"The last time I was without my internet connection, I used the opportunity to sample more of my own silence and digest more of my own thoughts than usual. I have to admit that I have many interests; far too many to be able to religiously follow any exclusively. In many ways, I have never been a gadget person and it was very late in life before I discarded my dinosaur suit and dared to sit in front of a laptop. Indeed, my first fifty published books were all written in longhand and re-written up to three times each.
I must confess that it angers me, especially as it signifies the height of bad manners and gross discourtesy, to witness people playing with their phones and sending text messages when they are in conversation and the company of another. Just as it is dangerous to use a manual phone while driving, and can lead to loss of life, using a mobile phone while in the company of others can also lead to loss of partner, friends and family members! At the very least it will communicate to them that having continuous access to your phone is more important in your life than having access to them!
So, please bear in mind that being without your phone or the internet isn't in the same league as being without friends, family members, partners, purpose, hope or the will to live. To see some people panic without these instruments of modern-day progress constantly at hand and invariably in constant use, whatever the occasion, is to seriously ask oneself the question,'What is it all about when the absence of any object becomes more important in one's daily life than the feelings or circumstances of another.'
I like the positive things that the internet offers me and I, like thousands of others, gain much from being on Facebook and being involved in the lives of my Facebook friends and contacts. Keeping abreast of the ups and downs of their lives keeps me in contact with the outside world, especially during large parts of the year when illness or infection keeps me confined to our house because of my blood cancer condition and having no effective immune system to risk stepping outdoors.
But, make no mistake, I would swap every message that I receive and send on Facebook for few words of conversation with some person face-to-face at a meaningful moment of their life or mine. I would rather see them smile up close than to see a lovely photograph of them smiling. I would willingly swap the exchange of a carefully crafted communication on my laptop for a talk with them on Skype: better still to have them stand close enough to me to kiss, hug or touch.
I recall visiting my grandparent's grave in Ireland the last time I returned to Portlaw, County Waterford, the village of my birth. Upon one of the graves nearby were some paper flowers which I guess had been placed there by some child or adult who did not have access to the real thing at the time. To me, the internet, Facebook and telephones are like paper flowers on a grave; they serve their purpose, but at best can never be more than a poor second to any real-life face-to-face experience.
And yet, I have to admit that using one's laptop and mobile can easily become an addiction in one's daily life and once firmly established within one's routine, can be as difficult to break as giving up cigarettes, alcohol or chocolates! I have often thought, 'When I can no longer use my laptop and access my Facebook page daily, how will I ever know what is turning you on and off out there or is making you angry, agitated, content or all hot and bothered? I never thought that I would ever get to like any machine that was so much beyond my control. I suppose that like all pleasures we indulge in, it remains okay as long as it stays a pleasure and doesn't become an addiction.
During our recent European holiday when we were away from home for a month, I went without using my phone, laptop, or reading a newspaper, watching television, listening to the radio or reading a book: and I found the experience totally relaxing! For a whole month I was totally engrossed in the places I saw, the people I met and in particular, my wife, Sheila. Despite us having a good relationship that involves honest expression and talking to each other a lot, we nevertheless talked to each other more and more during our holiday month than we usually do.
Test yourself by leaving your phone at home more often when you next go out or leave it switched off when you are in the company of others, or not answering it when you are engaged with others. I can already hear you start making excuses about 'needing to be available for this or that or him/her/them etc', but surely we and our present company at any part of the day also need some quality time without outside gadgets interrupting the flow of our conversation and activity every few minutes. We turn our phones off in church or at a wedding or funeral out of respect. Where is the respect then when we are eating or in the company and joint conversation of another if the phone is switched on by our side; constantly at the ready to seize when it is activated? And despite our pleasure of being on Facebook 'x' number of hours daily, is that also at the expense of others around us, and is it preventing us from doing more urgent and satisfactory things?
I don't have the answers to these situations; I merely make some observations. What do you think? Replies kindly received to this Facebook 'Thought of the day'; that is unless you've decided to have yourself a little break and do something else." William Forde: August 7th, 2018.