Radio Silence in Cuba: Digitally Disconnecting

sol-cayo-santa-maria-resort-beach-ocean Last month, I flew off to Cuba to immerse myself in sun, sand, and most importantly, radio silence for seven full and glorious days.

Life had been feeling like a knotted ball of stress and my phone wouldn’t stop blowing up with endless emails, texts and other things that pinged.

Something had to be done to quiet both my mind and the CrackBerry, and it had to be done now!  (Hm, does this call for social media hibernation sound familiar to you?)

Well, during those seven days, I was on the internet for a mind-blowing total of — wait for it — ONE hour. On the resort, one might typically find me sitting alone at the beach bar with a strawberry slushy in hand, quietly gazing off into the white sands with a peaceful twinkle in my eye.

I didn’t want parties and I didn’t want to gorge myself in all-you-can-eat-and-drink madness. Taking in the beautiful, concrete-less scenery or having a good conversation with one of the resort staff to learn more Spanish or about Cuban life were all that my little ol’ heart desired.

Time inched by at an insanely slow speed.  It was magical.

cuba

The view while sipping on my daily dose of java. Morning coffees have never tasted quite the same *sniff*  

When I returned home, I was thrown into the merciless clutches of The Evil That Is Bronchitis. I quarantined myself indoors for the next several days, slowly gaining energy but never enough to emerge into The Outside World.

It was honestly a blessing in disguise. Because I don’t think I was mentally prepared to jump back into what – after Cuba – felt like a dizzyingly fast-paced, highly-connected lifestyle.

Our (okay, my) obsession with digital communication has been something that I’ve wrestled with over the past few years.  At times I’ve been a complete social media junkie; at others, I’ve wanted to Hail Mary my phone into the far reaches of Black Space.

But while Cuba served as a much-needed reminder to slow down, disconnect and get back to that thing called human interaction, it also taught me another unexpected lesson.

What I hadn’t realized before my beach getaway was how much at the opposite end of the digital-connectivity spectrum the Cuban people are situated at.  (Here’s an article by Mashable that will give you the quick low-down).

I met a few very awesome people who worked at the resort, but the option to ask: “Can I have your email?” was absent for all those I wanted to keep in touch with but one.

And while my digitalized brain had completely forgotten about that other mode of communication (snail mail, anyone?), I discovered upon my return that even sending a letter to Cuba is a highly unreliable venture.

Our ability in North America to effortlessly connect with our family, friends and people we’ve just met and want to grow a connection with was something I had come to take for granted.  It was only after my trip that I realized how lucky we truly are to have such easy access to the digital world.

That being said, I still believe we need to find an everyday balance between total radio silence and becoming a slave to the CrackBerry.  What say you?

Do you ever take time to disconnect?  Can you call it a “real vacation” if you’ve been glued to your phone/laptop the whole time? 

– Cafe <3

P.S. If you’ve been frequenting the cafe, you might be wondering whether Your Daily Dose is going through an identity crisis! Catch up here to find out where I’m at in my blogging exploits.

A great post on digitally disconnecting (or not): Consciously Disconnecting: The Case for Putting Down Your iPhone
And another excellent read on plugging out while traveling:  Turn off, plug out, drop in
Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Janice on Song Talk Radio! And Twitter!

songtalkradio_janice_bruce_twitter

Hey cafe goers!

So I’ve been fluttering around the big ‘ol Twitterverse lately, doing some live tweeting for a local university radio show called Song Talk Radio.

I’m so in love with the show because it’s all about exploring one of my favourite things in the entire world — ah, no, not fine, single malt scotch, but close(!) — songwriting!

I was actually a guest on Song Talk Radio last month and played a few of my originals (including a new song, “Dance Without Judgement”, live in studio)!  The best part about Song Talk is actually being able to discuss the songwriting process in an intelligent and interesting way — as you know I love to do ;)

And that’s because the hosts — Phil, Bruce and Neel — are so knowledgable about the vast world of music that I often feel like I’ve been living under a very heavy rock.  Plus, they’ve got the kind of laid-back, witty banter going on that has hooked me into hanging out with them every week to tweet for the show!

So here’s the podcast with my Song Talk Radio interview if you want to actually hear the voice behind this blog :)

If you’re also chirping away on Twitter, come join me for the live chat: @SongTalkRadio!  I’ll actually be tweeting in about an hour from now (Monday at 7 pm EST)! [Note: Song Talk is now on Tuesdays at 7!]

