Smartphones and Smoke Signals

“How was your weekend?” This question has become all but obsolete. Thanks to our affinity for posting all of life’s precious (and not so precious) moments on social medial outlets like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc., we’ve become victims of one big spoiler alert.


I witnessed sunsets from various North Woods cabins across a dozen Twitter feeds. I’m well aware that you got to lounge in a hammock beside Lake Nokomis thanks to Facebook. Tumblr was filled with strangers boating on lakes, rivers and oceans across the country. But this Memorial Day weekend, I left behind no digital trace of my whereabouts.

For 72 hours, I was locked in a digital-free zone with a dozen good friends. The location of our whereabouts could not be broadcasted via Foursquare because there was no signal capable of carrying the news, aside from a flare gun or smoke signal. We were camping on a friend’s plot of land – a valley, really – in the middle of ‘Farmland’ Wisconsin. There was electricity and running water, albeit straight from the well, but that was it for creature comforts. No cell towers. No light pollution. No need to take our phones out of the car.

We ‘coped’ by gathering around a campfire telling stories and jokes, gossiping and discussing current events while passing the communal bottle of RumChata. We played lawn games, hiked, the boys shot guns at a zombie target and the ladies lounged in lawn chairs reading magazines. We bonded deeply over our shared isolation, our dirty hair and feet, and not caring about anything besides running out of dill pickle chips.

For 72 hours, we stared at each other instead of our screens – a welcome departure from sitting in silence, heads down, thumbs a-flying, faces illuminated by the garish blue glow of a smartphone.

More impressively, for 72 hours, not a single photograph was taken. Not one. I was tempted a few times to run to the car, turn on my phone and capture our shenanigans – but I simply couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to break away from the moment. At home, my first impulse is to document the notable moments for posterity (otherwise known as Instagram). This time, my initial impulse was to let the moment be. Perhaps I was afraid of reminding everyone of the reality we faced as soon as we drove off the dirt road and back onto the highway.

So even though it appears to the outside world that I didn’t do anything significant with my weekend, even though I have no physical proof of the beautiful weather, the breathtaking views, the feeling of sitting around a warm campfire on a cold night, the memories we created are more real than anything I’ve posted in a long time.

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