[Previously on What Would Happen If I Lived My Life Offline?: Upper management wasn’t around to stop me, and all five senses were engaged.]
Tangible experiences are genuine mood-boosters. My favorites lately include: taking salsa lessons and being twirled all over the dance floor by my 27-year-old Colombian-American teacher, a guy who is sunshine in shoes and who is now teaching me rumba and the hustle; baking cakes with my daughter; watching her basketball games or swim practices without reaching for my smartphone; listening to live music; listening to any music; trying a new restaurant with my husband or returning to an old favorite with neither one of us reaching for our smartphones; savoring a creative new dish, especially Dan Barber’s radishes in white chocolate sauce appetizer at Blue Hill; feeding my backyard chickens and all the wild birds that gather at our feeder, meeting friends for brunch, lunch, drinks, or dinner, and actually talking to one another in the flesh.
I enjoy growing backyard tomatoes and pumpkins and watching them take shape while shooing squirrels away.
And power yoga, I love an hour of sweating through power yoga when all our smartphones are on vibrate. That’s a great tangible experience, and so is walking on a beach whenever I can since I don’t live near a beach, especially the Big Sur coastline where cell reception is spotty; and not photographing the beach for social media purposes but just looking at it, and browsing vintage art and furniture shops, especially anything along Warren Street in Hudson, New York, or in the boutique La France in Tampa’s Ybor City; and seeing how sunlight hits the snow on the mountains as I ride up a ski chair lift; and baking more cupcakes.
Some friends of mine can only be reached via Facebook, so maybe I just filter out the tsunami of content that hits me every time I log in and just focus on what matters. But, let’s face it—filtering is getting harder to do, and then there’s the task of staying on top of all this filtering and unsubscribing. I don’t want to lose friendships or connections or opportunities, which, in 2016, reside not in my cake-scented kitchen but at my fingertips, which log me into this artificial reality populated by real people, many of whom probably have the same longings and fears I have. I try to picture what plugging in less or not at all might look like. Is it like sitting in an empty church, creepy yet calming? Or it is like getting locked out of your house because you misplaced your keys?
Watching my daughter curl her body around her iPad, I fret about what is and what ought to be. It’s a rabbit-hole of a question, and I spin with the possibilities, sometimes permitting my daughter to use her electronics, sometimes snatching them away and telling her to go play outside, or read a book. Technology has taught her a great deal, and for this, I am grateful. Technology has likely affected how she pieces her world together. I’m the Atari generation, who remember that joysticks got sweaty and broke. I didn’t grow up swiping icons across flatscreens. I am nowhere near becoming a Luddite, but I worry she and her generation will lose touch of a more tangible world. Sometimes, I have to remind her that the sun is shining, we’re part of a three-dimensional planet, and it’s time to squirt water guns at the neighborhood kids, get muddy, play basketball, chase a backyard chicken, ride a go-cart down the street, leave the smartphone inside the house.
What if we did all these things, and I didn’t update my Facebook status or tweet an article I wrote or liked, or liked someone else’s article, or pinned that knitting pattern I came across on Pinterest or promote my latest accomplishments on LinkedIn? What or who would I lose? Will I really miss out on much, this loquacious digital world where, every day, we constantly talk at and over another? And, really, would anyone miss me?