Superfluous Matter
Digital Vacation

Yesterday being a rather troubling anniversary, I took the day off work. But I also decided to take the day off from (digital) communication and media consumption. I didn't turn on my phone or computer and I avoided TV, radio, books, magazines, and all people (where possible). Instead I rented a car and drove around south-western Ontario. I visited a few places of special significance and took a few long walks along the way. It was very relaxing and liberating, but I don't think it led to any great advances in or revelations concerning my overall psychological or emotional health. It certainly did no harm though.

The most interesting outcome for me was how insidious information is. My average day is just a steady stream of pure information of varying quality. From the moment I get up and turn on my computer to read the Internets while eating breakfast I am rarely not consuming information of some kind. Each day I read the news online, follow dozens of sites in my RSS reader, keep track of friends on Facebook, read and write many emails, send a random number of text messages, talk on the phone, read articles in Macleans, read some of whatever book I'm reading, watch an episode or two of some random TV show and all that is just the baseline. It does not include what I do at work or any "extra" Internet stuff I do like researching future activities or random bits of useless but interesting information. Also, I often do several of these activities at once and there are several other information-heavy activities I'd like to pursue given more time (albeit they are more creative than consumptive).

My observations did not come so much from the lack of all this information I experienced yesterday, but from the catch-up I did today. I had fallen behind by just a day and it took three or four hours to get back to where I would have been. And again, this does not include the catch-up I'll need to do at work on Monday ( many emails will be waiting).

I'm not sure what the lesson is from this. I love my information and I regularly adjust my sources to try to filter out the crap. I don't see myself changing but maybe it would be good to take more breaks now and then. It didn't hurt to go a day without reading about the latest stupid, embarrassing thing Rob Ford did (can we has new mayor yet?).

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