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A weekend away from the computer

By James Hanback Jr.

JUNE 21, 1999:  I've not touched a computer in two days, and it wasn't so bad. Probably the best way to describe it is to say that I suffered an extreme case of Information Age Backlash. Driving home in sluggish post-rush hour traffic a few days ago, I discovered within myself a sense of revulsion and dread for my usual at-home routine, the first step of which is to sit down in front of my computer, sign on to the Internet, and check for any e-mail that may have arrived during the 40-minute drive home.

So I simply didn't. And that was something new.

Many people lament our dependence on modern conveniences. Chief among said conveniences are computers and the Internet. It is not often that I've counted myself among the lamentors. I am, in fact, passionate about technology, but not so much passionate about people. The unfortunate side-effect of my technological fanaticism is that modern technology is geared toward connecting me (and has connected me) with more people.

Honestly, I didn't think I could get away, even for a few hours. There was work still to be done on database software I was customizing. I regularly receive between 50-75 e-mails per day from various people and mailing lists to which I subscribe. I surf the Web constantly in search of everything from daily news to compact discs to the latest software bug fix information. The Internet has become as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping, but for once, I didn't want to feel so connected.

So I simply didn't. And I learned a few things about myself and my world in the process:

I learned that the two trees that sit atop the hill on the property I've owned for more than a year are walnut trees, and for some reason it pleased me to know that.

I learned that it's been a long time since I sat back and really listened to a CD, and was surprised to find that I missed doing so.

I learned while exploring the small town in which I am constructing a home that I'm not as dispassionate about people as I thought, and that many of them are downright friendly when you're talking with them face-to-face instead of through the electronic glow of cyberspace.

But most of all, as I sat down at my computer for the first time in two days to write this piece, I learned that I am still passionate about technology, even though I feel the need to break from it from time to time.

We are all wrapped up in it. We check e-mail. We surf the Web. We try to keep up with software and hardware changes that seem to come so rapidly. Yet with technology, as with everything, there are times when it's best to stop and draw a few deep breaths.

Do I lament that technology is so much a part of my life? Not a bit.

And what will I do the next time I feel revulsion at the thought of checking my e-mail, the next time I suffer a severe case of Information Age Backlash?

I simply won't check it. It will still be there when I return.

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