[There] was a distinct sense that there’s a whole world out there. Not out there on the internet, but out there over the horizon. Out there in this same world are jungle cats, opera houses, subterranean hideouts, breakdancing circles, riverside tire swings, and old women playing mahjong. There are desert caravans and bullet trains and foggy valleys and kangaroos, and I can one day visit some of these things or maybe just read about them.
You know David Cain. He’s the chap behind the Raptitude blog and he also wrote the foreword to Escape Everything! A great friend of the magazine.
David’s latest post is excellent. It’s about what happens when we go without mobile Internet for a while. What happens, it turns out, is deeply positive and his observations about the experience are refreshing and interesting. It’s not an anti-internet piece. It’s just about what we lose when we’re scrolling through Instagram (or whatever it is). Check it out.
My own relationship with the internet has improved in recent years: it’s been very light on social media and other fripperies, though Gmail remains a load-bearing part of my personal organisation and my use of streaming services has increased. It’s largely deliberate and seldom passive. As it happens, this breakthrough was Rapitude-related. In 2019, David used the phrase, “making my phone a tool, not a toy.” I immediately understood what he meant. It appealed and I committed.
Twitter and the other “fun” (i.e. not really fun) junk was removed from my phone. I’d still allow myself to use these things but I’d have to want to do it enough to open my laptop and hit up the websites. Useful apps like the radio player and the public library catalogue were moved to the front of my phone and it became truly “a tool, not a toy.” Perfect. And that’s how I use it today.
My next breakthrough, I think, will be keeping my phone beyond arms’ reach so that I’m less tempted to pick it up and start futzing with it. I like David’s idea of making a holster for it in the kitchen so it resembles (logically if note aesthetically) the wall-mounted landline telephones many of us had in our kitchens up to 2004 or so. Not sure I’ll have the strength to commit to that one but one never knows.
Related posts: Lanier and Escape the Digital (New Escapologist) and It’s Time to Put the Internet Back into a Box in the Basement (Raptitude).
This email came from Reader Emily who recently ordered the full print run of New Escapologist from our online shop:
I’m excited to have the whole collection on its way. I’ve been a fan since I met you and bought a few issues at a fair in Montreal, probably close to 15 years ago.
I was there on behalf of a feminist organisation focused on menstrual health activism at the time, and was feeling a bit alienated by the self-serious snickering often directed at me for hawking washable pads and underwear along with our zines. I enjoyed chatting with you at the New Escapologist table. Both you and the publication were refreshingly sincere and hilarious.
I want to make sure I have the whole back catalogue now, while its available. It means even more after ten years working at a desk.
I was recently reminded of my own family escapologist lore. A cousin or great uncle had arrived in Chicago from the old country sometime in the early part of the last century. He had been a scholar back home and as a result, had no “practical” work experience. Faced with the prospect of a day job for the first time, and having blown several interviews already, he headed to the local post office as a last resort. After an interview, my ancestor was offered the job and notified that he would start the following day. “Do I have the right to any vacation time?” he asked the boss. “Yes, sir, two weeks paid leave annually,” the boss replied. “Well then, I shall see you in two weeks!” he declared.
I realize now that this story is probably totally apocryphal bullshit. Would the USPS would offer two weeks paid leave to inexperienced young Jewish men fresh from Kiev???? Anyhow, its always been a family favourite, and it definitely paved the way for a lifetime of career ambivalence on my part.
Thank you for all the brilliant things you do!
Hi Emily. It’s a crazy thing but I’m pretty sure that I remember you. We’d see hundreds of people each day at those Montreal book fairs and we did at least 3 Anarchist Book Fairs and 4 Expozines; I’m quite introverted at heart and talking to so many people would really take it out of me. I can’t imagine being able to remember many people from that blur (or indeed very many of them remembering our table). But yes! I remember the menstrual products and thinking the idea was pretty great. It was a good attitude and a cool organisation.
Thank you again for buying the complete run. Every cool kid should have one. I’ve placed the order with the printer and it’ll be with you in about 10 days. In any event, your complete run of New Escapologist is wending its way to you.
Yours from an unseasonably sunny Scotland,