This year I quite literally went into the wilderness.
And yet, here I am. I set out to write a book about VR, which hasn’t exactly materialized because I think you do in fact need a cabin for that, a tent will not suffice. The irony is not lost on me.
About nine months later, I came back to the daily tech news cycle. It’s second nature, scanning tweetdeck much like riding a bike. It feels as though nothing changed. With a few exceptions, stories I’d followed for months with loose ends, it was all the same. Tech didn’t change, and that felt confusing. In the months I spent hiking, dragging my tent up a mountain, plunging into crystal clear glacial waters, watching wildlife, I didn’t feel pulled away. Cursory updated confirmed: indeed tech’s big players remained, VR has yet to manifest on a consumer level, and no one I know is wearing a smartwatch.
How could this be?
Now that I’m back, I’m sucked into the incremental update cycle. Missing the news from the last hour leaves me hopelessly unmoored. Most maddeningly, I’m more beholden to my black mirrors than ever. We haven’t solved the FOMO problem, the digital IV drip that makes the world, all 4.7″ of it, spring to life (an email! an iOS update! an error message! how did I live without this stuff?)
Personal technology again agitates the waters of my mind. I check for updates between the updates. Time trickles out of the back of my brain, through my badly abused dopamine pathways. Control flows upstream in a quick current, out of grasp.
I feel less alive, less in my body, less control on the outcome of my own self moving through the world than ever. More anxious, less competent. Most of it coming back again to the ghost in the machine, the hollow echo of a notification never pushed, the deafening silence of nothing much happening in the interior world I draw away into.
I saw things too beautiful to instagram, too transcendent to put into 140 characters. Occasionally snapchat expressed the grandeur or absurdity of nature, running down a mountain thigh deep in snow, the suggestion of a 360 degree sunset, a family of mountain goats defying gravity on a rocky outcropping. Most I forgot to share it.
When I am outside, crossing a glacier, swimming in a crystal clear alpine lake, plucking ripe berries into a juice stained hat, I am a radical kind of present. There is nothing else to be. And there is nothing like it.