Out of this world — and loving every day of it
The world is way too obsessed with social media, but life does go on without it
A couple of weeks ago, I left the world.
It was a surprisingly easy exit. No rocket ship involved, no mind-altering substances — unless you count beer. Not even meditation. I just unplugged for a couple of weeks. And the world I left behind wasn’t the real world, but what has become more and more “the world” for many of us: the internet.
You know, the continuous, endless, impossible-to-keep-up-with stream of Twitter posts, the mountains of Facebook updates, relentless automated alerts, and a steady, seemingly infinite barrage of messages in your Gmail inbox, particularly the ones marked Social and Promotions. Social keeps telling me (about 500 times a day) what I missed on Twitter and Promotions keeps telling me (about a 1,000 times a day) what I’m missing at Groupon. If I needed 50 per cent off “brow and lash tinting” or “massage and body scrub” I might be appreciative, but I scrub my own body and if I tinted my brows, I’d look (even more) like Groucho Marx.
What’s revealing about this world is how intoxicatingly addictive it can be on a daily basis and yet how inane and dispensable it really is. That revelation, if it is one, is only clear once you stop doing what you are always doing without really thinking about it. Like mindlessly listening to the pop music station in your car and realizing you’ve heard Despacito 17 times in one morning and that you actually hate the song and you’re starting to hate Justin Bieber too. (For fans of Justin Bieber who are offended by that statement, let me say with all sincerity, I don’t care). Turning off the radio is so easy and feels so good.
So, that’s what I did. I turned off the world, well, the virtual world at least. It wasn’t that hard. I was at a cottage on vacation and frankly, I was just sick of reading about Trump’s hare-brained schemes, his hairraising tweets and, well, his hair. I was tired of Ivana Trump, Donald Trump Jr. Hell, I couldn’t even listen to my wife call “trump” while playing euchre. I was Trumped out.
So instead of starting my day like I usually do — with a 10-mile run and some light Bible reading, ( just kidding), with checking email, and news sites and Twitter, I got up early, made some coffee and ambled down the bank to the St. Lawrence River. It was just past dawn and the river was mirror smooth, the far bank perfectly reflected in water unruffled by the winds and boat traffic to come. I stood on the dock, the sun peaking over the pines, and cast a lure into the still, clear water in front of the cottage. I didn’t catch much — a couple smallmouth bass that I released, hoping to hook them next year — but I enjoyed watching my Rapala shimmy through the weeds and my Jitterbug crazily zigzag across the surface. Just the chance that a big pike might lunge up and hit the lure is enough to keep most anglers interested for hours.
And instead of frantically scrolling through emails, I did what you should do at a cottage: I poured two fingers of Baileys in my coffee and went for a nap. Actually, I found myself in front of the bookshelf that every good cottage has. You know, that eclectic collection of old hardcovers, burgundy leather-bound Reader’s Digest Condensed volumes and rows of dog-eared paperback westerns, romances and thrillers.
And I came across a wonderful find — a hardcover set of three novellas by John O’Hara, a once popular but now somewhat forgotten American writer of the ’40s and ’50s. The pages were water stained and the stories were tales of smoke-filled bars and fading Hollywood actresses and New York socialites and I loved every musty minute of it. And as I spent the week reading, and swimming in the bracing river water, and chopping onions and potatoes for dinner, and chatting over chilled cocktails while the sun slipped behind the tops of the trees, I realized something. I hadn’t checked out of the world. I’d checked back in.
I was at a cottage on vacation and frankly, I was just sick of reading about Trump’s hare-brained schemes, his hair-raising tweets and, well, his hair.