How being offline sucks

I know it’s fashionable to say that it’s great not to have to be online all the time, and that people wish to leave their gadgets behind – to which I say … hogwash. Sure, you may occasionally feel that your gadgets can be the bane of your life, and while they can help you to stay informed, they may also become a measure to control you – especially if your employer uses them for that purpose. I’ve recently just spent a week at a place that had neither wifi nor a 3g signal – something I wouldn’t have expected in this day an age in the UK. And I learnt from it that I don’t like to be disconnected. I chose not to embrace it – and face possible claims of my inability to ‘switch off’ (see what I did there?) – and seek out a signal at least once a day to conduct my normal life – and do the stuff I like doing on a holiday; and that requires a certain amount of being online.
I obviously got into the discussion about how that shouldn’t bother me, but I disagreed: none of the things I was planning were for work, and I had very much looked forward to doing some of the activities I needed the connection for – and my choice of technology (a chromebook) simply requires a signal to function at its best (or let’s face it – at all). Of course I made do – so no mercy for the student who claims they couldn’t read their emails and therefore missed the important email about that job – I stayed in touch as is required to manage my life. Yes, I missed one important communication – a message in my LinkedIn account that I only found when I was online again (no clue how that happened).
It made me think however, how we relate to technology, but the result puts responsibility squarely back into the user’s hands: it’s not the gadget that controls you, it’s how you use it. No employer should expect to invade your personal space, and you shouldn’t enable them – unless it’s part of your contract, and the agreement was made in advance and with mutual consent (and even then it’s questionable). If it does, it comes down to the user to look at their habits – or indeed consider a less exploitative work arrangement. Yes, I’m aware this isn’t always easy, but the cost of not having real downtime affects both employee and employer in the long term negatively. I’ve written about reducing the stress of the online outreach barrage many of us subject themselves to – often more than is needed.
But while it’s important to manage how the web intrudes upon your life, it’s also a reasonable requirement to have access to it at all times. Such is life in the 21st Century. I’d probably be better equipped to just have cold water for a few days, than not taking part in the lifestyle I have chosen – and that is firmly in the 21 Century. It sucks to be offline, and I’m proud to say so.

September 2nd, 2013 by