by Amy L. Hatch
When I was on vacation in July, I discovered that my smart phone didn’t work at the beach.
We were on Cape Cod for our annual family trip with my mom and my siblings, and the first day we visited the ocean I — of course — stashed my iPhone in the beach bag. I needed to check in on Facebook and Twitter and my email …. and then I couldn’t because of that pesky “no service” message in the upper left corner of my screen.
At first I was peeved, then I kind of freaked out a little. What if someone texted me and I didn’t see it? What if a client needed something RIGHT AWAY and I didn’t get the email? What if Laura called to say that chambanamoms.com was down and she needed my help to get it back up and running?
OY, THE PANIC.
What I know now is that I was going through withdrawl. As a digital worker, I spend my whole day (and, over the last year or so, the better part of the evening, too) online. I tweet, I update statuses, I blog and photo edit and Skype and and and ad infinitum.
But at the beach, I was literally forced to go off the grid. And it was good.
Instead of constantly trying to appear as if I was paying attention to my kids or my husband instead of my screen(s), I actually got down in the sand and buried my son’s feet and legs until he giggled uncontrollably. I took my daughter wave-jumping in the Atlantic for the first time. I played paddle ball with my husband (and I refuse to say who won).
It was, in a word, great.
Social media and technology is a wonderful thing. Heck, my kids are native users. A guest who joined us for a week marveled at my son’s facility with an iPad and Emmie can work a laptop like a pro. I’m practically a native user myself — my dad was an engineer and early adopter who innately understood the power and, yes, beauty of the Apple operating system and brought home a Macintosh computer when I was just 12 years old in 1984.
Today, social media connects us across miles and divides that might otherwise prevent us from forming friendships (and keeping in touch with family) that carry us through hard times and make the good times even sweeter. I know this for a fact: Social media has brought a lot of good into my life, both in the form of friendship and career opportunities.
Without social media, there would be no chambanamoms.
But turning off the electronic firehouse of data and interaction can be freeing. I love Facebook and Twitter, but I love my kids and husband a lot more. They sometimes get the short end of the stick simply because it is so easy to connect through so many different devices.
Except, as it turns out, at the beach.
Do you unplug on your vacation, or are you an Internet junkie?
Amy L. Hatch is a co-founder and editor of chambanamoms.com, and loves her iPhone only slightly less than she loves her minivan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.