The picture of our future in a digital age both amazes me and disappoints me — the disappointment could come from an imaginary longing for the past, for “simpler times” when it was easier to sit down and talk with someone over a cup of coffee, but perhaps more difficult to arrange that coffee date. It disappoints me that so many connections (romantic or otherwise) are based on the internet alone — on instant gratification, on face-value, on a left swipe or right swipe. So often our internet presence is a contrived projection of fantasy mirroring an entirely different reality. Instagram ruses, subtweets, the skewed desire to share only the best bits of your life on the web and leave the ordinary, messy stuff for you to trudge through on your own — these all get us nowhere. The amazement of our digital future however is unending: advancements in science, health, and communications are popping up so rapidly given the improving technology, and that’s great — but what is it doing for our personal relationships?
It’s easy to believe that social media and the ability to instantly connect with each other will only enhance our relationships, but looking beyond the surface-level, social media can severely silence some very important things while giving a platform to negativity, false comparisons, and gossip. Recently, little by little, I’ve been seriously detaching myself from technology. I’ve been trying to set aside specific time blocks during the day when I allow myself to freely browse my phone or post on Twitter, knowing I’m spending most of my hours living without distraction, with only Me back in my head.
I realize that the world is full of distractions that are disguised in the cloaks of cellphones and mass media. I think that people are growing comfortable with being interrupted or getting distracted, and that only drives us further apart. It’s kind of ironic how all of these devices and mediums are supposed to help us keep in touch with one another, when really it’s putting up a wall between us and we are essentially becoming more superficial because of it. Your self worth does not rely on how many notifications you receive, how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get on a specific social media platform – it’s about the quality of what you send out to the world. You are not just a recipient; you also have the power to send information.
Yesterday, my phone died and I had no intention of plugging it in.
I had no intention of staring at a TV screen, or hearing the radio buzz, or even picking up a newspaper.
The first few hours of my day without a smartphone were not very hard, as I went for a drive with a friend, sat by the lake and enjoyed a nice day. I felt more clear-headed, like the experience was even sobering. It was somehow very cathartic to know that I didn’t have to be attached to my phone or any other kind of news and that I could just spend my day with myself, my thoughts, and conversations with others. I kept telling myself that this isn’t that foreign, or at least it shouldn’t be – I kept reminding myself that this is how people lived for years.
A big part of getting comfortable without your phone on or without being distracted by social media is getting comfortable with silence, because the silence in your own mind can be deafening. There were silences all throughout the day: while in the car, in my room, anywhere I happened to be. I know a lot of people that hate silence, but I tried my best to enjoy it. There are lots of things that have pleasant noises that aren’t necessarily musical, like a burning candle or the sound of a bathtub filling up with water, the sound of the kettle just beginning to boil. I feel like I paid more attention to minuscule and unexciting things – ordinary things were suddenly more interesting because I gave myself no choice but to pay attention.
By the time I returned to regular life, I felt better. I realized I wanted to genuinely connect with people in my life, see them and listen to them with no distractions. I wanted to promise myself to always stay that open to the people in my life. And most importantly, I wanted to be very careful with what I consume and what I send out into the world. In a world so driven by computer screens and fast-paced conversations, it’s more important than ever to stay transparent, to slow down, and use technology to our advantage by sharing positive stories and spreading compassion in hopes of uniting us all. Isn’t that what social media is supposed to do, anyway? Help us all connect in a safe space of positivity, valuable information, and love?
The role of our digital age is essentially to provide the agenda of the world’s happenings – the news that is deemed most important and most relevant to the people or stories that spark an interest, a relation, a feeling of “yes, that’s my life too.” Not only does media as a whole chronicle the past, but it also marks the present and future through everyday mediums like smartphones and the internet. The problem is we’ve become so obsessed, so attached to these things that spending only a day away from them is uncomfortable, but taking quick breaks from mass media will do nothing but help ease your mind and spirit.
If you’re up for a challenge, turn your phone off with no regrets. Leave it off till you’ve felt peace again. Step back into our digital world with fresh perspectives and clear minds.