The great disconnection: how our reliance on technology is cutting us off from living.
A terrible tragedy struck me recently. I was staying at a hotel with no internet and no cell phone service.
I know. Take a moment to share my horror.
I got to my hotel room and realized that I only have like half a bar on my cell phone, which means the phone is basically useless in my room. I had just enough service that if I went outside on the balcony I could eke out a text message if I pointed the phone at the right spot in the sky.
This immediately flashed me back to shifting the rabbit ears around on the tv when I was young, trying to get a better picture so I could watch Starsky and Hutch. Oh, Starsky, you were so cute…..but I digress.
Anyway, there was supposed to be Wi-Fi there at the hotel, but it popped in for like thirty seconds at a time then shut off again and logged you back off again. Fortunately, the weather was lovely when I was out on the Oregon coast, so I didn’t mind sitting outside waving my phone around trying to catch a cell signal while enjoying my lovely view of people smoking cigarettes in the parking lot.
At least I could see the beach from there.
There I was on a business trip, and I had a cell phone, an iPad, and a laptop. Exactly how much computing power and communication do I need? And they were all mostly useless without a good connection.
I was sitting out there on the balcony, waving my phone around like a fool, waiting for the Facebook to load and it hit me — I am way too tied to tall of these devices.
I think it might be a sickness.
When I first got to the hotel and realized I couldn’t connect to anything, I was almost panicked. I couldn’t read my e-mail! I couldn’t check the stats on all my stories! I didn’t know how my dog was doing!
Seriously, I get nervous when I can’t read my e-mail or easily text people. What the hell? I mean really, what the actual hell? I’m not a brain surgeon or secretary of state or something, it’s really not that important that I be reachable on a Tuesday night.
I asked myself, when did this happen? Why am I so compelled to be connected? I forced myself to put down my phone, come inside and do a little meditation so I could think about my reaction.
Obviously, I had plenty of time to think without the distraction of Instagram.
I realized that the tethering of myself to devices happened gradually. For years I had an analog cell phone, so long that the company finally wrote me and said they wouldn’t support it anymore. My boyfriend at the time bought me my first iPhone, and I was immediately hooked. It was so cool, the internet was right there at my fingertips. I could look up anything that popped in my head!
I’m a person who is prone to multiple random musings throughout the day. Who was that woman who was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Is the church I was baptized in still around? How much does it cost to fly to New Zealand? What’s on the menu at the place I’m having dinner tomorrow? Has someone crossed the finish line at Badwater yet? What’s the difference between lemon and lemongrass? This is a very small sample of actual things I’ve impulsively googled in a short period of time.
Clearly being connected is not helping me with impulse control.
It got me thinking about how I had a happy hour with a friend from work recently and when she went to the bathroom, I immediately pulled out my phone instead of sitting to wait for her to return.
I get up in the morning, I immediately grab my phone. I’m in bed and I remember I was supposed to do something, I get up and email it to myself.
And it’s not just me. It’s most of us.
The plane lands, and everyone simultaneously turns on their phones with a palpable sense of relief that they know who texted them or who checked in on Facebook. We sit waiting for a meeting to start and check our email instead of talking to our coworkers. We bring our phones into the bathroom. They’re next to us as we sleep.
This can’t be healthy for us — it’s got to be bad for our physical and mental health. The constant distraction. The ongoing information overload. The lack of social connection. The constant multitasking. Always being close to whatever type of energy our devices emit (I would have looked this up and been more specific, but again, no google).
I’m resolving to change this behavior. Writing it down helps make it real. I’m going to start incorporating regular disconnection time and give my brain a rest.
You should join me. It’ll be like the dark ages of my youth when I had to wait and go to the library to look things up and people spaced out on the bus instead of reading the Huffington Post on their phones. It’s going to be hard, but it feels important.
I’m starting now. I’m going inside, turning all my devices off, and doing some yoga. But first I’m going to post this story.
How about you? How much do you connect to your devices? Could you give them up for a while?