I recently returned from a delightful week along the Adriatic. Over nine days, Derek and I explored coastal Montenegro and the Albanian Alps. It was beautiful, welcoming and we left every stop with a desire to stay longer. The trip was full of learnings, but there was one that was very particularly striking, and though personally embarrassing, worth sharing.
We hiked the stunning pass from Valbonë to Theth, and begrudgingly, we left the awe-inspiring Shala Valley. As we were bumping along the winding mountain road leading from Theth back to the lakeside city of Shkodër en route to Montenegro when the Australian, Amanda, asked what I thought about the coup in Turkey. Feeling both shocked and sheepish, I admitted I had no idea what she was talking about.
As we jostled around gravel corners, I gathered the news about the attempted coup and the growing fall-out and consequences from the better-informed Canadian, Finn, and Australian company in the 4×4 taxi. I was grateful to hear more about such a significant event, and was itching to get to an internet connection to read more. It’s not every day you hear the word ‘coup’ in the (second-hand) news.
The depths of my embarrassment came to the surface when I realized that I was not truly disconnected. Of course, if you’re removed from all signs of 3G and wifi or your device of choice entirely, then it’s natural that you would not be aware of world events. However, this was not the case. At every hostel and guesthouse, amazingly, I had access to wifi and therefore, access to all the world’s information. Not the strongest signal, but effective. Although I was not aware of current events, I was fairly well aware of the postings and photos of my friends and family on social media. And although I often first hear of major news, like the Coup, on a social media feed, on the limited, positive-news driven algorithms of Facebook did not prioritize this news to my feed.
It was a lesson for me in media intake. With every media outlet, whether that’s CBC News or my personal Twitter feed, there is a curation and prioritization of content. In my day-to-day life, I like to keep a well-rounded collection of news sources. Most mornings, I do the modern equivalent of opening the newspaper over breakfast. I munch on my muesli and open my internet browser with my home page set to a series of news sites. Skimming the headlines and reading a few articles keeps me up to date and aware of events beyond my social (media) circle.
When traveling, I am grateful for the many helpful features a smartphone provides. From a snazzy camera to the handy blue dot on a map, it’s made the world more accessible than ever before. It also is a tool to stay connected. However, it surprised me how easily it was for me to fall out of touch with world news, while still staying connected to my social circle.
To amend this lapse, I sought to find a mobile version of my browser ‘newspaper’. I began to download new apps on my phone to provide me with new news. Frustratingly, planned obsolescence has left the iPhone 4 in the dust as Apple has not made new operating systems, and therefore new apps, compatible (though that is a rant for another time). So, my information tactic fell to ol’ reliable Twitter. Following trending hashtags, and the major global news outlets and smaller alternative sources, combined simple browser navigation to CBC, BBC and Aljazeera homepages. To make it easier in the future, I created a simple list called News, following accounts from BBC Breaking News to Democracy Now to JT. If you’re interested, you can find and follow the simply titled News here.
In an age where we stay connected so often, I’m intrigued by strategies to be completely disconnected, or connected in clever, well-rounded ways. Have you ever had an experience like mine? Or are you connection savvy, and what’s your media of choice?