The First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem

Angry wallaby

Angry wallaby says “Step away from the computer.”

 

Lately, I’ve been having a problem with technology.

As in, it plays too large a part in my life and I don’t like it. Seriously. It’s stealing away my youth.

Whenever I hear statistics like “the average American child spends 7 hours a day with electronics,” (*totally invented stat, by the way) I tut sadly and lament the state of kids these days.

Then I look around my apartment:

  • 1 iPad
  • 3 iPods
  • 1 MacBook
  • 1 Nintendo DS
  • 1 eReader
  • 3 digital cameras
  • 1 TV

When I think about the time I spend with electronics, I feel ashamed. I easily hit 7 hours a day, and I think of myself as someone who isn’t technology-obsessed. When I get home, it’s only a matter of time before I turn on the iPad or the TV, even though I’ve just been on my work computer.

iPad

The other problem is, I really love my iPad.

Turns out, I’m totally reliant on electronics. Specifically, the Internet.

I know there was a time in my life when I didn’t use the Internet for everything:

  • When I needed a reference for a school paper, the encyclopedia set in the living room was my first stop. The second was the local library, which was full of real books.
  • When I had a weird ailment, I just dealt with it, instead of attacking Google with a list of symptoms and grimly announcing that “I’m pretty sure my appendix just burst.”
  • When I recognized an obscure actor in a movie but couldn’t quite put my finger on it, I didn’t turn to IMDB. I just *shudder* lived with not knowing.
  • And, of course – facebook didn’t exist. When I wanted to know what people were doing, I had to ask them directly.

Technology has also changed the way I travel, both for better and for worse.

Laptop in Carbisdale Castle, Scotland

In a haunted Scottish castle, I’m on my laptop. Fail.

 

Let’s say I decided to visit Cyprus.

Pre-Internet addiction, I’d go to a travel agent and pick up some brochures. From these, I’d choose a place to stay. For flights, I’d either ring the airlines direct or use the travel agent.

And once I arrived, I would go exploring.

But these days, I’d start by going to the computer and pricing flights. At the same time I’d be on twitter and facebook, asking if anybody had any Cyprus tips. Next I’d read about 100 travel blogs to find out what part of the island I wanted to stay on, where to eat, what to see, and when to go. I’d then download digital guidebook chapters for my iPad.

I’d spend approximately 14 hours ‘researching’ only to wind up totally overwhelmed and unsure about whether or not I’d made the right choices. During the trip, I’d continue to consult the internet about decisions.

In other words, time that could be spent exploring the island on foot would instead be spent exploring the island virtually.

LAME.

Thailand dragon

Remember, you stumble upon the best stuff by chance, not Google. In Thailand.

I am totally aware of the irony here. I’m a travel blogger, so getting down on the Internet is pretty hypocritical. I do think there are a lot of great things about it, but I’m frustrated that one of my main hobbies is unavoidably online.

The real problem isn’t the Internet; it’s that I’ve become lazy and reliant on it for entertainment. That’s what irritates me the most. Sometimes I just sit down in front of my computer and stare. Exactly like gravitating to the fridge when you’re bored, hoping that something new has appeared.

If I cut back on pointless Internet use, I’m not quite sure what I’d do.

Actually, I am: Write. Read. Talk. Explore. Think. Learn. Live.

Mongolia

The open road. I need more of this in my life.

 

I’m never going to give it up completely, nor do I want to. But I am going to try to say no every once in a while.

No to saying, “that’s so going on facebook,”  and no to watching kitten videos on YouTube (That’s just an example. I don’t really do that.), and no to pretending I’m doing work when all I’m really doing is looking at people.com (which is obviously another example).

And hopefully, I’ll regain a little of what I had before the Internet. Creativity, motivation, imagination, and the knowledge that our world isn’t really meant to be explored online, but in person.

What do you think?

Does our addiction to technology hold us back from fully experiencing our travels (and life)? Or is technology a welcome integration to the way we travel?

16 Responses to “The First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem”

  1. This article rang true to me and my ‘addiction’ has been bothering me a bit lately. My computer is never more than an arms reach from me and if it is, my iPhone is right there. It has progressively gotten worse with moving overseas – in Gabon, it was my only window to the rest of the world and to my friends and family.
    When it comes to travel, I think it has helped me just as much as it has hindered me. I’ve stayed in some really great places thanks to research I’ve done beforehand but I know I’ve also missed out on that ‘adventure’ part. It’s a tricky balance!

