When, after several years that were almost completely devoid of personal downtime, I had pitched my game-ending strikeout last year—disputation, faculty ceremony, electronic publication—and went on to an extended late-summer vacation spree, I hesitated to even take my aged (but trusty) P800 smartphone with me. A week or so into these vacations a new-found friend, who’d already gotten an idea about how I live, among other things, asked me: “Say, aren’t you missing the Internet?”
I completely failed to understand her question.
But I couldn’t say why at first, and had to think about it. Then it dawned on me. It was really simple:
I didn’t miss the Internet because I live there.
Nobody goes on vacation to schlep their homes around with them, except maybe snails. To leave the place where you live behind is the very idea of vacation!
So I did just fine without. The word “without,” of course, needs a qualifier here (just pick one) since I actually came into contact with the Internet quite often. No way around that. All the places I went to—in Greece, or Spain—were sufficiently civilized to be suffused with computers, and I’m pretty used to helping people out when it comes to hardware or wi-fi issues or someone needs to find something through the Internet, even when I’m on vacation. (Yes, I relate to people easily, and I’m a workaholic. So there.) But never during all that time, almost two months, did I bother to check my Twitter account, email, feeds, news aggregators, Unreal Tournament FPS charts, whatever.
Hypothesis: If there should indeed be anything useful about the term “digital natives” (by “useful” I mean something that furthers our understanding about how people’s behavior is affected by digital media), then this term should encompass those people who “live there” (and might have lived there from the get-go and actually helped build all that stuff), not just those who were “born into” all that. Come to think of it, the original analogy pretty much sucks. “Natives” are people who’d lived in a certain place longer than anyone else, and developed it and called it their home before newcomers descended on the place with locust-like naturalness.
And, as terrific as it was, when I came home I was glad to be back home. I love it here. That’s why I live here! But then I realized my lounge was scattered all over the place in the form of about a half-dozen blogs, and then some. And all of them had to be taken care of, cleaned up, vacuumed, redecorated from time to time, and protected against trolls & tricksters. That’s not my idea of chillin’. So when I came back from vacation, I built this new, improved lounge to hang out in, to chat, and meet interesting people. And redecorated some other rooms of my home as well while I was at it.
So welcome to my home! Let’s have a virtual latte macchiato, or whatever you prefer, and let’s sit down, relaxed, and develop exciting ideas.