And here’s my personal Twitter nest that has a fully-functional coffee machine so we can continue our caffeine-induced chats no matter where we are!: @JaniceHoTweets

See you in Twitter Land! :)

– Cafe <3

Now and Then: What’s Changed with the World?

good_and_bad_changes_since_you_were_a_kid

I can still remember when I used to type on a typewriter. The old school kind with no white-out tape. When you made a mistake it was the worst shit ever. You’d tear out that piece of paper, virtually all white space but for two sentences and the big fat error, and fling it with fury into the garbage to start all over again.

There are other things about back-in-the-day technology (DOS operating system, anyone?) that make me feel slightly ancient now when I see small infants playing on their iPhones.

I feel really ancient when I find myself thinking: I am not going to allow my future kid to have those things at such a young age and be busting it out at the dinner table.

(Well, they won’t be busting it out at the dinner table if they don’t have it in the first place, so forget I said the second thing …)

But you know what I’m sayin’.

Is all this new technology necessarily a bad change the world has gone through? No. But it certainly is strange — and nostalgic — for me to have grown up both in the generation of rotary telephones and in the generation of the technology/social media boom.

When the following generations grow up knowing only a world of high-speed, digital communication and advanced technological entertainment, how will they, as people, be different from their … um … forefathers? (I know, ancient talk lol).

– Cafe <3

Take a few minutes to ask yourself: What are some ways — good and bad — that the world has changed since you were a kid?

Write a post about it, share it in the comment box below, or just keep it to yourself ;)  

Photo Credit: http://thoughtquestions.com/archives/3725

Going Dark on Facebook

A few days ago I looked down at my Blackberry and threw my hands up in the air. I had just about had enough! Flinging my phone to the ground, I declared: “Facebook must die!!!”

Okay, fine, so it was slightly less dramatic than that. What really happened was that over the past few weeks, I had been frequenting my personal Facebook account less and less. I just didn’t have anything much to say. I found myself browsing my newsfeed purely out of thoughtless habit.

Sometimes I did come up with things to share with the world: “The TTC should burn to the ground.” “It is freezing like a biznatch out here.” “Watching Alias makes me want to drink red wine.”

But after instinctively reaching for my Crackberry and hitting the Facebook app to spread these profound thoughts far and wide, I paused and asked myself: “Does anyone really care?”

Yesterday, I had been chatting with my cousin about potentially disabling my Facebook account for an indefinite period of time. An hour later, I came across a Freshly Pressed post, Are you Being Squeezed by Social Media?, that asked the readers what justified us staying on Facebook and what would it take for us to leave?

Then today, I was scrolling through my WordPress Reader and came across Mooselicker’s post. It really didn’t matter what it was about (I don’t mean it like that, Tim) — all I saw were the words “Soul Sellers” and “Facebook” together and my mouth dropped open. My God, it was a sign.

What did justify me staying on Facebook? What the heck did I do on there anyway? I decided to take a browse around my page to determine this answer.

I found that I used Facebook to broadcast urgent requests:

I used Facebook to update my friends on what had become of me …

… and about my vacations and crazy new adventures.

My Facebook page was the home of many a football game commentary, where friends would take the opportunity to diplomatically discuss their thoughts on my favourite team.

But Facebook was also where friends would send me links to interesting videos and news articles:

And where I could easily connect with family who lived in different countries:

So at the end of my search, I was nowhere closer to figuring out the answers to my burning questions:

  • Would shutting down my account actually lead to more meaningful communication between my friends and I?
  • Or would I simply lose connections with people I did care about, but who choose to mainly communicate through FB?
  • Are emailing and texting actually more meaningful ways of communicating? Do we give FB a lot more flack than it deserves?
  • Would I be more productive with the time I was using to mindlessly browse my newsfeed? Or would I at the very least feel less like a FB automaton?

WOULD MY LIFE CHANGE WITHOUT FACEBOOK? OR WOULD ITS DEMISE BARELY MAKE A DENT?

I’m curious to find out. But I’m not completely convinced just yet. Thoughts, people?

– Cafe <3

Photo Credit: Facebook stats

Getting Past the Stereotypes: The Inside Story on the Jane-Finch Community

Paul Nguyen, my guest blogger and founder of Jane-Finch.com. Here, he has received the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada Award.

The Jane-Finch area has a bad rep for gangs, drugs and gun violence. It’s a community north of Toronto and a place many immigrants call home. Residents have fought hard to change the public’s perception by working together to show the positive reality of the neighbourhood.

I grew up there and, as a kid, I was unaware of the media stereotypes. For me, the community was an exciting mix of diversity, culture, and occasional mayhem. It was normal to shoot firecrackers at each other during Victoria Day, shop for brand names inside someone’s apartment, and witness the 6 o’ clock news reporting a murder on your street. I’ve seen SWAT guys, police, and gangsters walking around with sawed-off shotguns. It’s not your typical suburban upbringing, but those unordinary moments help give you a different perspective on life. Continue reading