Monday, October 20, 2008

Back on the grid -- reality check!

Last week I postulated what would happen when I was forced to forgo the Internet for a few days. I officially dropped off the web last Wednesday evening, and didn't log back on until early Monday morning. Some things were as I anticipated, others weren't.

Professional consequences
I was able to talk my business partner through a mastering session Friday, and everything seemed to go just fine. Credit Mark Goldstein at Sandalwood Studios for that. We've worked together for a while now, and I knew he could make aesthetic decisions that would be in line to what I would have done.

E-mail was a disaster, with about 400 missives waiting to be read/deleted/answered/filed. The biggest problem was an order that had come in through Amazon. I normally turn those within 24 hours, but I neglected to have someone in place to handle that part of the operation, so the order shipped today (just at the deadline for shipping), rather than Friday which it should have.

G0ing through the e-mails proved to be more of chore than anything -- turned out most of it wasn't time sensitive. All-in-all, Digital Chips, Inc. and DCD Records managed to do quite well without me.

Personal consequences
There weren't nearly as many e-mails waiting. Most of them were unimportant, and none of them were time-sensitive.

One odd thing happened, though. After four days without a single tweet, I return to discover I gained three new followers at! And there's new friend requests at FaceBook. Perhaps I should be more sparing in my commentary...

And there's a spike in the traffic for this blog. Ken always kills me in traffic on this blog. He submits less posts than I do, the posts are shorter than mine, and they seem to be much more popular. I'm guessing there's a lesson in all this.

Informational consequences
I missed the last debate, and for the first time this election cycle, I had no recourse. I couldn't watch it online later -- I had to rely on what I could pick up from the newscasters, pundits (and SNL) on successive days to piece together what happened.

The first time I heard about Joe the Plumber was in SNL's Thursday night special. I read a profile of the actual person in the Intelligencer Journal Friday, but I was limited to the information contained in the article.

We watched the morning news from Pittsburgh before heading out each morning, and it was depressingly the same. There was about 15 minutes of actual content recycled over and over, each retelling having exactly the same amount of information with slightly different intros.

Information was easier to digest off the grid -- there was less of it. And because I couldn't get online, I began to feel the responsibility of checking sources lifting from my shoulders. I had forgotten how much simpler life is on the other side of the digital divide -- and how much scarier. It was difficult to piece together any kind of narrative with the news stories that were being tossed about. Without background or context, it seemed as if everything was happening randomly -- no wonder most folks are looking for simple, black-and-white solutions. They want to restore order!

Bottom line
I appreciated my time offline. I took long walks in the morning, had some great conversations with my dad, thought about things in depth without the continual attention-diverting tug of multiple RSS feeds, and generally recharged my creative batteries.

At the same time, I missed the connections, the continual hum of conversation, the discovery of new ideas and new concepts, and the ability to ferret out information for myself.

So it was good to go (especially as nothing fell apart), but it's good to be back.

- Ralph

Day 125 of the WJMA Web Watch. (that's something else that hasn't changed)

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