I’ve been away from my blog and most things internet during July, enjoying a family vacation in Germany.
By ‘family,’ I mean family in the broadest sense of the word. This was a very special trip, celebrating the 80th birthday of my father. We were able to bring together so many people over our three-week journey, including my parents, brother and sister with their families, as well as uncles, aunts, and cousins.
We spent the first week in Reit-im-Winkl, a Bavarian mountain paradise if there ever was one. From there, we went north to Munich, spending time on the shores of the crystalline Starnberger See. The last stretch of the trip included a few days in Frankfurt where my maternal grandparents used to live and then a visit to the area of Cologne, where we enjoyed several days with my Dad’s side of the family.
Lots of stories to tell, as you can imagine, but mostly I’m stopping in today to send out a reminder of the importance of getting off the web.
Anymore, being away from social media makes it painfully apparent that there’s not much worth coming back to on the internet. The internet may be necessary in some ways to modern life, but it is darkly addictive. It gives a distorted view of reality that tends to feed our anger and anxiety, most often toward no clear purpose.
I’m a firm believer in tempering negative energy with positive influences. To achieve this, we cannot encase ourselves in on an on-line existence, but must live our lives in the organic world. We must engage with real people and places, much more than with hashtags and memes. We must act rather than think. Speak rather than fume and thumb. Laugh with each other and remember the good that brings us together even as we tackle the bad that drives us apart.
My Achilles heel is that it seems I must leave the country every so often to remember this. The last time I went full-on internet silence was over a year ago, in Barcelona. Being away makes me realize I don’t miss anything while I’m gone. But once I reconnect, I fall back into the old fear I might miss something if I stay away.
Now I’m wondering if I can be more disciplined about this internet thing at home as well. Can I manage a day of internet silence every week? Or a week [gasp] of internet silence every month?
What would life be like if I stopped browsing click-bait headlines designed to enrage me and struck up a conversation with someone new at the local coffee shop instead? What if I spent more time walking through wild places, or even just…I don’t know, walking? What if I did anything but log into yet another social media network bound to fill me with disappointment, if not anger?
My bet is that life would become about as rich and enjoyable as every moment of my vacation was in Germany or in Barcelona. Not a life without pain or negativity, mind you – that’s not what I’m asking for. But something more real and authentic, filled with truer companionship and a deeper core of hope. It may be that the power for significant change can be found in silencing that device we keep in our pockets. Worth a try, at least. If it doesn’t work, we can always reconnect again.
I’ll leave you with that thought, even as I invite you to come back to my little corner of the internet next week as we begin our countdown to the start of fall semester. Enjoy these last days of summer, and the precious moments they bring!