Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Poland: My digital diet

My friendly travel companion before the storm.

If you get defensive about it, that's probably a clue that you're addicted.

I've been thinking a lot about taking a digital diet. Not spending so much time online. Not letting my eyes bug out over my new interest in Pinterest, Facebook and that old technology called electronic mail. And then there is the blog roll.

But I reasoned that it wasn't a problem. I could quit any time. I don't need a digital diet. Then I wondered why I was being so defensive about it inside my own head.

I did a digital diet for two reasons:
  1. Inspiration. I read about one on a blog I follow, though I can't remember which blog it is anymore. And after a few weeks of not reading my favorite blogs, wherever that posts was is now lost under heaps of other posts. Blog posts can be so temporary.
  2. Force. I went to a camp deep in the Polish countryside where there is plenty of wildlife but no WiFi. And I gave up my 3G back in June when AT&T screwed me over with roaming charges. Long story.
Before I left for the country, I downloaded Kindle for Mac and a few ebooks, so at least I'd get the fix of being able to be on my computer and click, even if it is just a few pages of a book. This resulted in a reawakening of my dormant dilemma: iPad vs Kindle.

I still don't know. Help me out here, people. Just. Tell. Me. Which. One.

Anyway, back to all this digital dieting. I'd like to say I had a profound experience during my time in the country. That my mind opened up to greater thoughts. That I was more relaxed. That I was able to commune with nature on a deeper level. Basically, I was wondering when this drug of dubious quality would kick in and I'd feel the high.

But instead of all this, I really understood why people emotionally eat. I didn't actually emotionally eat, but there were times when I wished I could check my email, knew I couldn't check my email, then wanted to stuff my face with Fun Dip.

There was no Fun Dip. There was just many kinds of sausage and a handful of tomatoes, which is just not the same thing so I just sat with wanting Fun Dip to distract from this digital diet.

So the Internet, I learned, is my Fun Dip. Note to self.

To whittle away time, I wrote in my journal, read books and I sat with my companions who did their best to translated what they could.

Time crawled. My skin crawled. It was all a bit much.

I also spent a lot of time practicing my pleasant resting face while I dug deeper into my seething inner world and tried to telepathically read my email. My outer and inner world didn't match. On the outer, I sat on the dock and dipped my feet in the water, sunbathed at the beach, laughed at jokes. On the inner, I missed my rich online life. It's like Avatar but without tails. 

Since I couldn't deal, part of my brain just shut down. My internal monologue turned down the volume, but not a peaceful, Buddhism-type way. It was a quiet like the sudden realization that the tour bus took off without you.

Now what do I do?

Kayaking, for starters. We went out on a wobbly little kayak for a few hours. On the way back to the dock, it started to rain. We were quite far out and going against the wind. My muscles strained as I paddled, but soon I got into the groove of Just get to the dock. A storm was brewing and it was headed our way.

When the muscles are fully engaged, the mind—trusting that it's no longer required in this moment—wanders off.

First, I imagined the worst case scenario—that Christophe would get struck by lightning and I would be rowing us ashore. I imagined the look on the faces of his family. His slumped body. Their dashed hopes. The funeral. Story done. The only light to this tragic end would be that he would have died during a really great part of his life. He's had a great summer hanging with his family in Poland and moi in Paris. We've had a good time.

Second, I wondered why the first thought wasn't that I got struck by lightning. I sheepishly admit that thinking about myself seems more like me. Sure it would be tragic, sad, plenty of tears, a lot of sad comments on my Facebook page...

And that got me mad again about not having Internet access!!!!!

We made it to shore, docked the kayak and ran for cover on the patio of a restaurant. Just then I turned to see a bird get struck by lightning mid-flight and fall to it's watery grave.


The storm continued through the night. I admit, that from the safety of the cabin, it was beautiful to witness the majesty of roaring thunder and cracking lightning. 

The next morning it was still raining and the mood was drab. There was discussion about going home a day early. I tried to look like I was weighing the pros and cons of leaving early. Finally, I said that yes, let's do it. Let's leave early.

Christophe looked at me. Arms crossed. "You miss the Internet."

I stare at him. He knows me so well.

I get defensive. No, it's because of the rain. It's cold. We don't want to get sick. Bla bla bla.

He holds his stance and his stare.

"Fine, I miss the Internet."

He turned and started packing. For someone who doesn't speak the same language as me, he sure was talking my language.

Two hours later, I was back at the house sitting pretty as I sat on the couch with the teenagers of the family, all of us silently surfing on our own computers.

Maybe I'll try another digital diet next year.

Or maybe not.


  1. A digital diet makes as much sense to me as taping my mouth shut for fun or enlightenment.

  2. Mandy_Fish: Taping the mouth shut. Yeah, no. We've got to go with our strengths. No more digital diets for me, thanks.

  3. I'm trying to refrain from making a Polish sausage joke right now...

    This post totally cracked me up. I do love your writing and I would be so sad if you stayed on a permanent diet. I think it's best to just stick with everything in moderation, right? Including Internet.

  4. Mel Heth: The Polish sausage joke is used often and to the point of hilarity and suggestion around here. About moderation: Word.

  5. They don't get thunderstorms here. I didn't realize how much I look forward to them until I didn't have them anymore. There's something very powerful and magical about a thunderstorm. I think it all stems from my love of Mary Poppins....Something's a brewin'.

  6. iPad. Hands down. I have both a kindle and an iPad and I don't think I have touched the kindle since I got my iPad. And kudos to you for doing the digital diet, voluntarily or not. I would definitely go through withdrawal.

  7. Thanks for describing what it would be like without internet so that I don't actually have to try it myself. It's so funny how completely we need and rely on something that has really only recently come into existence.

  8. Oh yeah- and ipad! Your little leg bug from the boat would agree.

  9. I've read an article with the same title. It explains how people converts in Internet addicts and need a couple of hours on Internet to be happy. So sad.


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