Disconnecting Is The New Luxury
I can’t tell you how often I get a strange or confused look whenever I mention I’m not on Social Media (OK, I have a private Twitter account for news and customer service). Every once in a while, a person will admit their envy when they discover I’m not on Instagram, Snap Chat, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., and ask to share my reasons—out of sheer fascination. Though I feel my reasons remain far from any groundbreaking insight, I still share them, hoping they may somehow edify those seeking deeper tactile for their lives.
I won’t spend time speaking against social media, nor will I discount them because this isn’t about Social Medial as much as it is about us. Let’s also note many individuals aren’t on social media either, so to my comfort, I’m no unique case.
A feeling of indifference is usually all I can muster whenever topics surrounding Social Media arise. “It’s not my thing” is my go-to response, but this wasn’t always the case. I’ve actually tried all of the Social Media platforms at one point or another. Sure, they helped me “connect” in some respects, but I never found my life anymore rewarding because of them. What I was rewarded with however, were an enormous amount of distractions, superfluous content and irrelevant data. It didn’t take long to notice something quite disturbing about the digitization of modern living.
We don’t live productive lives. We live distracted ones.
Today, I use a smartphone like most other people. It effectively meets my everyday needs with convenience and I enjoy it. But every once in a while, I think back to when I was younger, when no one had any mobile devices, few had computers — let alone internet — and find myself wondering how we ever existed without technology or the Internet of Things. It’s actually quite interesting to see what was then and what is now. It’s like observing contrasting lives. One analog, the other, digital.
One part of my life ruled by community events, bike riding, scraping around for materials to build clubhouses, writing letters to pen pals (remember the taste of licking stamps?), reading Encyclopedia Britannica, helping mom cut out coupons for food shopping, being mischievous with neighborhood friends, supper with the family at the table, and who can forget — the living room with the television set — and if you had it good, a VCR. The more current life is ruled by the obsession to hyper connectivity via mobile devices, computers, Internet, apps, video games, social networks etc., accompanied by desperation for WiFi hot spots and outlets to recharge depleting batteries.
We’ve come a long way in such a short amount of time in regards to technology. As a kid, I envied Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise for his small communication device, and Dick Tracy for his communicating wristwatch. I would’ve never anticipated that I would own technology that surpassed these things — once considered only science fiction, in my lifetime. But I do. Most of us do. It’s an incredible testament of human achievement. Global communications and technology is exciting and fast-paced, but somehow, I still find myself searching for something more… and it’s a bit odd. I look around and seem to have everything I want: A nice computer, amazing phone, 4K TV, gaming console, etc. But I still feel disconnected. The thing I discovered that was missing, was me.
It happened so elusively, I can’t even pinpoint the moment when it occurred: The time technology took over my life.
When going out to play ball was replaced by long chat room sessions online. When hanging out with friends was replaced by online gaming, and when talking was replaced by texting. Long gone are the days when our homes had that one rotary telephone everyone shared. And whenever you received that “special call”, you ran into the bathroom stretching out that curled phone cord to the max just to get some privacy. It may be silly but I miss that. And I think that’s what’s missing — the human connection. The weight, the texture and rawness that comes with analog interactions. It’s something that cannot be forged digitally. It has all been replaced by technology.
We don’t visit anyone anymore because we can just video chat. We don’t write letters to see how our friends and family are doing because we can just check their latest status on Facebook or Instagram. We don’t talk to anyone because we can just text with a bunch of people simultaneously. It seems that we’ve allowed technology to replace the things that enrich life.
We’ve never been closer and further apart from the world at the same time. The solution is found in unmitigated self awareness.
I needed to restore a sense of equilibrium in my life. Technology has its place and time, but it’s not required for significant living. I’ve openly heard people admit that if they were to lose their phone, they wouldn’t know what to do, that they would feel naked or outright panic. Has our confidence, productivity and dependency gone from ourselves to the technology we own?
As a result, I’ve actually started to leave my mobile device at home during non-working hours/days, and not watch TV for extended times, and only use the Internet when necessary—in efforts to prevent me from disconnecting from myself. It’s unfortunate these simple practices appear impossible to many people now. But this is how my focus, priorities and productivity survives.
We need to simplify our everyday habits and stay sharp on the things that keep us effective and efficient.
The value of this inspired me to eliminate all the “additives” and distractions in my life. I want to simplify my day, not confuse it. I want to focus on components that propel me forward, not sabotage it. In essence, my decision to get rid of the fragmented digitally projected culture, came from rediscovering my childhood living: the qualitative lifestyle. It’s what I want to emanate and sustain.
Looking back, my only gripe was that I did not do this sooner. Days have become more purposeful and peaceful now that I can accomplish tasks and meet goals without anything stealing my time and progress. There’s something powerful, authentic and pure about moving through life this way. Call me old fashioned, but this is the movement my soul loves.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with words from a wise man to meditate upon.
“This is the paradox of our times.
We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints
We spend more, but we have less.
We have bigger houses, but smaller families
More conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense
More knowledge, but less judgment
More experts, but more problems
More medicines, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often
We have learned how to make a living, but not a life.
We have added years to life, but not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.
We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.
We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are the times of tall men, and short character;
Steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare,
More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces;
Of fancier houses, but broken homes.
It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.
A time when technology can bring this letter to you,
And a time when you can choose,
Either to change… or just hit, delete.”
-Dr. Bob Moorehead