
A few friends have been away this year to beautiful places so remote that no internet is available. On their return they have commented that they found this restful; I did not. Of course I was fine, but I missed being able to communicate. I missed the interaction and the ability to reach out to those who would understand what I was going through, whatever that may be.
As my children have grown older and more independent they have developed their own interests. Although I wish to know about their thoughts and plans, their detailed knowledge of esoteric subjects leaves me with little option but to prompt, smile and listen rather than join in. I do not possess the cognizance that would enable me to usefully add to a conversation that revolves around a discussion of the detailed workings of electronic or mechanical devices. It is left to my husband to offer useful responses; perhaps this is a part of what he enjoys about our family time away.
Our location was not so remote that I could not have sought out a WiFi link on our days out, but that is not how I choose to go on line. I wish to participate fully in each family activity; to step away for the sole purpose of logging on would have been a disruption too far.
For me, the internet is something that I turn to when I am not needed elsewhere; when I have a little natural solitude that I may choose to use as I please. I did not wish to miss out on family time, to choose not to join in with the holiday in order to log on. Whilst I gain enjoyment from sharing it is not a necessary part of the fun.
I once saw a sign in a building that amused me. It said ‘In the event of fire, please leave the building before tweeting about it’. I guess this past week has shown me that I can still have an enjoyable holiday without links to the rest of my life. However much pleasure and benefit I may gain from it, I am not totally addicted to my social networks.
Along with a comfortable bed and a private shower, getting back on line was one of the home comforts that I looked forward to enjoying on my return. With all that has been happening while I have been away, it will now take me some time to catch up with what the rest of the world has been doing in my absence.