Bring me sunshine… or Wi-Fi

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9 July 2018 | 0

Billy MacInnesI’ve just returned from a 10-day holiday in France where temperatures reached the early to mid-30s which was great apart from the fact that our lovely looking chalet didn’t have any air conditioning. In my absence, Ireland decided to have a heatwave the like of which we haven’t seen since 1976. Someone more churlish than me might bemoan the fact that they spent a good chunk of cash to leave Ireland to get some guaranteed sunshine just at the moment when this country chose to bask in its highest temperatures in more than 40 years. Not me.

While I and my family sweltered in the totally predictable heat of Saint Just Luzac, suffering mainly because of the unexpected lack of air conditioning, my mind didn’t turn enviously to everyone else left behind in Ireland. After all, there have been far too many years when a foreign holiday has been one of the only guarantees of a decent spell of summer sunshine for anyone living here.

One thing which I thought might be a cause of angst, hopefully more for those members of our party under 18 than the adults, was the lack of free Wi-Fi at the campsite we were staying in. Having to shell out €3 for an hour’s access or €7 for five hours seemed a bit of a liberty on behalf of the campsite when we have all become so accustomed to free Wi-Fi at most places we go to in Ireland.

I am happy to report that we didn’t use it once. The attractions of the swimming pool and sun-bathing (and a decent book) were, for the most part, powerful enough to combat any cravings that we might suffered about getting connected.

It also helped that the changes to EU roaming charges that came into effect last summer meant we were not dependent on Wi-Fi access to do simple things such as browse the Web and check social media if we didn’t want to be landed with extortionate charges. True, network coverage in the campsite wasn’t great, but it was possible to get a decent connection if you were prepared to look for it.

To use a word that the IT industry likes to deploy frequently, the ‘experience’, such as it was, did not match what we have become accustomed to at home where access by Wi-Fi or over the mobile network is, for the most part, very good. But it didn’t matter because being online was only a small part of our overall holiday experience.

No fear of missing out
In this context, it’s about the total experience we have, so while we might feel a much stronger urge to be online during our normal daily life, it’s not as powerful when we’re on a break. There’s a balance in terms of our interaction with technology and our human interactions and experiences that changes depending on what we’re doing and where we are.

In fact, you could argue that if we had been given fantastic, speedy (and free) Wi-Fi, along with brilliant mobile network coverage, it could have detracted from the overall holiday experience. How could we look up and enjoy our surroundings and socialise with the people around us if we were too busy looking down at a screen and remotely socialising with people many miles away?

Of course, for the people living and working around Saint Just Luzac, free fast Wi-Fi and strong mobile network coverage would probably be much more desirable. Just as it would for the people living in those parts of Ireland that have mobile and broadband connections which are as weak as any campsite in France. There’s some small consolation in the fact the people in Ireland have had the sunshine that usually goes with the French experience for the last couple of weeks or so. But when that goes, they’ll be hoping to get decent mobile coverage and broadband well before the next heatwave arrives.

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