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Escape from the vortex

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-10 10:06

Escape from the vortex

Pang Li/China Daily

The fact that the Internet is now available all the time does not mean you have to use it every minute of your waking life.

Escape from the vortex

Soft or tough, handle with care 

Escape from the vortex

The tangled web of cultural niceties

The Internet has indisputably changed the world, but not necessarily for the better for every member of our society. The convenience it allows is so dazzling it has left quite a few in the vortex of information flooding. And to call it "information" is the same as including "junk food" in the broad category of "food".

Air China recently announced its plan to make the Internet available on its flights, which must be welcome news to many Chinese passengers. Almost all Chinese airports provide free Wi-Fi, which is necessary during delays.

As a frequent flier, I can cope with a few hours of non-access to what's happening on the ground. I can choose to doze off if it's a long flight, or I can browse through the film catalogue. I can bring books or other printed material with me and so avoid touching a gadget for the duration of the flight.

I went through an unplanned experiment when I traveled to the Australian outback recently and stayed for a few days without the Internet. The lodge where I was put up had only one satellite telephone, reserved for emergencies. All we could do was sit around and chat ... oh, and gaze at sunsets and galaxies. I'd never felt so close to nature. Total seclusion from modern communication slowed down my pace of life and sharpened my eyes for little things I never detected before.

Of course, most people, like me, cannot live like a recluse for longer than a few days. But the addiction to the always-on information highway is largely built on the illusion of empowerment. Who in the world needs to field a 24/7 barrage of information inflow but the most powerful people like presidents and corporate executives? They are portrayed in popular culture as giving nonstop instructions or berating underlings while striding through corridors. Actually, it is the underlings who have no choice but leave their cell phones on all the time. It won't be long, I guess, before the choice to switch off will be seen as a show of power.

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