We might not be able to go on holiday without our smartphones, but should we at least disconnect from the Internet?
The cover story in The Spectator this week is a brilliant read. Clarissa Tan, writing about holidays, boldly proclaims that we are not truly on holiday if we have our smartphone with us. Yes, she makes the audacious assertion that we would be better off giving our smartphone a holiday too. She seems to be under the impression that we’re rather addicted to them.
Something about being away from our familiar surroundings makes us reach for our gizmos as a drowning person clings to driftwood. We’ve only had smartphones for a few years, and suddenly we’re unmoored, all at sea, without them.
She’s right, of course; I wouldn’t consider going anywhere without my iPhone and iPad. As she points out, making sure we have all the cables, chargers and accessories—as well as the numerous devices themselves—is now a significant part of packing for a holiday. Our smart-devices have truly become a part of who we are, and we can’t seem to live without them.
We had a lovely two week break as a family in Switzerland in June. It was up in the mountains, by a lakeside, surrounded by miles and miles of the most gorgeous scenery. It was wonderful. But—and you can probably guess what’s coming—I had my iPhone with me the whole time. I wasn’t looking at work emails, but I did my fair share of checking Twitter, snooping on Facebook friends, and staying up-to-date with the news. It helped that we only had Internet access in the apartment, but I was most definitely not disconnected.
In my defence, most of my iDevice usage was solely for reading and taking photos. I don’t buy physical books any more and my iPhone is the only camera I have. So a holiday without my iDevices would leave me without any way to read my books and no means to capture memories of the holiday. As a result, I think it’s fair to say that I truly need my smart-devices with me on holiday. A holiday without my iPhone and iPad would leave be unable to fully enjoy two of the things that make holidays so great.
Not that I disagree with Tan about the main thrust of her article. Though she sets her sights on smartphones, it’s really social media she is targeting. Our ability to so easily connect with anyone and everyone through the Internet means we often fail to fully engage with those relationally and physically closest to us. And there’s no better time than a holiday to foster deep connections with those people we actually know and love, novel as that may sound. What if, for that to happen, we simply have to disconnect?
For those of us who need—yes, I’m going to keep saying ‘need’—our smart-devices with us on holiday, perhaps there is a different solution for us. If we can’t leave our smartphones behind, is it time for us to embrace ‘airplane mode’? We all hate the airlines when they tell us we have to flip that switch before takeoff, but maybe they’re doing us a favour. What if we simply leave our smartphones in airplane mode until we arrive back from our holidays? That way we can keep them with us, use them for the myriad of other functions they provide, but not be distracted by everything else that comes with being connected to the Internet.
Why save airplane mode only for holidays though? (You might want to sit down if you’re not already.) What if we put our smartphones into airplane mode one day a week? My suspicion is that life would go on, the world wouldn’t end, our families would be grateful, and—glory be—we might even make better use of the time we are connected.