Unplugged: Connecting with the past and present without technology

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010

What was I doing without the Internet?

Reading "Huckleberry Finn" to my 9-year-old son, snuggling with my 7-year-old daughter and bathing my 3-year-old girl.

Oh, the agony of uninterrupted interaction with loved ones!

Somehow I managed. I watched more television than usual, read more of the newspaper, cracked open a magazine, went to bed earlier.

I spent part of the unplugged week rereading letters from my parents, old friends and old girlfriends, some of the missives dating back to sleep-away camp in the 1970s. Just to look at the handwriting was a revelation -- girly script or perfectly printed lettering, crossed-out words, scrawls, exclamation points, homespun smiley faces -- all conveying so many textured memories.

I never get letters anymore. By the time my kids go to camp, it's possible they won't be writing any. Will they send and receive love letters they can stow in a musty old shoebox? Or will they print out texts and e-mails and keep them in tidy folders?

Does it matter?

I'm not a big fan of technology. I like eBay for buying baseball memorabilia and YouTube because where else can you plug in "Woody Allen and Billy Graham" and come up with something to watch? But I don't tweet. I don't read tweets. I don't read blogs. I feel no need to share that I just ate a hamburger.

Still, I found after a week away from the Internet that I missed it more than I had expected to. I missed being able to look up phone numbers, or write to friends and sources. I even missed reading those personal updates on Facebook that I would never myself indulge in.

After all, let us not forget how important it is to waste time.

On the last day, when I got around to telling my wife about Project Unplugged, her response was something on the order of "Hmm . . . huh? . . . Whatever."

Then I was off to bathe the kids and put them to bed, happily still free of my electronic tether -- even if I did sneak a peek at my BlackBerry.

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