5 min read

Wil’s Sunday: Can we go offline?

I was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago where I spent a few days staring out of a window, watching the hospital helicopter come and go. I wondered: How do we go offline?
Wil’s Sunday: Can we go offline?
Photo by Sven Fischer / Unsplash

While I mainly write about the intersection of communications and technology, I also enjoy sharing personal essays and a behind-the-scenes view of my experiences.

I call these Wil's Sundays.

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Enjoy this Sunday's article.

I was admitted to the hospital a few weeks ago where I spent a few days staring out of a window at the hills, watching the hospital helicopter come and go.

It wasn't my first time in a hospital for an extended stay. While I'm a generally healthy person, life sometimes happens.

While in the hospital there was no TV (I didn't turn it on). Very little smart phone usage. Lots of thinking. Lots of sleeping. Lots of recovering.

During those few days I kept wondering, how does one go offline?

With 42,000 internet satellites going into space, potentially $100 billion in funding for fiber infrastructure, in addition to the untold number of miles of copper laying in the ground today, you might need to live in or visit some remote town to get away from the internet.

(Psst: The ability to escape the internet in rural towns is part of the fiber infrastructure package.)

So, is a hospital stay the only way we'll be able to get away from the internet?

The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee, Montana.

Buddhas. In Montana?

After a week of recovery following my hospital visit, we drove 40 miles north to Arlee, Montana. A town where the main street is part of Highway 93, slowing down from 70 MPH to 25 MPH as you cruise through the 1 mile stretch of Main Street.

Exiting Highway 93 a few minutes north of Arlee and turning on a dirt road heading east, the gates of the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas appear on the left.

It was a cold day in October, made even colder with the view of snow-capped mountains in the background. The Garden took about 30 minutes to walk through, including photo taking and some video filming of the amazement that a Garden of One Thousand Buddhas sat in the middle of a rural Montana town.

We use Swarm to check in to places we visit. With an API that hooks into our calendars, we can quickly look back at all the fun and interesting places we've visited over the years. The trick: we need internet access to check in.

In northeastern Arlee, there is little cellular service. Which, after the frustration of realizing we were disconnected from the rest of the world, made the rest of the Garden visit that much more relaxing, focused and enjoyable.

Telecom towers: Waterworks Hill, Montana.

Technology + internet = ❤.

I've been a fan of technology and the internet since high school. If I count the Ataris or Intellivisions, then even before high school.

I worked in Silicon Valley for a long time. My undergrad is in Telecommunications. After building my first inventory database, I moved into systems and networking administration. I studied for the Certified Novell Engineer classification and used that knowledge to migrate our server from Bindery to NDS. I still have nightmares about that transition.

From a marketing and communications perspective, understanding and leveraging technology provides a competitive advantage. Whether through application, distribution or analytics, understanding technology and internet fundamentals is critical in making things go.

I say all this to try and back my belief that technology and the internet is in our culture, from the "internet superhighway" to "cyber" to "let's not capitalize Internet".

Still, I wonder, how do we get away from technology and the internet when we want to (and when it doesn't need to involve a hospital stay).

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Photography and videography: A new (offline-ish) hobby.

I picked up a digital, mirrorless camera (I know - still considered technology) a few years ago. The camera was to get me away from screens and to find a new hobby.

To hasten my camera education, I started following YouTubers like:

  • Frederik Trovatten
  • Jason Kummerfeldt
  • James Popsys
  • Jamie Windsor
  • Johnny Harris
  • Kraig Adams
  • King Jvpes
  • Nick Carver
  • Philip Bloom
  • Samuel Streetlife
  • Thomas Heaton

(I know, I need a screen to watch YouTube. See how difficult it becomes?)

I started taking that camera everywhere I went. Whether when traveling or when walking around town. Sometimes I'd attach a mic to the camera. Other times I'd attach a GoPro.

Sometimes I'd use my drone to take photos.

Or, sometimes I'd just walk around the home, taking pictures of our cats.

Other times, I'd try my luck at product photography.

And, of course, I'd upload a few videos to YouTube.

Trying my hand at video...

What's next.

Since I'm stubborn, I don't like to use all the automated features on a camera. That doesn't feel like slowing things down to me. And that is helping me continue to learn some photography and videography fundamentals.

I shoot in manual mode. Even the lens is set to manual. If I think of the camera as something I need to be patient with, then manual settings work just fine.

I'm really enjoying the peace and quiet and mental break and challenge and slowness of photography and videography.

This morning, I grabbed the camera and found this scene. I only took a few photos at slow shutter speeds. However I was patient and thoughtful, even though it was 30° outside.

There's a train, a feed mill and a highway somewhere in the distance.

And while, yes, I will still use technology to capture photos and video, and the internet to upload and share, the time taken while shooting and filming is a technology-free and internet-free zone.

Slowing down is something I welcome in an era of go-go technology, telecommunications and media demands.