I’ve done this little poll to see if I’m not alone in having trouble switching off. Last week, the family Owen all took its self off to a holiday cottage in South Wales where the sky was clear, the fire hearth was open and the field for the kids to play in was, in their words, ‘massive’. Being away was just the break we needed. Like many people, the run up to the holiday was littered with last minute deadlines, paperwork catch up and frantic email in box clearing. The good thing about it, mind, is that you can engage in a game of inbox Top Trumps. ‘I have over 400 emails in my junk box!’ yells my husband one evening. ‘Doh! I have only 300 hundred!’ ‘Yes!’ he shouts, somewhat loudly, ‘I win.’ I narrow my eyes, ‘Okay,’ I say, tapping my keyboard, ‘I have 200 Twitter followers!’ He throws his arms out and claps. ‘Terump! I have 650!’ I slump into the sofa. ‘Stupid game,’ I mutter, and resume decluttering my various email and social media things ready to go on holiday.
Thing is, while playing top trumps with our online comings and goings is fun and, let’s face it, a tad childish, it throws up a little point. Namely, our daily lives are ruled by internet technology. In the excellent blog, MWF seeking BFF, there is a post that talks about real friends versus social media ones and the fatigue that can come with Twitter, Facebook et al. Once at our holiday cottage, not only did we have no TV, but we had no Internet connection either, which meant a whole week of no Twitter, no Facebook, no web surfing and no inbox. The MWF blog post came to mind. ‘Are you bringing your Blackberry with you?’ asks my husband. I shake my head, thinking how he is real, face-to-face, not a twitter icon, and he needs my attention. ‘Nope, ‘ I say, decisively. ‘Well, yes, but no. I’ll stick it in my bag, but I’m going to switch it off. I need to get away from all that. Concentrate on us.’ He nods. ‘Mmm, good point, me too. I’ll just bring my iPhone in case of emergency.’ ‘Good idea,’ I reply, and with that I go in search of my charger.
Our week away goes wonderfully. While the weather veers between sunshine one day and, quite literally, snow the next, we all manage to have a relaxing time, reading books, playing Uno with the girls and generally spending quality time together, properly enjoying each other’s company. ‘Mum, we’re going on the rope swing,’ is the phrase that will stay with us from the trip, such was our girls’ obsession with the assembled rope swing dangling from the tree in the huge field that was our garden for the duration of our stay. I manage to get through the final two books in The Hunger Games Trilogy, both of which I had downloaded on to my iPad before we left. I had also taken with me my laptop, the thought of finding tranquil time to get a few more chapters down in mind, but in the end, I just couldn’t muster the will to write. To be honest, it was just nice to have some time off, and I think my brain needed it. And God knows I could do with a rest from social media. ‘But you love it, all that Twitter and stuff,’ says my husband one evening, lifting his head from the book as I stoke the fire. ‘Well, yes, but I can do without it for a while. TV, too.’ I want to have a chin wag with him about my latest novel writing, but when I close the door of the wood burner, he’s already returned to his book, and so I pad to the sofa, stick a blanket round me, and resume my reading of Katniss and her Hunger Game woes.
The final few days of our hols see some trips to the seaside, potters around quaint towns and villages, and a good cycle ride along the country lanes. All in all, we are feeling refreshed and happy. It gets to the late afternoon, and while the kids are outside attempting to feed the ponies grass, I sit on the bed and switch on my iPad to read a downloaded book. Scrolling the screen, my finger pauses, hovering over the BBC iPlayer app. Suddenly, I am taken over by an instant need to watch TV. But there is no Internet connection here, I tell myself. And yet still, I try it. Naturally, it flashes that there is no wireless. Undeterred, I try the next app, this time ITV Player, quickly followed by Twitter, Facebook and Tweetdeck. It is like I am gorging myself on a food I haven’t eaten in a long time. So engrossed am I in the task that I jump when I hear my husband’s voice behind me. ‘Aaargh!’ I yelp. ‘Don’t do that!’ I scold. He laughs and peers at the screen. ‘Hang on a minute,’ he says, ‘are you…You are! You’re trying to connect to the Internet!’ I roll my eyes. ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t work,’ I sulk. He jumps up, mighty pleased with himself. ‘Ha! You broke first!’ ‘No, no,’ I try, ‘I was just going to do some…’ I scan my brain, ‘writing!’ He flops to the bed. ‘Yeah, right. Admit it, if this was Top Trumps, I’d win, hands down.’ I stare at the tablet screen. ‘’Suppose.’ Outside, the girls shriek with laughter. My husband goes to the window. ‘Hey, they’re on the rope swing. Do you want to come out with me and push them?’ I flip close my iPad and stand. ‘That would be great,’ I say. ‘Come on then,’ he says. ‘Race you!’ I run after him and try to forget work, writing and laptops at least just for one more day.
All poll votes will be posted next week. Thanks for voting!