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Snowed In

February 7, 2010

We had a lovely snowstorm blow through our area last night. After from getting stranded in a parking lot for three hours, tearing through a set of chains in an attempt to get up the hill out of the parking lot, and using obscenities I didn’t know were in my lexicon while yelling at some woman who decided to drive right up behind me as I was losing control of my car right after the chains broke, my boyfriend and I inched our way back to our house, and have been hiding here ever since. Spending a full day stuck inside my house is never an ideal for me, but since there’s over a foot of snow on the ground, and the branches of the trees in our yard are breaking off from the weight of the snow on them, it’s probably best to stay inside.

Naturally, all of this down time has given me time to consider the ways in which we occupy our time. I recall one instance from my childhood – it was a Girl Scout camping trip up to Big Bear, California. It was July, and we were expecting to grab a campsite, throw up some tents, swim, roast marshmallows, all that jazz – but the unthinkable happened, it snowed. Being summer, and being from the Mojave Desert, we were completely unprepared. It didn’t help that it also kept snowing – we wound up with close to a foot of snow in the town we were staying in. But, to the point: To stay occupied, we set up a “campsite” in a local business office that agreed to house us for the evening. We played games, busted out the guitar and sang songs, made crafts, told stories – even though we had access to TVs, VCRs, and rented movies (the popular technology of the time – I forgot to mention this was in the early 90’s). That was our snowed-in solution.

Today, I realiezed that for the most part, I have not been ‘logged off’ of the Internet. I haven’t even watched TV.  Using Netflix on-demand, hooked up to our TV via an X-Box 360, we’ve been downloading whatever we want to watch. When we get bored with that, we pop in a game and kill a couple of hours. If that’s not entertaining enough, I open up my laptop and bink around online to further occupy my mind. And I know that most of the other people living in my area are doing exactly the same thing, mostly because our connection speed has slowed to a crawl.

It seems as though it’s no big deal to be snowed in anymore. However, I wonder what would happen if we lost power at some point. We’ve become so accustomed to using these gadgets to keep ourselves busy, to the extent that we use multiple forms of technology just to keep ourselves fully occupied. Without a TV and an X-Box and on-demand video and laptops, what will we do? (the answer is, of course, play games on our iPhones until their batteries die – and then venture out to our cars to charge them again). The more I think about this, the more I realize we are never really disconnected anymore. Our tech has been developed beyond power outages and blizzards, or other extreme weather problems. But is this a good thing? Is it better to hang out with the people you’re with and play real games, to actually interact? I think of the typical TV plot, where the characters are snowed in or stuck in an elevator, or at home during a power outage, and over the course of the event they get to know each other better and come out feeling closer to that person, and I wonder, can that ever really happen anymore? Would anyone not bury themselves in their smartphone or laptop and wait it out? And if not, is that necessarily bad? We are, afterall, “connected” when we use this technology, maybe not to the person in the room with us, but to our friends on facebook, our mom who keeps calling for hourly updates on the weather (at least mine does, but my parents are Californians, they freak out every time the weather channel forecasts snow showers), and our faithful blog readers. Is the substitution of one type of connection for another really a bad thing – or just something different? More material to ponder while sorting out the meaning of all this new technology.

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