I went camping last weekend in a remote part of northwestern Pennsylvania called Ricketts Glen. It was refreshing and devoid of cell phone service or Internet. My boyfriend and I set up a tent, lit a fire, and enjoyed the lack of civilization. We spent our days hiking, taking in the beauty of the mountains, and communicating exclusively one on one. We left in the horrifying midst of Memorial Day traffic that was a jolting reminder of how nice seclusion can be. As soon as we turned on our phones we silenced them and waited for the slew of notifications. I wanted to move to a remote cabin and live off the land, or at least throw my damn phone out the window.
What is it about social media and online interaction that can create such a convincing facade of gratification? Sure there have been recent studies conducted and videos produced (counterproductively) about the grim age of the Internet, but can you answer for yourself? I waste far too much time scrolling through Facebook and pages of useless memes. The desire for entertainment is nothing new, but unlike a movie or song there is no beginning and no end. You sit, you click, you tune in and out. There are mountains for hiking and beaches to spread out on, but I spend spare time looking for human-interest stories on my newsfeed. It’s depressing.
Being without my phone for a while made me realize how much I prefer real-life experiences to scrolling through "Top 10 Places to Visit Before You Die." Almost everyone is slightly facetious when communicating through the controlled filter of their online personas. Whether they're trolling, entertaining or just insecure, they're not real. That's the point. I like my fun to be tangible. Drooling over a Pinterest board of cupcakes isn't delicious. Staring at someone else's pictures of Panama isn't exciting. Sending messages to my friends in a little box makes me miss them more. It's wonderful for keeping in touch, but nothing compares to seeing them. I'd like to unplug more often, even if I do have service and wifi. We don't fully know the consequences of staring at screens for hours and I'd rather not find out.