I’m watching Skyfall again. My favorite part of the film, aside from Bond’s perpetual sexiness, is when Bond and M disappear.
By “going back in time”–getting rid of tracking devices, driving an older (CLASSIC) car, and running off to the Scottish countryside (to an old castle where, of course, there was no wireless or high-tech computers), they confront the cyberterrorist and former agent, Silva (played by the brilliant Javier Bardem!).
This film’s nostalgia for an earlier time and critique of technology is an interesting turn for Bond films, which, in the past, has always been known for their gadgets.
Skyfall makes me wonder if I, too, can live a life that makes good use of technology, but isn’t entirely controlled by it. Being constantly connected to the internet has allowed me to foster friendships with people who live a 6 hour drive or flight away. It’s allowed me to do better, faster, research.
Yet it has also crippled my ability to think clearly. It can be distracting, because I want to read everything on New York Times, CNN, and HuffPo, and click on my friends’ pictures of their absolutely cute babies. My ability to focus on solving the task at hand, such as looking up weather reports/movie times/writing, is severely limited because the internet is so…fascinating.
Ten years ago, I studied abroad in London and loved it because I had to be terrifically present. I didn’t have a cell phone, and my laptop wasn’t connected to the internet. I spent long days at the Tate Modern, talking to work colleagues about politics, and planning trips to other countries with friends. I drank in pubs while reading Chaucer in middle English. I fell in love with Jackson Pollock’s paintings. I went to the theatre all the time. I even had a library card during my 3 month stay, and ran up to South Kensington every chance I got to read fun books.
I was able to enjoy myself because I was not constantly connected to the internet.
But that was 10 years ago. The internet is a more pervasive presence than ever. I’m a researcher and teacher, and even if I want to disconnect, I can’t. Most of my work related and personal communication happens online.
I find myself in the odd position of being strangely old-fashioned in a (post)modern era. Even if I left the internet, I would only disconnect myself from friends who rely upon it. So I reluctantly take advantage of social media.
I’d rather replace my text messages with calling cards and scheduled teas.
If Skyfall has taught me one thing, it is that I need a sense of balance and perspective. Like Bond and M, I will always use technology to my advantage, but I also need to know when to go off the grid.
I want to be fully present with the people who are physically before me, with myself, and (most importantly), with God. I want to sit and, once again, read one of Shakespeare’s sonnets out loud before I go to sleep. I want to dust off and listen to my records. To write in a journal. I want to sit before arresting paintings and not feel the overwhelming urge to check my phone. I did all of those things when my phone and laptop were broken.
Bond relies on gadgets and technology, but ultimately, he’s the one who has to take the shot. Or throw the knife. And he can do so with precision because he is focused.
And with a little less “screen time”, I think I’ll be more focused as well.
If you’re interested in trying to go off-grid, consider reading Paul Miller’s articles. He is a technology writer who was on a mission not to use the internet for a year.