For one reason or another, this phrase has been in my head a lot lately. I think we sometimes think that we are building bridges, developing relationships as we text. And, to an extent, that is true. But I feel like the more I text a person, the more distant I become. Gradually, it becomes less of a conversation between me and another real person, and more between these two…beings. More a conversation between the phones than between people.
Beyond that, have you ever noticed how we are expected to be constantly connected? I remember that I once planned to delete my Facebook account. (That was actually when I started a blog—I figured this would be a more constructive use of my time.) It wasn’t long, though, till I realized that I simply couldn’t do that. Deleting my Facebook account would mean losing all form of easy, quick, and mindless communication. Deleting my Facebook would mean never knowing about an event, missing my friend’s mission farewells, and being a general out of the loop.
And to a high schooler of barely 17, that was a big problem. It was also a big problem to my mom, who certainly wasn’t in high school anymore. In fact, it seems to be a big problem to most everyone in the world. Ever had someone complain to you, “I wrote on your wall and you never responded!”? You weren’t connected enough. Automatic stamp of “failure,” right there on your forehead in big, red letters.
In one of my recreation management classes, we discussed that we are often offered different forms of leisure that are, as the textbook puts it, “trivial at best.” They are activities that offer us minimal amounts of happiness—a temporary fix of sorts. But the problem with temporary fixes is that they’re temporary, and pretty soon you need another dose. It doesn’t take long before these little things start to look an awful lot like an addiction.
My big challenge is anything that connects me to people. Texting, Facebook, blogs, etc. I justify them. “I’m developing friendships, I’m supporting people,” I say to myself. But wouldn’t it be better to actually be with that person? Seeing “(hug)” on a phone screen just isn’t the same as an actual hug. We, as human beings, are meant to be connected by more than electronics.
I go through phases. Normal consumption of these activities gradually leads to excessive consumption, which eventually reaches a point where it scares me enough to cut back—so far back that I feel under connected, so I pick back up again, a little at a time. And so it goes, the seemingly neverending cycle.
But, hey, they’re just little things here and there, right? I mean, I’m still getting things done as I go throughout the day.
Well, kind of. The problem is that it so interrupts everything I do. They’re just little things here and there, but they don’t allow for me to think things through anymore because they’re so chopped up by buzzing phones and email dings and Facebook chat pops. I specifically remember thinking to myself during finals week last semester that I understood how everything in Stats worked, but I couldn’t quite see the connection through it all. Well, no wonder it’s all disconnected—I jumble it up as I go. I read a section, respond to a text message. Finish a problem, check my Facebook. Little, tiny things that don’t take much time but certainly do interrupt any kind of rhythm I was getting down.
The same thing happens all day long. I sit in my classes and ideas are sparked. “What if…” I begin to wonder. I start forming ideas all the time—emphasis on the start. But then what happens? I get busy. I run off to the library to study, then to the testing center. I’m in class, at work, on the phone. Always doing little things all day long. Always rushed. Always off. Always doing the next little thing. But when do I get a chance to sit down and make something big happen? It’s pretty rare.
I may be getting a lot done, but do these things add up to anything? Are these little things, here and there, worth what I am sacrificing? Are they worth what we are sacrificing?
I wonder what kind of a society we are creating. Advances in technology—that sounds like a good thing. But there has to be an opportunity cost somewhere. As we’ve repeatedly learned in my Econ 110 class, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” So, what are we losing when we have all the gain laid out before us?
Thoughts. I think that we are losing the ability to think things through. To reason. To deduce. To create. Now, I’m not saying that we should forsake all advancements and spend our days reading Thoreau in the forest. (Though that actually does sound lovely at the moment. Let’s pretend that finals aren’t in two days and just read in nature instead.) But I am saying that we must be deliberate about what we allot our time to. We have to be intentional about it, because the path of least resistance is certainly not taking us anywhere that we aspire to be.
So what do we really want? I know what I want—I want to think, to grow, to experience. I want to be someone and something bigger than an accumulation of little things. I want to be someone that does and means something larger than a text message. I want to have ideas—I want to come up with solutions. I want to make an impact. I want to reach the end of my life, look back and see that I truly lived.
I have a goal, and I’d love for you to join me. No more space-filler checking for updates on anything. I will break the habit that my fingers have developed to (command+T-->f-->enter) and find myself logged into Facebook and scrolling down my newsfeed without even realizing it. I will learn to leave my phone in my backpack for a few hours at a time and be okay with it. I will not lose my life to the imagined world filled with emoticons instead of emotions, and I will not interrupt my time with real people for something so trivial and impermanent as technology.
The world is so beautiful. Everywhere, there is such beauty. And we forget about it. And I forget about it. I want to see that beauty more often—more readily. I want to feel it. I want to remember it. I want that beauty to be a part of me and of who I am.
I will let it in. Will you?