In this digital age we are bombarded by wi-fi consumerism. Buy the iPad, upgrade to the latest iPhone, free wi-fi available here… There are five billion mobile phone subscriptions and counting worldwide (1) and 55% of UK pensioners now use Facebook (2).
The late great American stand-up comic George Carlin summed up the extent of our greed for technical toys: “Everybody’s got a cell phone that’ll make pancakes and rub their balls.” (3). Maybe it isn’t our balls that are aching. A 2007 survey in the UK found that out of a group of 20,000 people, 4% claimed to suffer with some form of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) (4). EHS is claimed to trigger various symptoms ranging from headaches to an irregular heartbeat.
An estimated 5% of Americans claim to have EHS, with the National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia the only place where sufferers can seek refuge. There, wireless communications are banned but this doesn’t stop some of its wi-fi refugee inhabitants feeling like “prisoners”, (5) physically caged off from the outside world. Some doctors believe that EHS is not a physical but a psychological condition (6). Whether it’s mind or body, or both, the trade-off for being a “technological leper” (7) is increasingly seen as a price worth paying. And the rejection of the wi-fi world could promote a more fundamental healing.
Arguably these refugees get closer to what life should really be about. Real life is not about Facebook chat, tweeting and checking in on Foursquare. Be free of the electronically charged world and pursue what really matters – friendship, family, fornication, freedom, food and fun are the things that make life worth living: As the ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ chime: “Unimpressed by material excess. Love is free, love me say hell yes.” (8)
Trivial technical distractions are a shocking waste of our short lives – maybe there should be a Get Up Off Your Arse And Live app, you get one look at it and then your phone explodes.
Staring at a screen can benefit you only so much – like reading this… There’s no limit to what you could experience and learn if you look at the world as an adventure: “Knowledge without mileage equals bullshit.” (9) Thank you Henry.
So let’s hear it for the rejection of the wi-fi world. Smash up your gadgets and gizmos and embark on the truer pursuit of happiness. If we all adopted a Luddite (10) sensibility towards these technological toys, life would be for living, not looking at it on a screen. Thoreau had it nailed. “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” (11)
(1) Five billion phone subscriptions http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14887428
(2) Pensioners on Facebook http://www.umpf.co.uk/blog/social-media/social-media-usage-in-the-uk-the-findings/
(3) George Carlin http://thumpandwhip.com/2009/07/26/george-carlin-everybodys-got-a-cell-phone-thatll-make-pancakes-and-rub-their-balls/
(4) Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_hypersensitivity#Prevalence
(5) Prisoners http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14887428
(6) EHS research http://www.es-uk.info/info/index.asp
(7) Technological leper http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14887428
(8) Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give It Away lyrics http://www.lyricsfreak.com/r/red+hot+chili+peppers/give+it+away_20114705.html
(9) Henry Rollins on life and travel http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/44736.Henry_Rollins
(10) Luddites http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite
(11) Thoreau on richness http://thoreau.eserver.org/quotes.html
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This post was written by MC