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Plugged In: I Know What You Did Last Summer

By T.J. DeGroat,

This piece originally appeared on the WaPo Labs BlogWaPo Labs is the digital team at the Washington Post Company focused on innovation and experimenting with emerging technologies.

As a fan of the increasingly popular tech sabbath concept, I had lofty ideas about making my recent trip to Mexico an unplugged excursion.

It would be epic, I thought while making my final, pre-vacation preparations. For once I would roll through airport security without frantically filling a bin with my iProducts. I would sip my cafe de olla peacefully while flipping through the pages — yes, pages! — of a magazine. I would meander through an unknown neighborhood and stumble upon hidden gems without prior knowledge of their online reputations. I would be completely present in each moment.

Yeah, right.

As romantic as the idea of disconnecting is, I just couldn’t do it. It’s 2012 and I need my iPhone at all times, okay?

From the taxi app I used to get to the airport on time to the websites I relied on to find and vet potential dining options, I turned to my prodigious smartphone every step of the way.

I regularly fired up my go-to trio of apps — Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook — to obnoxiously share photos of turquoise water and hip cafes with the friends, family, and coworkers stuck at home. After all, I spent all summer jealously swiping through their photo albums; it was my turn to post status updates from a balcony overlooking the ocean.

The truth? I even took a peek at my work email once my trip reached its halfway point. Because, really, it seemed better to quickly get a sense of what’s going on back at the office than to come home to a completely overwhelming inbox, battling the stress of the unknown.

Could I survive for eight days without technology? Of course. And as recent articles note, there are obvious benefits to doing so. But for every feature story urging people to unplug while on vacation, there’s another touting the latest batch of travel apps that will change their lives.

So while I may not have experienced the benefits of a digital detox, I enjoyed the perks of crowdsourced restaurant recommendations, on-demand car service, and GPS-aided exploration.

And, best of all, I enjoyed the satisfaction of reading comments from jealous friends simultaneously loving and hating my photos of blue skies and bluer water.

It’s what vacation 2.0 is all about.

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