The Mixed Blessings of WiFi

Like many people, at times I struggle with maintaining a healthy balance with technology. It’s just that I want to be connected and up to speed with what’s going on. Because of this is I often find myself dealing with emails late at night, when I don’t have to, or doing it over the weekend, which impinges on family time.

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The extreme of this happened a few years ago when, after a week-long zen retreat - totally off-grid and no talking - on the drive home from mid-Wales I felt compelled to pull over in a lay-by and download a week’s worth of emails and texts in one go. This was a very silly thing to do - even at the time I knew that - and completely against the advice of the retreat leaders, who counselled a ’soft landing’ back in the real world. But the demon of technology on my shoulder, the need to be connected, easily got the better of me and I suffered for it. My post-retreat calm was brutally hit by a tidal wave of hundreds of messages, many of them rubbish, arriving on my phone.

This week telecoms engineers the improved the wifi provision in The Wilderness’ main house and offices - more coverage and faster connection. That’s a good thing, I've no doubt about that. For all sorts of reasons, personal and professional, people want, even expect, decent wifi access wherever they go. And when people arrive here one of their first questions is often for the wifi code, which is understandable. But, given my own wrestle with technological boundaries, I admit to having mixed feelings when the engineers arrived with their boxes of new kit.

My concerns were about the parents who come here and use the occasion to get their children (mainly teenagers) to put away their phones and get outdoors, getting their heads up and connecting with their family. Having holes in our wifi coverage was a useful excuse to encourage that; ‘I’m sorry darling there’s just no wifi out here'. I wondered if now we’ve it more difficult for them. But, thinking about it, there are lots of ways round that and the freedom to roam here usually takes children over. Similarly, if the wifi signal booms through the walls of the house I wondered if people would sit outside looking at their phones instead of taking in the view and talking to each other? It’s possible but my sense is the view will mostly win.

All in all therefore, thinking about it, and despite my own wrestles, my guess is that when people visit The Wilderness they usually find a healthy balance with technology. The fact is I never see people, of any age, glued to technology. It’s there if you want it, but there’s so much else, outdoors with friends, that’s calling for your attention.

Sara Qualter