Last week, unusually, I went away.
I went to the sea by myself, to a tiny cottage on a remote, ancient place in Pembrokeshire where water surrounded me on three sides, where I could open a door and walk into the ocean, where seals played around me, where all I heard was their guttural barking and the calling of great flocks of geese and gulls over the roar of the waves and the echoes of wind. There, there was no internet nor even phone connection, and my voice, for a week, was silent.
Being alone in this way, not thinking, nor working, nor talking nor being occupied, gave me swathes of time to be still, and to be nothing. From time to time a reminder prodded my awareness, nudging me to consider, when I was ready, changes in what I do and give, and how it happens. This I am doing now, with the intent to introduce change at the beginning of the year to come. It will happen. You may notice.
Among the messages filtering through from the Spirit of the Sea was a warning about technology: yes, it is useful and for many people, an essential part of their life, but developments and dependency are increasing rapidly, bringing us to the point where it is beyond our control – we are controlled by it. We are dissuaded from using cash, cheques, bank branches and even shops sometimes as online shopping and automated payments are encouraged instead. (BT now charges me a lot of money to receive its bill by post, as a punishment for opting-out of direct debit!) These businesses offer speed, ease and convenience, but it is not an altruistic service, for when we use them, we are giving them access to our private lives.
Like you, perhaps, I use social media to connect with contacts and to inform, though it is mostly from a business perspective. Accepted wisdom says that if you do not use it you are behind the times and (if you work) are missing an important business opportunity, but now, following my retreat, I am reflecting seriously about its value, for me. The previously open, simple platforms of Facebook and Twitter, for example, friendly vehicles for keeping in touch and sharing information with a known and unknown audience, have been replaced by a ruthless drive to make money out of advertising and our personal information. I don’t like the direction social media is going, and am uneasy about how my accounts can be abused.
Someone, yesterday, talked in an interview about how he has minimal technology in his life. He has no mobile phone, no social media accounts, he does nothing online, he has no credit or debit cards, and uses only cash. He is not a crank, but he used to be a professional hacker. He knows that “anything that is easy can be hacked”.
So, I listen to the messages of the Spirit of the Sea with respect as She counsels fluidity aligned with caution. I would be interested to know how you would feel if I closed my social media accounts? Do let me know – by whichever medium you prefer.