I wrote the following as a response to a friends article in Residental Systems magzine blog. The article entitled "Sandy the AV Disaster" asked , after several days of no power, "How did people survive before technology?!" The below is my extended answer. I encourage you to read the post here.
It is an interesting question you, Unknowingly(?), ask Anthony. Just how reliant are we on a constant stream of distractions. If you ask a recent business study- much too much.
Setting aside the dystopian fear that we will soon leave no written evidence of post 2k civilization for future archeologist to study; one has to ask-just how meth-headed have we become?
The first step, so it is said, begins with acceptance. Alright then - We are Junkies. This being said we have two questions. 1. What do we do to minimize the uncontrolled craving? 2. What can we do to reduce the effect of another massive outage. While I am really concerning myself with item one it will have a lot to say about item 2.
In all honesty my family was pretty darn lucky and came out mostly unscathed from Sandy. We were more than prepared for the worst though - both in finding a place to stay and to entertain/ inform ourselves. As an tech aficionado and worse, as an industry insider I have been morbidly fascinated with just how folks cope when technology goes awry or away. To be clear, I LOVE my tech - so much so that I my social profiles include the description of ‘...one part technorotic. Yeah, I feel it right there baby. Yet, to be completely honest I actually consume very little media. I know, I know, this is akin to a vegan cooking at the meat station of a restaurant so a little background may be necessary.
In my late twenties (all too long ago) I had just been divorced from by my first wife and had begun to live truly on my own for the very first time - meaning no roommates or “long term” guests. I was an odd environment for me for I went from my Mothers home to dorm mates to roommates to my wife’s apartment. I left for my new place carrying only my clothes, a broken down radio and my CD’s setting up shop in an 800 sq foot studio facing out onto 90th street and the Yorkville towers (or Jump Central as we came to call them - but that is another tale). While temptations were plentiful with offers from friends of second hand loaners and even my parents offering to purchase me a then new to market flat panel, I decided to try living without a television. My decision was not a holier-than-thou crusade from the screeds of the intelligista but one based on a need to keep myself from becoming a recluse and wallowing in my pain.
The five years without this magic box of distractions being at my beck and call was illuminating. I wish that I could say that this made me more productive but that simply is not true. What I did do was get out a lot more,(sometimes too much and too often at the neighborhood bar), and as I was suddenly on the prowl for a mate (however temporary) I did find ways to occupy my time. This was not to say I completely disconnected myself, heck no. That time in the bars? - often it was to watch a game or special event. In fact it lead to meeting my true love -(it is a long story, best told over a good number of drinks, but the one minute version is: boy goes to bar a few blocks away from normal to be ‘alone’ and watch the game, girl is there to meet blind date, girl mistakes boy for date, boy responds ‘I am not him but I really wish I was’ - Love and marriage, horse and carriage... you get the rest). Regardless, with no cable tv I was also without any form of broadband, or as we called it back then -’Always On’, internet.
The solution to getting my media was in the preparation. Not wanting to waste my time accepting anything that came via the glowing phosphor screen I researched what was to be on of interest and planned accordingly. I downloaded content, movies, blog text and articles via my works super T1 connection and set aside specific time to gorge myself.
The simple statement is that since I no longer had the media available to me as a distraction it eventually became less important. Of interest to be sure, but far less of my life than before. So to answer your question of “ How did people survive before” (all this) “technology?!" It was quite simple, we planned ahead and we were, quite frankly, a bit more finicky about it.
I try to live by Thoreau's words of “...all things in moderation and excess in none”, it keeps me sane in a paradigm shifting world.