I thought my friend was joking when she suggested I buy an underwater housing for my new iPhone when she heard I was going to the beach. “That way you can post to Facebook while you’re snorkeling,” she said.
I thought, “What fresh hell would that be?,” channeling Dorothy Parker. It turns out, that future is here.
Watershot and other tech accessory companies now offer vacationers the ability to carry their social media distractions with them into the surf, even down to 130 feet.
Where I live, I can’t even get a cellphone signal, let alone a data connection, on the road to the nearest town. Since moving to a rural area, I’ve experienced an un-fracturing of time that has spilled over onto my vacations, too.
It wasn’t always that way. When I lived in the city, I could walk, shop, text and check email while pretending to listen to in-the-flesh companions.
At home I could follow disasters in remote locations 24/7 on CNN while transcribing recorded interviews on my laptop. I could do five things at once and each one of them got a full 20 percent of my attention.
Seven-days-a-week shopping and services provided more opportunities for self-interrupting.
In Kansas City on a typical weekend, I probably “jumped” in the car to “run” to the store five or six times to buy a single item (but usually returning with more). Even on Sunday, I could get a pedicure, make bank transactions (at the supermarket branch) or get my tires rotated (at Costco).
Life in Chase County, Kan., is something completely different.
My hometown has exactly zero retail stores, unless you count the gift shops in our two art galleries. Not even a gas station. The closest grocery store, hardware store and convenience store are 15 miles away. There are no runs to buy a single item.
People plan their shopping better here. (In Matfield Green, toilet paper, not sugar, is the No. 1 item neighbors borrow from one another.) If it’s Friday and your car needs work, you are just going to have to wait until Monday.
The side effect of this has been that evenings and weekends seem longer and more of-a-piece. I might be running around like a barn cat chasing grasshoppers, but I’m at home or with friends. Because cell and data reception are so spotty, my social media interactions are limited to when I’m at my desk.
Barring any natural disaster, when you read this, I will be 1,500 miles away in South Florida and quite unplugged. My purpose in going to the beach is not to keep up to date on mayhem in the Middle East and Missouri, but to escape it.
The appeal of those warm, gin-clear waters is being quite alone with the fan coral, clown fish and swim buddies. I even stopped taking disposable underwater cameras with me when I snorkel, because I noticed the more I looked for good shots, the less I saw.
Last year, in a time trade-off during my vacation, I uploaded one photo a day with no status update instead of purchasing, writing and mailing postcards. This year, even the photos will wait until I get home. I’m building on a three-day weekend this past Fourth of July when I “went dark” on social media to glorious, time-unwinding effect.
I don’t turn on the TV in my hotel room, and read only the local news in the daily paper that gets delivered free. I’ve found following world events while vacationing has no positive effect on developments and a negative effect on my state of mind.
I’ll keep my cellphone on only while en route to the airport, to receive the inevitable flight delay texts. After that, it will stay dark and unvibrating in a nightstand drawer until it is time to fly home. Co-workers and family have the name and number of my resort. It seems there is a higher bar for ringing the phone in someone’s hotel room than for hitting “send” on a text.
It’s a bar we should all be aware of — on vacation, in our free time and our daily work lives: Who and what we allow to splinter off slivers of our time and attention.