The un-screened life

By Caitlin Kelly


Great piece recently by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine:

A year before, like many addicts, I had sensed a personal crash coming. For a decade and a half, I’d been a web obsessive, publishing blog posts multiple times a day, seven days a week, and ultimately corralling a team that curated the web every 20 minutes during peak hours. Each morning began with a full immersion in the stream of internet consciousness and news, jumping from site to site, tweet to tweet, breaking news story to hottest take, scanning countless images and videos, catching up with multiple memes. Throughout the day, I’d cough up an insight or an argument or a joke about what had just occurred or what was happening right now. And at times, as events took over, I’d spend weeks manically grabbing every tiny scrap of a developing story in order to fuse them into a narrative in real time. I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were caviling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects and in so public a way for so long.

And here’s a reply to his piece from The Federalist.

Like Sullivan, I went on a silent retreat, (and blogged about it, which broke a retreat rule!); if you’re interested, check out my archives from July 2011.

It’s a life-changing experience to withdraw completely from chitchat, both in person and online.


And, I know, it’s a bit rich to complain about our constant connectedness to screens on a blog you’re de facto reading on a screen, somewhere!


By now it’s become a counter-cultural act to:

not have a smartphone; not check it constantly; not feel compelled to post every thought and image on your multiple social media streams so that other people can like it, share it, re-tweet it.

It’s now also considered staggeringly rude, invasive and old-fashioned to use a telephone to call someone, let alone leave them a voicemail or message.

How dare you speak to me directly!

One of the best weeks of my life, working in rural Nicaragua — now still friends with these three

What are we, maharajahs?!

We had a party last weekend and it was a hit. We love to entertain and do it as often as we can afford.

A party?

You know, a room full of real people, sharing conversation and lots of great food and laughter and talking about everything from aerial yoga to the American Constitution.

Guests included several photographers — (one whose new book of pinhole photos I’ll soon feature here) — writers, three lawyers, editors.

Several had never met one another before and were soon deeply engaged in lively chats.

Yes, relating in real life is risky. Your joke might fall flat. You might be wearing the wrong shoes or not catch a cultural reference. Maybe you’re really shy.

But hiding behind a screen all the time is nuts.

This is what life is for: face to face connection, a fierce hug hello and reluctant good-bye.

Yes, I blog and tweet, and will continue to do so — because it’s now essential for me to have a lively, visible, provable digital presence.

But my phone is often off, left in a drawer or “forgotten” at home.

The un-screened life is my favorite and always will be.

11 thoughts on “The un-screened life

  1. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail

  2. as much as i love interacting and conversing with others online, it is nothing like interacting in real time, without a screen or device of any kind. it is a whole other experience and infinitely more human.

    1. Indeed.

      I’ve also become much more wary of sharing anything very real or true online after my FB page screen-shot by fake friends who then cyber bullied me. In real life I am very cautious and this reminded me to be even more discriminating with any virtual relationships.

  3. I loathe Twitter and Facebook and would rather die than to have an account. I rather like Instagram coz it’s just pics and some of the pics are beautiful, Don’t own a smartphone, just a simple, cheap cell phone. I like blogs coz they’re original and unique, tell stories and let us into other people’s lives.

    I feel like we were a lot more “connected” in the old days and now, since the invention of all these devices, we’re disconnected, estranged, distanced from one another. When I sit on a bus or metro (in any city), what do I see? Each person (young more than old) isolated in his/her own cyber world. Cut off from his/her immediate surroundings, unseeing, unhearing, unaware.

    1. Interesting.

      I enjoy Facebook much of the time because — like you — I have friends and colleagues worldwide and it’s a quick, easy, fun way to stay in touch, personally and professionally. Thanks to FB, I can have a venomous privately messaged VENT on a shitty day with a friend in L.A. or London, when it’s not cool to do so in any public way here — although I could do it by email as well.

      Twitter is a very mixed bag for me. I have made a few friends in Europe and elsewhere through Twitterchats (travel,journalism) and enjoy that. I use it for news (from Canada, France, UK, local/nat’l USA) so I can know what’s happening. I hate the people who just tweet bullshit and self-promotion.

      You’re fortunate to not need to be visible on social media. For many people now, certainly those self-employed, it’s a must-do.

      I also hate how people have disappeared into their tech toys. Lonely and sad. Think of all the potential friendships and connections they’re missing.

  4. Being a computer nerd, I find technology great – especially as it allows me to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world. But I find social media overwhelming – the constant barrage of news and information does my head in.

    1. Right?

      It’s really a mixed blessing. I also hate the way some people use social media — photos of gory (!) injuries (REALLY!!!??) and endless political rants.

      I check Twitter several times a day and most of my feed is news sources. The rest is for fun (design, art, travel, etc.)

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