Too accustomed to staying connected

Mar. 21, 2014 @ 05:35 PM

I’ve been plugged in, one way or another, ever since I was a kid – certainly as long as I remember.

Sitting in front of the TV, I watched “Sesame Street” and the Watergate hearings with equal interest, if not always equal comprehension.

It was a Magnavox set with dials on the front. If you wanted to pick one of the other two network channels, you actually had to stand, walk and use your wrist muscles to do so. Uphill. Both ways. In the snow.

I used to text people, using an envelope and a postage stamp.

I surfed the aisles of the local library for interesting topics, an earlier version of Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” search option.

When I was in junior high school, my parents got me a (super high-tech!) Casio calculator watch. I used that watch less for math and more for making inappropriate words with numbers – a sign, perhaps, of why I shouldn’t have nice things.

During high school, my family shared one computer. We huddled around, basking in its ghastly emerald glow, and built rudimentary BASIC programs using code “recipes” from thick computer-geek magazines.

In college, I had my own computer, with a modem that gave a shrill squeal as it communicated with another modem and linked me to a BBS – bulletin board system. These were privately hosted computer communities, precursors to the Internet as we know it today, with games and discussion boards.

I participated on several local boards in Orlando, but mostly I was a regular on The Philosopher’s Stone BBS, which was hosted by a guy named Vick Degiorgio. He hosted parties at his home to bring together in real life the people who gabbed and played together in his virtual playground. He was a down-to-Earth and far less money-hungry version of Mark Zuckerberg.

Then I got a job as a reporter, and the editor gave me a pager and, eventually, a clunky cellular telephone.

Suddenly, I couldn’t escape contact with the powers that be – unless I left transmission range or the AAA batteries conked out.

But as the technology evolved, the plug grew stronger and harder to yank free.

Once I had an iPhone, I might as well have become a Borg, assimilated into a culture that can phone, text, track sports, tweet, poke, watch TV and movies, read books, listen to music, share apocryphal information with friends and angrily fling birds at pigs, all from one device.

On March 7-8, the country held the 5th Annual National Day of Unplugging, created by the Reboot network in 2002.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t even realize it was happening. I only found out it occurred because I was surfing Facebook this week and a friend shared a link to a New York Times blog post by Casey N. Cep about “The Pointlessness of Unplugging.”

I can sympathize with the notion of taking a break from technology that keeps us so distracted so much of the time, especially as social media options keep growing.

Shutting off for an hour? Two? Eight? Maybe.

But a full day? A week? Longer?

I’ve never been wired that way.

Wes Platt can be reached at wplatt@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.