Saturday, July 25

Thoughts & Reflections on Summer Vacation Part 1 – The Internet is a waste of time

I love summer vacation trips – getting away from work, getting together with the family, introducing our kids to new places and experiences. I also use these trips to understand how technology and the Interweb affect our lives. Extended separation from your home wifi really defines how much all this interactive-emerging-media-streaming-video-status-posting impacts our daily lives. [read last year’s posts: 1, 2]

Or doesn’t impact it, as I have discovered during our annual treks to Vacationland, a group of lake cabins in the Michigan Upper Peninsula (the “UP” for those of you from the Midwest, “Northwoods” for those who grew up eating fried cheese curds for breakfast).

It’s a place secluded enough that there is only one phone for all the cabins. No modem plug, as if I’d even remember how to logon using a modem. No wifi.

Best of all there is no cell phone coverage. So a whole week without SMS texts, mobile Facebook access, iPhone web browsing. Might sound terrifying to you, but over the years I have found there is nothing more refreshing than watching the cell phone signal strength drop from 3 bars to 2 bars, from 1 bar to NO SIGNAL. Digital solitary confinement at its best.

It reminds me how we coped with our lives pre-24/7 information. Need to know what the weather will be like today? Stick your head out the front door and look up. Wondering about the most recent big world event? Funny how a morning newspaper provides enough information to get through your day. Need to catch up on what your friends have been doing over last 2 hours? Well, actually, no you don’t.

Every year I reflect on “What we missed without the Internet for a week.” This year it just happened to be Michael Jackson’s death. Or, to be more exact, all the confusion around the possible death of Michael Jackson. Combing through two days of Interweb content, it was apparent we missed quite an event. Ongoing news reports with up-to-the-minute details about how no one was sure exactly what was going on. Steady streams of Fbook posts and Twitter tweets confirming the same fuzzy confusion.

It seems a total failure of the whole crowdsource/groupthink promise: That a collaborative Interweb is a more efficient and productive Interweb. It can also exponentially contribute to a lack of information. I imagine the massive amounts of collective MBs and human minutes expended searching, contributing, reading, and responding to the big question mark around Jackson’s demise. Without any satisfactory results. This Pursuit Of The Truth became an augmented reality game of its own. The ultimate race-the-clock online scavenger hunt to find the answer first, but with no clear winner.

Watching big events unfold in real time is obviously part of our culture now. Online provides easy access to these events, plus a way for the average person to take part and contribute. For everyone caught up in the hype, it probably ranks as one of the biggest online events ever. For someone who spent the week fishing, swimming with his kids, and watching bald eagles; it seemed like a colossal waste of time.