Posted by: nickgerlich | February 5, 2008

Mouse Potato

It’s not exactly new news that people are spending more and more time with their computers, video game consoles, or even just their TVs. No, we have witnessed this growing phenomenon since the 1980s, as well as the other growing phenomenon: the US waist line.

Or is that waste line?

Mouse PotatoA recent study, though, reveals that our obsessions with indoor electronic activities is also spilling over into other areas, such as our interest in conservation, participation in activities like hunting, and visits to state and national parks. Hunting is down in nearly every state, as measured by hunting license sales (Texas and Florida are holding steady; you try to figure out why). Declines of 18-25% for hunting, fishing, and visits to national parks have occurred in the last 20 years.

And this is something with which I wrestle quite a bit. I fully realize the need to get away from it all, to commune with nature, and be unreachable. Yet I also know that it is the very presence of all these high-tech gadgets that allows me to be so mobile. So every summer when we pack up and head to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, I grumble about the fact that the campgrounds there do not have hookups or wifi.

Sure, I suppose when you camp you should expect some degree of “roughing it,” but we’re there in an RV. I can fire up the generator any time I want (so much for clean air, right?). But cell phone coverage up in the mountains is weak. And forget the wireless card; the signal is horrible. So I have to don my backpack with laptop loaded safely inside, and ride six miles into Estes Park to hang out at Kind Coffee and suck wifi along with some java.

Cafe Diem, right?!

After 1-2 hours of work, I pedal back up the mountain to camp, unplug (once again) from the world, and go hiking and biking with my family, have campfires, and enjoy the incredible view (the picture on my public blog is the view from our campsite each year: Long’s Peak).

My wife, the totally disentangled, free spirit that she is, doesn’t mind being away from her phone or email for a week. I, on the other hand, am still working (albeit only an hour or two), while on “vacation.” Were it not for our modern tech marvels, we’d probably be back home. But then again, that very same mobility is a dark cloud hanging over my head, an ever present threat of rain on my holiday parade.

In other words, mobility is a chain that binds me. It has a lot of slack, but at the same time, it keeps me close to home. In a high-tech kind of way, of course.

Personally, I do not mind taking my work with me. At least I am not throwing in the towel (or hiking shoes) and just staying home. It is up to you whether you would let a little work darken the horizon of your vacation for a couple of hours each day, but my point is this: We need to get off our bottoms and re-engage ourselves with nature. Learn to leverage the technology; don’t become totally enslaved by it and stay in the office or living room.

I don’t have a problem with taking a little work with me, because I can do it from anywhere…and I’d rather do it with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop while looking through the windows of a very cool coffee shop, than spend it within the confines of my four drab office walls.

Dr “Time To Book Our Reservations” Gerlich


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