Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Technology Addiction

I don’t know if it’s officially recognized as an addiction but I can
vouch for the fact that it’s real. On September 18th I received my
last email on my Blackberry and my computer, both of which I was
taking with me on a ten day trip circumnavigating Newfoundland on the
good ship Ocean Nova.

Rogers, my server, is not a presence in Newfoundland so even when the
ship approached outports with cell phone connections Rogers reported ‘no service.’ The ship did have email but it required using their email and of course it would collect none from other sources.

After surviving a night of a Force 9 gale (a hurricane registers as
10), shooting from one end of the bunk to the other and clutching the
sides to keep from catapulting across the room I used the ship’s
system to tell my nearest and dearest that I remained in the land of
the living. Incidentally, with a powerful wind coming sideways the
ship traveled for several hours at an angle which was probably close
to 45 degrees. This was good as it kept it from rolling.

As the days passed with no email, no internet and no news of the
outside world I reached the stage an addict reportedly feels when
suffering heroin or cocaine withdrawal. Cranky, agitated, itchy. Seeing Battle Harbour in Labrador, a historic site that records the lost way of life of outport fishing, and L’Anse aux Meadows, the reconstructed Norse settlement, helped distract me but once back in my cabin staring longingly at the computer and Blackberry the symptoms reappeared.

At Gros Morne National Park we came ashore in zodiacs and headed for
school buses to take us up to the interpretation center and on for a
hike. Only after we’d docked did I see the sign in a general store
window. High Speed available. And my computer was back on the ship.
Thankfully, the overwhelming beauty of Gros Morne overcame my feelings
of betrayal that no one on the ship had mentioned HS’s availability.

We stopped next at an outport where the people had been resettled but
came back for summers and visits. I hadn’t expected to connect there so enjoyed the walk into the hills and sloshing along the shore. Later in the day we drew up to the dock at Cox’s Harbour and I stuffed my computer in my backpack hoping again for an Internet Cafe, a general store or a library. The fish plant was interesting and the
demonstration of square dancing and local music cheering but still I didn’t know what was happening in the wider world or in my on-line world.

Finally the ‘need to know’ faded and by the time we reached St. Pierre
I didn’t even try to connect to cyberspace.

I’ve read articles and spoken to individuals who celebrate isolation
and peace when they retreat to a technology free world. Maybe next
summer I’ll rent a cabin at Battle Harbour, Labrador where you have to
use oil lamps and a woodstove and live as they did before electricity,
cell phones and oil. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Joan Boswell A member of the Ladies Killing Circle Joan co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. Great photos, Joan! When I look back on my pre-internet days, I wonder what I did with my spare time. Maybe I cooked and cleaned when I wasn't at work. Played solitaire with real cards? Read books? Talked on a phone with a rotary dial? It's all a blur. I'd try to remember those days but I have to check my email.

  2. I have recently given in & made my notebook internet compatible. I'd planned to use it only for writing but realize there are sometimes when traveling, that it's necessary to stay hooked up. I hope though, I won't be as addicted as when I'm at home.
    Love the photos!

  3. Great post, Joan, and the photos make me so excited for my research trip next summer. The problem with the internet is not just our addiction but the expectation others have that we will check our email every half hour as well. Important messages come in, and then there's the fear we'll miss that all important movie deal! Deadline 5 pm., expired.

  4. I love this post, Joan! Your photos are amazing and so are those insights into technology addictions. I think we barely break even with all that time that we spend connected having to be subtracted from our available time to work, play, read and enjoy the world.