When I was in elementary school, my family lived in Europe for three years. We had full and happy lives there and were largely unconnected to what was going on in the States. Of course we worked hard at keeping in touch with family and close friends, some of whom came to visit while we were there. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night so that I could talk to my best friend on my birthday. And my mom and a friend of hers exchanged audio tape recordings of themselves talking to each other.
But culturally, we were totally disconnected. Back then, new movies took months if not years to show where we were living. We missed out on a lot of the fads and popular music, clothes and TV shows.
Things are so different now. Life is so much more global. With facebook, blogs and news online (even celebrity gossip sites) we can stay as much or as littley (I just made that word up and I kind of like it) connected as we choose. In some ways, being more connected helps us out immensely when we visit the States. We don’t have to guess at how many kids our friends have now, because we’ve watched them grow up on facebook. We can actually participate somewhat intelligently in discussions about current events. It’s nice.
But there was one thing that really surprised us this year. The smart phone.
Smart phones are actually everywhere here. Well, not in our house, but it does seem like everyone has one.
But 3G/4G are both relatively new in Lebanon, and from what I understand, the connection isn’t very good. Google maps is nearly useless here, as directions are given using landmarks instead of street names. And even if you just use internet with Wi-fi, you never know when the electricity (thus the internet) will be out or the internet will live up to its fame as the second slowest in the world.
Smart phones in the States however are on their way to becoming necessary – at least that’s how it seemed to us this summer. I had a friend coming to one of our open houses who sent me an email on her way for directions. Well, I wasn’t sitting at my computer so I didn’t even see the email until well after the open house was over.
We were driving all over California and instead of our normal ‘look up all the directions online and use a pen and paper to draw maps,’ we just borrowed my mom’s iPhone and used her GPS.
Went to lunch with our pastor, who used some app on his phone to get free chips and salsa.
Part of it was lots of fun. GPS is something I’ve been needing since I started driving. (Many of you have heard the story of the first time I got lost in Arizona. I called my husband, told him what street I was on, and he asked me which direction I was going. Straight? How in the world am I supposed to know if I’m headed east or west? His next question to help me find my way? “Where is the sun right now?” Ummm, okay. One time I got lost driving home from school in Ohio. So I followed a car with a Georgia license plate figuring North Carolina is on the way to Georgia….)
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, some aspects of the technology were lots of fun. My new best friend GPS, taking a picture and posting it to facebook the very second it happened, Netflix for those days I was stuck alone in a hotel room with my sleeping children. We were tempted to actually get a smart phone ourselves (until we saw the prices!)
But overall, it bugged me. I hated the feeling of having to be connected at all times. That someone would email me and expect me to read and respond right away.
Don’t get me wrong. Being connected is good. I love being connected. But sometimes having the ability to disconnect is also a really, really good thing.