So you think summertime is the season for rest and relaxation. What about last weekend? In no particular order: Finals of the World Cup? Wimbledon Championships finals? Tour de France? Trump’s summit with President Putin? In competition with the televising of these events, there was beautiful weather to lull on the beach, splash in the pool or walk in the mountains. (Notice no mention of following my beloved Yankees’ pursuit of the Red Sox or my forlorn Knicks outstanding performances in the NBA summer league. I’m trying to be proportional.) How many people did all of the above last weekend?
We can, if we choose, follow multiple news media in real time. And, if we are truly multitask, we can follow all of this while sitting on the beach, relaxing by the pool or walking in the mountains. Just have your telephone or tablet handy.
Your answer to overload is to disconnect. Forget the wifi. Leave your telephone or tablet somewhere so it can recharge while you are recharging. Try not wanting to know what is going on. If summertime is the season for rest and relaxation, modern technology has given us no rest.
That sounds so easy. It is, until you turn on your telephone or tablet or return to the post office to find a pile of letters, bills and magazines to catch up with. News? Try dropping out for even a weekend only to be confronted with catching up. What did Macron say to Putin? How many faux pas did Trump commit during his visit to England? He really walked in front of the Queen! What else did he do during his visit to Europe? Is NATO outdated? Is Djokovic really back? Should Croatia have won the Cup finals? How is Chris Froome doing in the Tour as it heads to the mountains?
These are serious questions in an era of overload. We can only marvel at Henry David Thoreau’s decision to live alone in the woods surrounding Walden Pond in the 19th century to get away from the hustle and bustle of Concord, Massachusetts. Or we wonder about what drove the 19th century American painter Samuel F.B. Morse to contribute to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system and the Morse code. Was it only to allow the news between England and U.S. to be quicker so he could communicate easier with his mother? Did he realize the overload he was also creating?
Were we better off without instant news? Did we really want to have blow-by-blow descriptions of what was going on at the Battle of Verdun during World War I? Did we want to listen to press conferences with Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta in 1945? Or have instant analyses by experts on the ambiance of the meetings from comments on body language? Do we need medical experts to tell us about the terrible ending in store for Lou Gehrig diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), following his heart-rendering farewell speech.
Were we better off disconnected? Not that ignorance is bliss – far from it – but sometimes somethings are better kept in the background. While computers are able to work non-stop, we all need time to recharge and reflect. That is what vacations are for, if we allow ourselves the time.
The question is: Why are you reading this? Why are you now still connected to the news?
The answer you will give is quite clear: Why am I writing this when “summertime is the season for rest and relaxation.”? Is writing a form of connectedness that is just as addicting as watching the news or listening to sports? If summer is the time to disconnect, it should also be the time to disconnect from writing. Forget Donald Trump. Forget the Yankees. Forget reading and writing about the news.
If you’re reading this, you are as addicted to reading as I am to writing. Welcome to the battle against overload. But maybe it’s not as bad as I presented it. Remember, Thoreau kept copious notes while living alone in the woods and eventually published his thoughts. The idol of 60’s drop outs was not the great isolationist he is portrayed.
If summertime is the time for recharging, what a better way than to read and write?