To connect or not to connect, on the road

I was going to Vancouver for work on Thursday/Friday and I seriously considered NOT bringing my macbook with me – less heavy, travel lite, faster through airport security, etc. BUT I knew that Le mari and le petit, way across the country, were going to be at le petit’s birthday party on Saturday and I wanted to be there via Skype to view, talk, and be connected with them during the celebration. So, 2.5 pounds heavier and later, I brought that macbook with me.

It really made me think about being connected vs. unconnected.

I can NO LONGER fathom a world where information and people are not accessible by phone, VOIP, email, FB, through the web, etc. How did humans live and work in the world, even 5 years ago, before the advent of the iPhone? I say iPhone, because previously, the smartphone (Blackberry) was primarily the tool of the business man or woman, but the iPhone has made the smartphone a commonplace gadget for any university student, mom, office worker, teen – well, the ones with the means to afford it – as well as the business users.

It’s not like I was afraid to leave the macbook behind. I planned to check my email at my friend’s house on her computer in the evenings – but I honestly had a little twinge of….what: anxiety? fretfulness? the feeling that I would have missed something or things, if I wasn’t able to be online for a whole 3 days. Being a distant but interactive participant at my son’s 2nd birthday party is a more compelling reason to justify why I HAD to be online on the weekend, but really, did I NEED to be?

The answer to the question is NO, I didn’t NEED to be, but by having the macbook with me, there were lots of things I was able to do easily and oh-so-painlessly while I was away from home, among them:

  • check the transit schedule for the bus I was going to take to my Friday morning meeting
  • confirm my flight
  • find the nearest location for LUSH (to stock up on bath stuff)
  • be present, for a full 25 minutes, at my son’s birthday party across the country, at a cost of $0 (my cost, anyway)
  • read one complete novel, skim a few chapters of my bookclub book, and read my class weekly article
  • listen to 3 albums, start to finish
  • transfer money

The sheer scope of things one can do via a laptop and a wi-fi connection is mind-boggling. This past weekend half-persuaded me to re-consider the convenience and added value of owning a smartphone or tablet. Ok, more than half-persuaded.

On the flipside, it made me think about the landscape of the world we live where I chose to engage in those particular activities that I did over the weekend. Why didn’t I just pick up the telephone to confirm bus or flight times? Why didn’t I just carry the paperback version of the book I was reading? I could have not listened to music during my 3 days away, and maybe instead have gone to see live music at a club one night. Not quite sure where I am going with this, but it just made me question why I did what I did, and made me wonder if I would have chosen different things to do, had I not been connected to an ever-growing, seemingly infinite pool of readily available information at my fingertips.