Recharged: When 13 People – with 32 Devices – Vacation Together

We have just returned from paradise – land of magical tide pools, golden sunsets, surreal pelicans and blended cocktails. A chance for three families, bonded since the kids sang ‘Wheels On the Bus’ together in minivans, to de-stress in a decadent beachfront dream villa.

For our group, unwinding meant curling up indoors several feet away from the infinity pool and crashing waves with iPads, iPhones and Airs in hand. All was calm, all was bright, except when the sea breezes messed with the wifi. Not exactly the vision of Arianna Huffington, who challenged her 97 million online readers to a digital detox.


One morning at 11:30, midway through the trip, I found ALL thirteen members of our vacation group inside, resisting the blazing sun. Most had chosen the more modern version of surfing, even though we had spent breakfast contemplating the provocative dystopia of Her, which we had screened together the night before. As the tide receded, our open living room looked like an Apple Store that had relocated to Margaritaville.

Was there any merit to our tropical device-fest? Could a communal group plug-in be somewhat therapeutic? And what exactly had captured everyone’s attention on their screens?

1) 20 year old male on MacBook Pro: This dude was multitasking and recovering from sea urchin stings while on and – simultaneously killing time on a sports site while also researching a biotech company to invest in. BENEFITS: Less dangerous than parasailing…and yes, the novice investor convinced his parents to use his summer earnings to buy stock in a hot industry. Three days later, it’s up 18%.

2) 25 year old female on MacBook Air: This innovator was seeking self improvement on, signing up for personalized coding tutoring so she could tweak her cool entrepreneurial website. BENEFITS: As life-affirming as yoga on the beach? Maybe not, but yoga is so 2013, and coding is the future.

3) 23 year old male on iPad: Online Friday NYT crossword while recharging his Nike Fuel Band. BENEFITS: All good. Just do it. Better than a fighting video game.

4) 22 year old male on iPad: This young music entrepreneur was enthusiastically playing Injustice: Gods Among Us. BENEFITS: Oh dear, this IS a fighting video game. But at least it includes classic DC comic characters.

5) 18 year old male on MacBook Air: This college freshman was choosing NYU classes after being shut out of all the good ones in the last registration window (still couldn’t find anything ‘dope’). BENEFITS: Seventh on the wait list for ‘Hip Hop: A Historical Perspective’

6) 25 year old female on iPhone 5S: This start-up administrator was multitasking on two devices, while providing advice and tech support to just about everyone else. When I caught up with her, she was deleting hundreds of photos to make room for more AND buying a cutting edge print by an emerging artist on BENEFITS: No downside whatsoever to collecting art. Collecting shells can make your luggage sandy.

7) 21 year old male (Unplugging Advocate): This iconoclast was reading a hard copy of ‘The Billionaire’s Apprentice.’ BENEFITS: A real book with retro pages…but is an insider trading saga really the best way to reboot on a holiday?

And, the adults, at least at that moment in time, were less wired, not quite frolicking on the sand, but at least hanging onto their relics – print editions and rollerballs:

8) Grownup male: Reading ‘The Billionaire’s Apprentice’ on an iPad.

9) Grownup male and grownup female: Jointly doing a print Sunday New York Times crossroad puzzle, saved from 10/13/13.

10) Grownup male: Also reading ‘The Billionaire’s Apprentice,’ the real book. “I don’t do Kindles.” (And, to be fair, we ventured beyond business nonfiction: three vacationers collectively finished more than 120% of The Goldfinch.)

11) Grownup female: Reading Harper’s Bazaar, a real magazine, embarrassed…“Will your readers think I’m shallow?”

DISCLAIMER/CRITIQUE: “You’re harsh on our family,” says one of the young adults. “You’re making it seem as if we didn’t take a boat trip to a waterfall, or do a 1000-piece puzzle, or gather in the hot tub for the sunsets.” And he’s right: all of those experiences are preserved forever on Instagram.

Happy New Year, all. Wishing you a kinder, less brutal year for college acceptances. May you, your family and your beloved operating systems find a balance of health, love, peace, quiet time together…and maybe some fun in the sun.



Recharged: When 13 People – with 32 Devices – Vacation Together — 13 Comments

  1. Dear Ms. Rothman,
    The new year is as good a time as any to thank you for your blog (and book). My wonderful son (and only child) is “pushing the button” today on his many college applications, and the commitment of an EDII decision has suddenly made the fact that he’s actually leaving very real. Your book has been hilarious, informative, wise, and more than anything else – so reassuring that there’s life after the dorm room at times when I’ve really needed it. Thanks for the continuing lifeline, and I wish you and your family nothing but wonderful for 2014.
    Best regards,

  2. Happy New Year and thanks for your kind words. Fingers crossed for the EDII decision…and looking forward to having you in the reluctant empty nesters club.

    • Mr. Neurotic Parent is addicted, which ensures that he’ll always let me keep our print subscription.

    • It’s so ironic that parents who won’t let their kids watch television are happy/relieved to hand them the iPhone. When my kids were little, the Gameboy was so controversial.

  3. Dear NP: Having kept up on your blog from the beginning, I was very daunted by the idea of college applications. So I gratefully turned the task over to a seemingly disorganized but motivated senior and a great college counselor. Luckily for me, it saved my relationship with my son and I am happy to report that he was accepted into his first choice of school. While not an Ivy League, he informed me that he would rather “shine among the mediocre than be mediocre among the elite.” Wise words indeed. Besides which he strives for a “balanced experience” (read parties and hot girls). I am sure that this attitude will serve him well in the corridors of Silicon Valley!