We are off for a week’s camping. I whoop when I see one site has ‘hot spots’ with wifi. Great. I can post photos on Facebook, tweet, email.
We gather our equipment and packing is tight. Some things will have to be abandoned. A few pairs of shoes, some clothes, tennis racquets. I look at the laptop. It is always last for safety reasons. My heart sinks. Do I really need that? How can I go a whole week without writing? I have a notebook but am loath to leave my Work In Progress (WIP) for that long.
Then I think about sitting in our camping chairs. They are not conducive to laptop work. Charging my Toshiba is costly via the camp office. Six library books sit on my coffee table and suddenly I picture myself sitting outside the tent on a sunny evening reading. I am excited at the thought but nervous. The word in my head is ‘work’. As a writer, my computer is constantly in use. I deem it ‘work’. But, this week is a break. Will the books win?
This dilemma set me thinking. We have all seen people on holiday, fingering phones at poolsides, in restaurants, at the hotel breakfast and evening dinner. They seem unable to exist without looking at their phones on a half-hourly basis. If this is ‘work’, they are not really on holiday. Especially if employers can reach them on a whim.
I occasionally fantasise about being Prime Minister, when I will ban employers from contacting holidaying employees. Workplace stress is a major cause of depression and anxiety but many employers ignore the suffering employee, fail to renew contracts or make excuses to ‘let them go’.
While texting or phoning a holidaying employee may be tantamount to bullying, sadly it appears to be the norm. Many of us are complicit. We all like to feel indispensable. To be asked a vital question on holiday can boost a fragile ego.
If the phubbing (the word for fingering phones whereby the user ‘snubs’ those around them in favour of their phone) is not about work, it could be contact with friends, family and scrolling social media. If this is a daily activity and continued when away then we are not on holiday at all. We are just in a different place.
Fear of being offline
Recently, I read about FOBO.* The acronym stands for Fear of Being Offline. Many people are so addicted to their telephones they cannot go more than five minutes without picking them up, tapping, thumbing and peering down. The writer questioned whether readers would become anxious if they were away from the internet for any length of time.
I read the piece just before packing for the camping trip and was horrified to recognise some traits in my own behaviour.
My partner does not suffer FOBO (fear of being offline) as he avoids technology as much as possible. When on holiday, we leave a hotel or holiday company reference with family. I am not one who has an urgent need to speak to family members each day. The cat is happy in the cattery and the neighbours take in the post. What more do you need? A holiday – a real one – not just two weeks’ relocation.
Finally, it is time we recognised this behaviour for what it is. Sheer rudeness. I am not alone in having a holiday morning by the pool ruined by someone discussing work on his phone in a loud pompous voice. Phones should be banned – as with smoking – from all public areas. We managed before mobile phones. Surely we can again.
I am a writer and I need access to social media. But I am advanced enough to use scheduling of posts. With some forward planning I can stay off Facebook and Twitter for a week or two and recharge my inner batteries rather than those of the laptop, boosting my creativity in the process.
So rather than join the ranks of the FOBO folk I left the laptop at home.
After all there was a pile of library books on the coffee table.
And… I wanted a real holiday.
*In the Times on Saturday 18th July 2015 Barbara McMahon wrote about a syndrome known as FOBO (Fear of being offline).