Jemima Kiss tweets the following this morning:
I don’t know the circumstances of the matter, nor is it my business to do so, but I am loosely reminded of an article I read last night:
Just days earlier, my bosses at Ars—the ones who usually keep me busy playing with laptops, smartphones, tablets, and video games—had an unusual proposition for the staff. They needed one volunteer to take a spontaneous overnight train vacation. Oh, a fun weekend on company time? Sign me up. The catch? I wouldn’t get to use my smartphone or any other modern portable device until the second day of the trip. Once I got home, naturally I had to write about it.
And it made me wonder: how easy would it be to say goodbye to the worldwide web and its associated infrastructures?
To be honest, I think the answer – for even the most gadget-focussed of us – would be: “Surprisingly easy!” Yes. It’s probably fair to say the Internet-supported environments we’re so attached to are addictive in some way or another. But I think the addiction resides more in their freemium nature – ie we get them in exchange for personal data rather than pounds, dollars and euros – than in their essential addictiveness.
It’s easy, of course, easier than putting a coat on and getting into a car and driving off to a forest, to press a button and see a video streaming from some server.
It’s easy, of course, to glance at a saucy notification.
It’s easy, of course, to question why no one gets in touch.
It’s easy, of course, to get mad at intermittent service.
But in the absence of such “free-domains” (not exactly freedoms), I’m sure a picnic basket, placed in the corner of a blanket, spread gloriously over fragrant meadow-grass, would begin to recover its attractions of the past.
We’re not really addicted to Facebook or Twitter, though they, as businesspeople, would probably like to think they’ve done everything possible to make it so – thus ensuring and guaranteeing their future business models.
What we’re actually addicted to, since time immemorial, are these aforementioned free-domains in general – whether virtual or real: from municipal parks and facilities galore to national wastelands on moors and wooded lands alike (how inappropriately we term them “wastelands”! As if walking and running and gazing at landscapes was a waste of land in any century …). The fact that, right now, Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp and the rest should dominate our every thinking moment doesn’t mean we couldn’t, one day, say goodbye to them all and hello to something else.
I’m optimistic, and I hope you are too.
Let’s use the web whilst we can, but – please! – let’s not turn it into a fetish of needs when, in truth, it represents far more wants than needs; and those mainly being on the sides of the tech-providers various.
A picnic basket with a bottle of juice or fine wine; hard-boiled eggs; freshly-cut sandwiches; cold meats or vegetables. All to be shared with a newly-discovered lover or a wonderfully-treasured old friend; a spouse and kids or a lonely person who’d like a bit of company.
And as the sun sets slowly behind the trees, a day spent in consonance with the disconnected sounds of fluttering leaves.
Isn’t that easy?
Freemium economics was never the exclusive invention of the tech behemoths. Our towns, cities and national governments were using it via taxes for yonks and yonks. So when someone slaps you down for believing in a bigger state, ask them what kind of state they really believe in.
And then mention that luxuriously sense-filled picnic basket. And ask them how they’ll manage to replicate it.