Picked up a copy of 24 Hours on Friday on the bus (had to go renew my OHIP card and driver’s license — shockingly, got through amazingly quickly at both places). In it was an article about Turnoff Week. The idea behind it is that people are urged to turn off their televisions for one week. The originators of the movement include the Center for Screen-Time Awareness and Adbusters — Adbusters have decided to rename it “Mental Detox Week” this year in recognition of the proliferation of other sources of electronic mental stimulation. Could you give up your computer for one week? No checking e-mail. No listening to your MP3 player. No watching DVDs or those lovely post-writers’-strike new episodes of your favourite TV shows?
I really wish I could. I think we are so constantly bombarded with information that it’s no wonder our systems overload and we get chronic illnesses. Sometimes I wish I could run away to a remote corner of the world, perhaps the Orkneys (why the Orkneys? why not?), and just get away the bustle of my usual world. I envy the characters who populate books like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where time moved at a much more leisurely pace, where you didn’t expect or get instant gratification for many of your wants. No instant messages — you waited weeks for a letter. No phones — again, you waited weeks for a letter. Your choices of pastimes was more limited but you didn’t miss what you never knew. Assuming you had the leisure to not have to work yourself to death just to survive, you had time to read and paint and embroider and socialize. Insomnia was more rare.