I'm not one of those people who hates my TV and won't eat sugar. I'm not at peace if I spend more than a few waking hours off email. I prefer kickboxing to yoga. I think you get the point. I would love to be someone who declares, "It was liberating to be without email and phone contact for a week!" But I would be lying. Being offline after the earthquake was unsettling and upsetting. Prior to the earthquake, I was happy I was in touch with friends and family to tell them about the Andes. I like being connected. Being in touch with people I care about—and having a line of contact and communication— is vital to me.
In the days after the earthquake, phone lines were down and there was no Internet access...but my sister's phone was charged, and we stole a few moments each day to check in when we could. My husband texted one night to say "I love you," and I held the powered-off phone in my hands when I went to sleep that night.
What does that say about me or our culture? I don't know. Admittedly, I'm dependent on technology, and these platforms to keep in touch regardless of whether there is news to report. Most of the time, I use the Internet for research, to coordinate plans and to share happy updates. In this case, I used it to communicate updates in a city that was powered off and to glean news about the country I was in when I couldn't access the television. Having power on our portable phones gave me tremendous piece of mind, and I'm so glad we traveled with the option to be connected if we wanted to be—and when we needed to be.
Now that I'm home, I'm thinking of my friend who is still there, enduring more than 200 aftershocks and trying to lend tremendous assistance as he works as a diplomat. I'm thinking of the hundreds and thousands of displaced Chileans and family members who are grieving and searching, who aren't able to share updates or to quickly check in. The news may have moved on in this country, but in Chile, Haiti and other areas of the world affected by extreme trauma and severe conditions, the news is still very much live. For those who can't reach out to us now, I hope they know we still care and that we are still connected.
While I am very grateful to technology, I did sign Oprah's No Phone Zone pledge.
Andrea Syrtash is an author, advice columnist and the host of On Dating, produced by NBC Digital Studios. Her advice has been featured on NBC's Today, USA Today and NPR, among others. She has contributed to over a dozen relationship-advice books. Her new book, He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing), will be published in April 2010. For more, please visit AndreaSyrtash.com