Share, Don’t Scroll: How to Do Internet on Vacation
by Sarah Marian Seltzer
When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we had no smartphones and Wi-Fi wasn’t prevalent yet. In fact for part of those blissful two weeks, the only internet we found on our wind-battered Brittany paradise was a shared laptop perched on the side a local bar. One night we sat with drinks and checked our email and saw that an essay I’d written about our wedding had been published, and a slew of laudatory responses had arrived. We got all gooey and sentimental. Then we ate freshly-caught mussels. Things were pretty great. The internet was a friend.
Three vacations later, we’re bound for France again, slightly more beaten down by that crazy thing we called Adult Life, but no less excited and eager to escape the continent together. The daily routine we’re leaving behind has become quite different, too: this time we’re negotiating how many hours of the day we can use our smartphones, and when those hours will be. If we bring a computer for creative writing purposes, how will we handle the fact that every hotel and Airbnb now advertises its free and easy Wi-Fi? How can we avoid the same sticky webs of the web that catch us up at home?
Today, it’s less that we’re entwined with work and more that we’ll be relying on the web for travel arrangements, schedules, and for a kind of fun we didn’t even know existed in 2010. For instance, why would we deny ourselves (or ourselfies, if you will) the pleasure of a daily Instagram or two and the admiring comments that come with that uploading process? In our shareable world, Instagram feels like a legitimate way of getting joy out of a vacation and immortalizing time spent a beautiful new place. And what about an occasional Foursquare check-in and accompanying Tweet? That way, when we get home and look back at our Foursquare trail, we can see and remember all the cool little cafes we checked into.
That having been said, I do spent a lot of time at home staring at my smartphones, scrolling through Twitter. The point of vacation is to stare at stuff like: Art. Menus. The Sky. Each other.
So I offer you set of rules, some of which have been brainstormed with my significant other and some of which are specific to your humble neurotic blogger.
1. Serious email checking only every other night. I’m planning to turn off automatic notifications for various apps so that when I hook into Wi-Fi here and there I don’t get inundated with new messages and informed about who liked that one tumblr post from a year ago that is still making the rounds yet garnering me exactly zero new followers. (No, I’m not bitter.) This way, I will only see mail when I consciously choose to check it.
2. I am planning to write a very specific away message that makes it clear emergencies and lottery-winning, Nobel-prize winning type notices are the only ones that will get responses.
3. The social media rule will be: use social networks to share, but not to scroll. So, I can tweet, post to FB, and enjoy garnering an initial response, but the line here is, I won’t mindlessly shuffle through the day’s Tweets, or stare into the comforting flow of my Instagram timeline, my thumb moving seemingly of its own accord. There will be plenty of time to do that when I’m back at my desk, procrastinating, at which point I can check out everyone’s dog and baby pictures and type “aww” while wondering whether they’ve found a key to happiness I have not while also knowing that that’s the mindfuck Instagram is designed to make me experience and I’m probably making them feel that way with my vacation pictures, too.
4. Don’t go to Amsterdam, partake of the local legal specialty, and then while still not in my right mind read a 55-comment long thread of arguments about the State of Feminism Today and then cry about the future of social justice movements and my own worthlessness as an advocate for the cause. Okay, this isn’t really a rule for my future, but it is one I have perhaps gleaned from an incident in my past. Don’t be like me, kids. Don’t do this. There will still be oppression to fight when you get home. #selfcare
5. Buy a watch. I will probably buy a cheap watch in the Paris Metro when I land so I don’t feel like I need to carry my smartphone around with me to know the time. This is a romantic tradition my husband and I have, and also a great way to demarcate being away from being at home. A miniature clock upon my wrist! How novel, and foreign, and reminiscent of a simpler time.
6. If I feel like I’m not living in the moment, I’ll go on a longer internet diet than planned. And go perhaps two, maybe three, whole days without an email check. Life on the edge: embrace it.
7. But I won’t stress out about whether I’m living in the moment so much that it makes me ignore the moment. What is the moment, anyway? How can I understand what a moment is if it is not frozen on my internet screen for posterity? But on the other hand, how can I understand it if it is frozen on my screen for posterity?
Clearly, I need a vacation.
Readers, how do YOU manage internet when you’re on foreign (or domestic) shores away from home?