DURANGO, Colo. – I was spending a few days in the Colorado woods when I voluntarily logged off the digital landscape. No laptop. No TV. No radio. No phone. Not so much as a wristwatch. For someone like me, who, like so many others, finds his every waking hour filled with emails, text alerts and old-fashioned phone calls, it was an alien but placid world.
Then, late Tuesday, I re-occupied the grid after booting up my iPhone and got an awful surprise: Robin Williams had been found dead on Monday.
Today we live not so much in an information age as in total submersion, like citizens of Info-Atlantis. To shut our eyes and ears to information intake is to retreat into an alternate, now-unnatural state, for which we are liable to pay a price.
For me to get the news of Williams’ death more than a day after everyone else served to compound the shock I joined them in with lots of other feelings of my own. Like my sense of negligence at being out of reach. Like my remorse at having dealt myself out of this communal experience.
I was absent as the world was united in grief over the loss of an entertainment giant. No one likes to be blindsided, much less being the last one blindsided.
Granted, some of what I’m feeling is specific to my job. I’m part of the media machine. To be out of touch, however fleetingly, leaves me disoriented.
But today nearly everyone is part of the media machine. Everyone who tweets or has a Facebook page or uploads a video to YouTube. Everyone who blogs or posts a comment to a blog. We all are part of this ecology, both feeding into it and feeding on it.
So we are all complicit in the way that tragedies and other bombshells come at us so quickly and, at times, so overwhelmingly. And we understand the brevity of each story’s life span, as it gives way to the next story. Dare to step away too long and you’re liable to miss one of them.
By Williams’ sad passing, I have been reminded yet again of what we all know, or should, about our obligations in the modern world: We log off at our peril.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore