Disconnected

In two recent episodes of The Campfire Project, Matt and I focused on Apple Inc.'s September 9 keynote, the event which introduced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch all their glory. This was an important day for the tech world, for Apple, and even more specifically, for Tim Cook. It was a chance for the company to prove that its innovative juices were still flowing without the late Steve Jobs at the helm.

It did, and I missed the entire thing.

The day of the keynote, I was holed up in a corporate training room, smack-dab in the middle of Texas, miles from home. If I were merely a participant in the activities that day, I may have been able to discreetly sneak peeks at my phone screen, but that was not the case. I was the Trainer, not a trainee. And so, thanks to poor timing and worse luck, I missed the grand unveiling of the iPhone 6 and its big brother, the 6 Plus. I missed Tim Cook saying, for the first time, that iconic phrase, "one more thing..." – words that haven't been heard at an event in years. I missed the introduction of Apple Watch, the demos, and most of the first "hands on" articles to hit the blogosphere. I was officially out of the loop.

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook shows off the Apple Watch during the company's keynote in California on September 9, 2014.

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook shows off the Apple Watch during the company's keynote in California on September 9, 2014.

The situation didn't get much better when I got back to the hotel room that night. While the wifi speed had been passable the night before, the situation had deteriorated. What a difference a day makes. A quick speed test revealed I was running less than 1 Mbps. At that rate, watching the keynote in its entirety was going to be a pipe dream. I eventually gave up completely, gleaned whatever information I could from the web, and went to bed. Of course, during the rest of the week I did eventually get caught up and even got in on the first round of iPhone 6 pre-orders. When I got home from my trip, I watched the keynote from front to back, and order was restored to my universe. 

My takeaway from this whole situation? Spending the week (somewhat) disconnected wasn't the gruelling chore I expected it to be. In fact, though it wasn't by choice, it was nice to not be chained to a digital device all afternoon, obsessively refreshing websites for up-to-the-minute photos and soundbites. When all was said and done, I got all the news at once through my Twitter feed, or at least enough of the news to know what was going on, and missing out on seeing it live didn't affect my life at all. And it shouldn't have to begin with.

The further back you stand, the better you’re able to see this chatter for what it is: noise.

Now that the dust has settled, there has been a lot of complaining about the quality of the presentation's live feed, various details of the announcements, and even the fact that Apple gave away free music. The more I read, the more encouraged I felt to disengage from the media hoopla that surrounds these events in the future. The comedian Louis CK has a famous philosophy that "everything is amazing and everybody's miserable". Yes, it's just a bit, but it's but in that comedic riff is a bit of truth. The first-world is at the point where people grumble and groan about the inconsequential, like given free music or the lack of a live feed.

The further back you stand, the better you're able to see this chatter for what it is: noise. It's time to take a breath. We could all use a day (or more) away from our keyboards, mice, touch screens, and news feeds to actually absorb the fact that in all this chaos, we have the entire world at our fingertips through the devices already in our pockets. The devices we got a year or two ago, the devices we were so excited to get but now hate because they're "not new", are still as wondrous as they were yesterday. Here in the first world, we could use a nice big healthy dose of getting over ourselves. 

The Internet is a magnifier. For better or for worse, any one thing can get put under a lens, and in a lot of ways that's a good thing. The #YesAllWomen movement would have never gained any traction without the web. The events in Ferguson, Missouri surely would have faded into obscurity along with countless other tragedies perpetrated by those with power. Without services like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we have to rely on the big news media outlets to deliver the story to us rather than our peers, and it's pretty clear that nobody wants to go back to that delivery method anymore. But with great power comes great responsibility. Before crying foul at poor download speeds or a lack of HD or a handful of phones that bend when someone bends them, we need to step back, take stock, and regain our composure. 

One of the human race's greatest inventions is the publicly accessible Internet. In its widespread adoption, it has caused us to act less like human beings than we ever have before. Let's get back to where we started and use this online power for good.