Dale is Old English for valley, although they still use the term up in Yorkshire, England where I spent most of the last two weeks walking down them, up some fells and across amazing heather covered moors as I hiked England’s coast-to-coast trail from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. It’s a fitting subject for RTBlog for several reasons -- especially my belief that we all need to disconnect from the real-time grid in order to experience time as humans were really meant to. You don’t have to hike across England to do that. A long walk anywhere should do the trick. The longer the better. The more “disconnected” the better.
The best part of my sojourn was some of the conversations I had with local Yorkshiremen and Scotsmen I encountered along the way about the role the hyperconnectivity of digital media is playing in their lives. It was refreshing for me, because I spend most of my professional time interacting with some of the most hyperconnected people in the world.
The general sentiment among the Brits I encountered, not surprisingly, was that the always-on nature of real-time media isn’t such a good thing. There are some obviously cultural reasons or that they precede digital media. The Brits simply like to savor things -- especially the meaningful things that add value to their lives -- and they would prefer not to rush through them.
Where we down shots, they lovingly sip their whisky.
Where we rush through meals, they celebrate them as rituals parsed throughout their day: breakfast, “elevenses,” lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. (Honestly, this was the first long hike I’ve walked in which I actually put on weight.)
Another cultural difference is simply the way people from centuries-old America and millennia-old Britain think of time. “Americans think 100 years is a long time. Brits think 100 miles is a long distance,” one local explained to me.
In many ways, I think they have a better perspective of time and the need to keep digital media from encroaching on it. The EU already has some of the most stringent guidelines for protecting personal digital identities -- and there are now even proposals, emerging in France, I am told, to create laws that would limit when consumers could receive commercial digital messages. Kind of a right-to-have-some-downtime law.While discussing the concept with my guide, a Scotsman named Niell, I mentioned that when I go on vacation I always leave an away-from-mail message explicitly stating I will not see any emails people send while I’m away and that if they’re important they should resend them when I’m back. Niell suggested modifying that and asking people to send me written letters which I would read when I returned. Since I was off the grid, I didn’t update my message, but I kind of liked the idea of that, so if you want to send me a letter, I promise to read and may even write about it: Joe Mandese . MediaPost . 15 East 32nd Street, New York, NY 10016.