Culture Tech

Going off the grid

“Off the grid.” A phrase thrown around referring to disconnecting from everything technology. How is that possible in this day and age? Well, it’s not easy, and that’s by design.

Today’s society is connected in so many ways that it’s easy to take for granted. Immediate communication with anyone anywhere in the world, the ability to click a button and have a product delivered to your doorstep within 24 hours, and just the other day, my wife tuned into a live stream of a friend broadcasting to her friends the experience of her kids seeing their grandparents for the first time in months. This level of connectivity that humankind is venturing into is a very difficult one to break free of. Why? Because it’s convenient. Extremely convenient.

So what would it mean to leave that behind? Well, aside from obviously giving up all of the above perks, there are a multitude of other aspects of everyday life that would leave you “connected” in some fashion.

Let’s go down the list.

Phone? Gone.

Computer? Gone too. Don’t even consider social media.

Communication? Also gone. Aside from your good old face-to-face conversation which is already beginning to fade.

House? Gone, unless you have another plan for paying your property taxes.

Payment? How do you pay for your everyday and recurring expenses? Venmo? PayPal? Credit cards? Perhaps you still love your trusty checkbook? You would have to give up all of the above to really be disconnected. It’s easy to see how the first three leave you connected in some way, but checkbooks are a funny thing. With everything being digitized, your seemingly-anonymous pen and paper transaction tracks you via your bank routing and account numbers the second it is processed. And, you are probably caught on camera making that transaction. So, gone too.

But wait, cash is “off the grid,” right? It can be, until you run out. You could return to bartering, but good luck getting very far.

Car? This one gets a bit trickier. If you have an older vehicle with no GPS or auto-assist functionality, you’re probably looking pretty good, right? For the most part, yes, but as with most things in this world, it all comes back to money. Unless you are haggling with the local county co-op trading home-grown produce for fuel, you’re likely not going to get very far without being connected in some fashion.

The Answer:

In short, it’s simply not practical. You could become a hermit in the mountains, but you’ll probably still end up on a list somewhere annotated as “that weird guy” (or girl).

I’m extremely biased in this regard, but don’t worry about it. We’re all connected; it’s our modern way of life. Privacy concerns, identity theft — it’s all operational hazards necessary to function today. The trick is doing everything securely. Look toward the future and don’t worry too much about how the government knows what you bought at Amazon last night (hint: they don’t care).

fog_wilderness

Images courtesy of Pixabay.

6 comments on “Going off the grid

  1. Even in the far North you have internet and Sat TV now . Isis know a few off grid people but even they would show uponce in awhile to shop in Whitehorse , go to a bar and catch up on movies . It is not unusual to see the remote cabins with satellite dishes and radio antennas .

    • Just because you don’t want to be up close and personal with other people, does not mean that you don’t want to watch Deadpool 2.

  2. Exactly

  3. What if you don’t want to go off the grid *per se*, you just sometimes want to limit your connectedness to intelligent, thoughtful people who know how to take a deep breath and step back every now and then to look at the bigger picture of life? Is there a magic formula for that?? That doesn’t involve disinheriting relatives and dissing old friends and acquaintances with sensitive feelings? (Going “off the grid” to diss complete strangers without a lick of sense is totally on the table…)

    On a more serious note, I find I’m less concerned about whether Amazon, Google and Facebook have an obnoxious algorithm conspiracy to show me advertisements narrowly tailored to my recent purchases, searches, and posts, and more concerned about whether I can deposit my paycheck or handle other bank transactions using the convenient app on my phone without the creepy hacker on the train stealing all of my money. How much to care about the complexity of the plethora of passwords I have to remember for my email, social media, mortgage, health insurance, grocery store rewards program, gym, news sites, government sites, etc. How to conveniently let loved ones know “hey, I’m doing this cool thing and showing y’all a picture worth a thousand words to prove it really happened” without declaring open season on my empty house for burglers. How to have my cake and eat it too. Things like that.

    My life is far too ordinary to worry about constantly looking over my shoulder to see whether anyone is literally following me based on my electronic transactions. (Until the day I get burgled or the NSA hands my file over to the FBI.) But becoming more savvy about what I *do* have on the grid, and how that can impact my life in the immediate or distant future (beyond, like, don’t post stupid stuff on social media that you don’t want to haunt you for decades) … that sounds like something worth investing time and effort to pay more attention to. Ugh…when I get around it.

    • Thank you for your input! I think the magic formula for that is taking breaks from social media 😉 There are multiple studies (examples below) showing how Facebook actually contributes to depression, for example. Balancing a healthy lifestyle is really an equation between food, exercise, and social media these days.

      I absolutely agree with your point – privacy is its own conversation, but protecting the sensitive data that you do utilize online, like banking, is a much more worthwhile investment of your time. I want to say that it will get easier, but I have no reason to believe that it actually will..

      Studies on Facebook worsening depression:
      https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feel
      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201710/is-facebook-making-you-depressed

      • Haha…still working on that balance.

        Thanks for those links! I have heard much about the ways that Facebook (and other social media) contributes to depression, and it catches me off guard every time. The primary factor that is waved around the most is the increased opportunity for social comparisons… the idea that my life isn’t as glamorous or well-ordered or functional as everyone else’s. That my kitchen isn’t as sparkly, my kids aren’t as accomplished, my car isn’t as fancy, my job isn’t as fun, my travel isn’t as exotic as everyone else’s. I think I get to skip THAT aspect altogether, partly because my family (for all their faults) can be humorously blunt about the myriad of ways that life trips them up from day-to-day (another reason not to disinherit them), and partly because I went through the social crisis of being on a different life track (and “behind” on all the traditional expectations) way back before social media was even a thing, and partly because I’ve reached a point where my job *is* fun, my car *is* fancy, my travel *is* exotic. Huh. Which probably makes me the source of much depression for others………..

        But the part about finding balance between touching base with distant family and friends through social media and actually going out to live a real, authentic, full, vibrant life away from a screen…. that takes more effort than I would have imagined even five years ago, sigh.

        More importantly, I appreciate the acknowledgment that protecting sensitive online data isn’t a simple thing that can just be taken for granted. It’s something I’m trying to pay more attention to. Without living like a hermit and stuffing mattresses full of cash. I’m pretty sure I’ve already been annotated as that weird girl, for other reasons, so that ship has sailed. 😉

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