    • I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I do think that being abroad has escalated the addiction, primarily because of what you mention about using it to contact friends & family. When I miss people, all I have to do is click on their online profiles and I can temporarily know what they’re up to (at least at a surface level). I think the problem has been bothering me more and more because cyberstalking them is never enough! It just doesn’t beat face-to-face contact or even personal conversation. But Skype has been fantastic, so I don’t really lump that in with everything else.

  2. Pretty much what my entire travel website is about. Leave the computer! The internets has turned us all into a nation of zombies.

    • Yes. I feel like a zombie too often and I genuinely feel like I would have accomplished more in my life had it not been for wasting time on the internet. Obviously, I have no one to blame but myself! I like the way you travel with minimal technology. Time to wean myself off!

  3. This is so true. I recently took a month long trip across Europe with my boyfriend after living in Germany for the year. We left our stuff with a family friend and traveled with carry-on luggage. We both left our laptops and only took ipod touches. I had a love-hate feeling about being laptop free. On one hand, we still needed them and had to use our friends computers or the one in the hostel at each destination to print out new boarding passes, upload photos to a memory stick, and let the family know we’d survived flight number whichever of 13, but on the other hand, we spent a lot less time reading the internet and more time being outside or socializing.

    • I’ve been dreading knowing that I’ll travel with a laptop in South America. It seems like an extra thing to worry about (what if it gets stolen or damaged?) but I’m just going to take the risk. I know I want to work on writing & blogging while I’m there, so in the end it seems practical to take it. But then there’s the downtime where I’ll gravitate to the computer instead of going outside, as you say.

      Carry-on luggage is the way forward. The last time I checked a bag is when we flew to Korea 2 years ago, so Jared and I are aiming to pack as little as possible for South America. And I’ve found that when you travel with less, you adjust and it seems ridiculous that you ever traveled with so much!

  4. Lauren, I’ve been having the same dilemma lately, too. I spend SO much time online but, in a way, as a travel blogger type person, I HAVE to – if you want to make your blog a success then, well, it’s unavoidable.

    However I do find myself drifting and ending up doing absolutely nothing. Twenty tabs will be open and I’m sat staring at Facebook and daydreaming.

    I like your analogy about the fridge, too. Although I barely bother to open mine anymore. I only have liquids in there – water, Polish vodka, Jagermeister and milk.

    Maybe a digital detox for a week or so is the way to go? Going cold turkey and enjoying an offline life, if only for a few days before ravenously returning to check Lamebook and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race clips on Youtube (those two are, like yours, only examples of course).

    • Yes. I used to think that it was okay that I spent so much time online because it was ‘for the blog.’ Then I realized that it wasn’t for the blog at all. All those open tabs and none that were actually relevant.

      After a week of drastically-reduced internet time, I’m revived, but not quite weaned off. Trying to only do productive things but there has been the occasional slip-up when it comes to wasting time on social media (example).

  5. I definitely think it’s a welcome integration. I travelled both before and after my ‘internet addiction’ and I got so much more out of it once I had the technology to research the area and keep my travel photos and memories safe.

    But it’s definitely important not to let the addiction take over!

    • Striking a balance, that’s the hard part! On my recent trip to Japan/Busan, I tried to only use the internet to search for immediately relevant things, like where to find a beer garden or how to get to the nearest bus station. It was so much easier and I was grateful for online access then. So I have to remember that it isn’t all bad!

  6. This is so true. As a digital nomad being constantly connected is sort of in the job description, but I totally find myself spending too much time online. I was just saying yesterday, nowadays it’s like I need a thing to pull me away from the internet (going to see a museum or something) otherwise being in front of my laptop is my default state of being. That habit is SUPER hard to break!

    • “Being in front of my laptop is my default state of being.” — this is EXACTLY how I feel, and what bothers me so much! As I continue to build a writing career, I know I can’t abandon the computer, but I can’t let it be my autopilot. Still struggling on that one!

  7. Love this. Love the wallaby. And so glad to know I’m not the only one who goes to the fridge and stares at it when bored.

    • The wallaby is a meme waiting to happen, isn’t he? And I don’t think I’ll ever break the fridge habit. I’ve started to come up with sad, terrible combinations of the existing food, like mustard on crackers or spoonfuls of jam. Must find a better method of avoiding work/boredom.

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