What would we do without our mobile technology? Without our phones and tablets and laptops, which have become almost like an additional, invisible vein attached to our bodies, carrying a constant drip feed of disparate information, updates, likes, comments, chit chat, news, fake news intermingling with global catastrophes, selfies and shout-outs, straight to our hearts and minds.
I’m as guilty of the addiction as anyone else. If I find myself in a beautiful location, the automatic reaction is to take a photo or a video to share with on-line friends. Out for a celebratory meal, it’s hard to resist capturing an image of the lovely food and wine, for future posting. Parties and events can seem incomplete without stamping a virtual record of it on some social platform. Our timelines could almost be called our lifelines.
Social media can be a great way of keeping in contact but like everything else, but there are times when life occasions are in danger of being viewed solely through the screens of our mobiles instead of us fully experiencing living in the actual moment and this can have a questionable impact on our wellbeing. Currently, the government, as part of the 2018 healthy Ireland campaign, is recommending that in the interests of mental wellbeing, we take a daily, 30 minute break from our mobile phone. 30 minutes? What does that say about how often we check them? Problem is, as well as checking our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter updates on a regular basis, many of us are always ‘on’ to email, work and otherwise, with the result that we’re never really away from our jobs or free to enjoy quality, genuine downtime.
Coming from an era – not so long ago – when moving to a new house meant waiting years for a connection to a land line, I think mobiles are a brilliant invention for ease of communication. However in view of the way our dependency on all things digital has taken over our lives in a few short years, when I was researching county Mayo as a suitable location for A House Full of Secrets, and discovered there are digital black spots in parts of the county – thanks to its spectacular landscape of towering mountains and deep valleys – inspiration began to fizz in my writerly brain.
Imagine if – you have a family get together, an estranged family no less, divided by old wounds and secrets, at odds with relationship issues and work problems, coerced to come together over a long weekend, in a beautiful and remote house that’s drenched with shadows and secrets.
Imagine if – that family are forced to go cold turkey on all things digital for the weekend because there is no Wifi or mobile coverage. But hey, as Lainey points out, it will be good for the family to have an ‘unplugged weekend’ and be more present to each other instead of communicating through their screens, and anyway, people pay a fortune to retreat to a digital detox weekend, don’t they?
But is it as easy as it sounds? Would a digital detox rank up there along with withdrawing from other kinds of addiction, where cold turkey is a chilly and difficult place to be?
A House Full of Secrets finds Vikki incommunicado for the weekend and unable to access an important London work conference, thus putting her job on the line. Jenna’s husband Alex is normally a slave to his phone and she can’t understand how his sister persuaded him to go cold turkey for the weekend when for him, ditching his phone is almost equivalent to losing a limb.
But as the weekend unfolds, it transpires that these are only small concerns. Having no contact with the outside world takes on a far more serious significance when there is a turbulent storm approaching, marooning them all, coupled with the realisation that someone inside that house is out to exact a painful revenge for past hurts.
There are times when a digital detox can be very refreshing and restorative, and there are times when you could do with having a powered up mobile to hand…
© 2018 Zoë Miller
This blog post first appeared on the wonderful book blog, Handwritten Girl as pat of the blog tour for A House Full of Secrets. I’d like to say a big thank you to Bronagh for hosting me. It was a pleasure.