This weekend I went away with my wife and horse to the countryside somewhere in the Netherlands.
It was somewhat a hassle to get on our way as we first had to pack, then get the horse trailer behind our car. Pick up our horse, called Glynnedd (see her picture below), and then drive a few hours to our destination. We were pretty excited, as it was our first trip with our horse outside (We started riding only a few months ago).
For some reason this weekend was the first in a while that we didn’t have access to any computer. It seems that everywhere we go there is always a way to go on-line. Not here. So what do you do as a 24×7 connected tech hero?
Obviously I took out my Nokia N95, my only life line to the (digital) connected world. I surfed to a few sites, looked at my blog, entered my first blog comment using a mobile phone (not very efficient), and remained connected a little via Twitter.
It got even to a point that I took my N95 with me on the first horse riding trip and took a few pictures sending them away to Flickr using Shozu. The quality of the pictures not being very good, as a horse rarely holds still while taking pictures.
I turned the phone to silence mode so that I could receive tweets without the message sounding through the Dutch countryside.
It was my wife that eventually put a stop to this connecting madness. When asked why I needed to be connected all the time to the world, while I could enjoy myself right here and now, I didn’t really have a good answer (don’t you hate it when that happens?). So I decided to disconnect altogether and focus on the event itself.
It made me realise that not being connected all the time is a good thing. Social networks, blogs, twitter, or any other web 2.0 service want you to be in their network all the time, living and sharing your life with others. But it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you need to disconnect and be part of real life.
It is like riding a horse really. You need to go with the flow. The horse feels what you want and acts upon it, and you feel everything the horse is doing and can respond to that. It is this interaction that makes it so much fun.
A good example of this interaction is when you are riding with 10 horses together. The fun starts when we get into a gallop with them. Horses are herd animals. Their natural instinct is to stick together. So if one takes off really fast, before you know it the rest follows into this stampede. As a rider you can do two things. You pull on the bridle (the leather straps you see to control the horse’s movements. The resulting effect is that the horse tries to fight you as her instinct tells her to run along with the group. If you pull harder, the horse merely becomes stronger and will resist you even more. However, if you have enough trust in your ability to sit without falling off, you can also let go and allow the horse to follow the herd. Just go with the flow. The horse might make some unexpected movements (for example if one horse tries to kick another in gallop, or when the horse sees something unexpected). But in this flow you can see it coming and help the horse find its balance and path. And it is this flow that makes it so incredible and energizing to ride the horse in gallop with a group. If you are able to do a gallop while standing up like a jockey it is even more fun. The pressure is off the saddle, allowing the horse to go faster and the rider getting less tired (picture taken from Wikipedia).
Back to the always being connected web 2.0 thing. Do we really need to hang on to this concept. Does it really provide the value that the service creators are telling us? I don’t think so. It is the real life interactions that makes a difference. The web 2.0 services that we are confronted with are really only just tools to support this real (or digital) life interaction. So let’s stop acting as if our life depended on it. It is a tool stupid (stole that from Clinton), nothing more. It is not your social life, your friends, your life supporting network (social graph) that is out there. It is just a tool that may support aspects of your real or digital life. And what can you do with a tool? Put it away sometimes, disconnect, and live happily ever after!