The Buenos Aires Twitter Detox
Speaker's Corner: On a trip to the Southern Hemisphere and with a need to disconnect, Valerie Conners pledges to embrace a Twitter-free vacation
04.21.09 | 9:30 AM ET
From the rooftop terrace of Café el Contin, I gazed at the late-night buzz of activity along Calle Armenia in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. I glanced at the nearly full moon and took a sip from my glass of perfect Finca La Linda Malbec. I thought, like any proper Twitter addict would, “Full moon, divine vino, balcony views. Palermo = Heavenly.”
Wait. Scratch that. I thought again. “Sipping exquisite wine, full from steak dinner, on rooftop terrace in Buenos Aires. Life is surely good.”
I reached for my beloved iPhone, ready to tap into my Twitter application, thus letting the world—or at least my couple hundred followers—know just how sated I was at that moment. Then I remembered the pledge I made to myself.
Before embarking to Argentina, I decided I’d go totally and completely dark. No Twitter, no Facebook, no email—and this was before the recent Twitter and travel controversy bubbled up. I just felt I needed desperately to disconnect. This trip was going to be like those heady days of social-media-free travel in the early 90s, if I had anything to do with it. I ruefully placed my iPhone back into my new Argentine leather purse (oh, how I’d wanted to tweet about that supple cowskin). I turned to my friend and traveling buddy, Chrissy. And I started ... a conversation.
I’m hooked on social media. I love Twitter. I’ve been tweeting since 2007. I also admit I didn’t understand it or its usefulness much at first, nor did I fully grasp the power Twitter could harness. Watching my new media guru friends use the tool to disseminate news and information, track trends and blast out funny tidbits, I became addicted to Twitter.
As Twitter has become omnipresent, so has its role in my personal world. As Tweeter-in-Chief for @worldhum, and my own @vmconners, I spend a good portion of each day with my head dipped into the Twitter stream, reading and responding as tweets float past, often—I swear—quick as the speed of light. Getting sucked into the virtual chatter is all too easy.
It’s become hard not to consider my travels and experiences in 140-character descriptives. Or to tweet an “OH:” at the funny things being spoken around me. Or the worst—to watch when I’m out with friends and all conversation ceases, as we duck down toward our phones, tweeting who-knows-what to virtual worlds—and we don’t consider the act even remotely anti-social.
Clearing my head of the chatter seemed a good idea, and a trip to the Southern Hemisphere seemed a great excuse to shut it out. I’m not nearly so self-absorbed as to imagine anyone is truly bummed to not have read updates of my succulent bife de lomo steaks, or see twitpics from my adventures on a daytrip to Colonia, Uruguay, or imagine me as I saw the Southern Cross for the first time, while playing the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song on my iPod.
Going dark was a necessary act—to force me not just to document a moment, but to actually experience it, to sit in it for a good while.
John O’Donohue writes in his poem, “For the Traveler”:
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along.
I thought of those words in regard to this Twitter-free travel experiment, and I want to remember how freeing it felt to be fully a part of each moment: not feeling a need to blast it out, but letting it percolate in me.
Vacation is over. I’m home now, and back on Twitter. I’m not convinced I’ll always go dark while traveling—I really like the Twitter dialogue, and like every good geek, I love interacting with my internet friends. But the experience has left me with a lot to consider. As for tales of Buenos Aires—I have them and I’d love to share them in, yes, a conversation.