Breaking the Habit – Internet Addiction and Organizing

Erica Nickels

There are a lot of wonderful things about being in Cancun – the fact that we can have our nightly meetings around the pool, for example, or build giant puppets on the back deck without having to worry about frostbite.  The delicious food and beautiful beaches are also a definite plus, although I haven’t had the time to enjoy much of either.
In fact, to be perfectly honest, there are also some really challenging things about being in Cancun – like the general confusion about what’s happening in what parts of the city, and even the thousands of soldiers and federal police lounging around the city with semi-automatic assault rifles and even.  Surprisingly, however, the most challenging part of my experience so far has been the city wide internet outage.

One of the amazing things about social media is that it provides us with the ability to be in constant contact with each other.  As a Canadian Youth Delegation, we have the capacity to live-stream the negotiations, tweet updates from within the conference centre, and circulate daily newsletters and podcasts to thousands of subscribers from across Canada.  Bt there’s a hitch – each and every one of these tools relies largely on a strong, reliable internet connection.  And internet is one thing that is in short supply these days in Cancun.

It’s been incredibly frustrating to coordinate a major communications campaign without a dependable internet connection, and it feels like I’ve spent most of my time so far chasing the ever elusive signal across the city.  I even travelled into the jungle to Klimaforum, partly to meet with other folks who have gathered at a people’s summit an hour outside of the city, but secretly because I had heard through the grapevine that they have a sweet internet hookup.  They do, but only for about 15 minutes every hour or so.

So here I sit, and as I type away on my computer, waiting for the internet to reboot, I’m questioning the internet.  What does it mean that we as organizers rely so heavily on technology?  What would happen if we unplugged ourselves from our computers?  Would we still be able to build a strong, diverse, global movement to combat climate change?

I think so.  In fact, sorting through the hundreds of emails I receive on a daily basis wherever I happen to find a connection has been seriously overwhelming.  While I appreciate the need to send out tonnes of information to as many people as possible, I wish people would send me fewer emails. I’m missing the personal interaction, and the relationship building that comes from face-to-face conversations.  Yet even as I finish up this blog, obviously I’m on the internet.  Despite my love-hate relationship with the internet right now, it would be a long and painful process to wean myself off of my internet addiction.

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