Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Unplug from the matrix – it’s a good thing

Date: 11/21/2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor


As I write this column I’m about to take a week off. As you read this column, I’m just back from a week off and I don’t need Mr. Peabody’s Way Back machine or a Tardis now — Google it, kids — to know what I did on my vacation: next to nothing.

I’m piling a bunch of DVDs in my backpack along with several books. I know a cigar store near where we are staying and I plan to buy a couple of stogies. I have a hip flask with a drop or two of Wild Turkey in my backpack as well.

I intend to sit on the couch, watch stuff I’ve not been able to see, walk on beaches, eat fried seafood and not care who is doing what to whom politically for the better part of a week.

Perhaps there will be a bookstore or two to look through. We’ll take some drives around the area. I will resist picking up local community newspapers.

There will be no press releases, media advisories or phone calls from folks urging me to write a story. No one will be coming into my office asking me to have a story written on X, Y or Z.

Hey, I love my job, but everyone needs time away.

As I grow older and as the level of communication becomes more and more invasive, I value the times of the year when I can jerk the plug out of my socket and bathe in sheer ignorance of the greater outside world.

I realized the other day when someone used the phrase “pay phone” — are there still pay phones? — how radically life has changed in a relatively short length of time.

For the very young, pay phones were strategically placed telephones that at one time could be operated to make a call with the insertion of several coins. For many years, it was a dime. They were a valued resource that has pretty much gone the way of the buggy whip.

Look at how Facebook alone has revolutionized communication within the last three years. Now you can continually stay in touch with your friends — real and not so real — 24/7. I think it is more addicting than crack, as there is this on-going fear that you are going to miss something if you don’t monitor it often.

Now, in my business, I get a lot of story leads and other useful info from my Facebook pals, whether I know them or not — and, yes, I have a Facebook addiction.

My pusher has been my iPhone, which beckons to me all the time to push a series of buttons and find out stuff that supposedly I need to know.

I will quickly admit, I will have both a laptop and my phone with me on vacation, but they won’t be used in the same way they are used now.

There are many social commentators and medical people who debate what effect all of these innovations in instant communication are having on us as a society and perhaps as a species. How many of you were going nuts during the recent power outage because of a lack of television, Internet and perhaps telephone?

That’s not a criticism. We were lucky our power didn’t go out or I would have been probably crawling the walls when I wasn’t trying to get warm.

As much as I like having the level of communication we have today, I realize that not being able to be reached is a good thing.

My 17-year-old granddaughter probably would panic at the notion of being cut off, as she has not really known any other way, but do you remember the idea of being away from a telephone and telling people they won’t be able to get a hold of you? In hindsight, it wasn’t always too bad. The only time — climbing into a time machine — when I wished I could have had some sort of communications device is when my Datsun pickup truck broke down in Boston.

Speaking of that time machine, as I write this a few hours before we leave, I know that I will have a good time, much of it by jumping off the matrix at least for a few days. Try it yourself.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

Bookmark and Share