To re-connect, disconnect
Technology is difficult to get away from.
And let me clarify here, by technology, I am referring to a small sector which has a big impact on our lives – electronic devices with screens.
Some days I want to run far and deep into a forest, away from my phone and social media and my computerSSSSSS (notice….plural) and apps and games and the computers on the dashboard of my car and all of it.
Just all of it.
My kids’ school bus broke down a few days ago. They had been dropped off but apparently the bus didn’t make it much past our house. We drove by it on our way to karate, stranded at the top of our street, an hour later. I asked the driver the next morning what happened. “There was a just short in the system which shut the whole bus down.” I grinned and said to her, “Don’t you just love technology?”
I have noticed over the past three or four months that my attention span is shorter. I can’t focus. Nothing I write feels like my voice. I’m yelling at my kids, feeling short tempered most of the time. I’m emotionally eating to compensate for all of this anger, frustration, and yelling, hoping that will make me feel better. So sitting here in my now too tight jeans? Yeah, that just feels terrific.
The other day I looked at my phone and realized there were two things that had changed.
- Last fall I added a social media app to my phone which I realized I was checking ALL DAMN DAY. Oh, I have a moment? Let’s see what’s happening in the world of my friends and family…which, as you know, leads to watching stupid videos and reading articles and taking quizzes about all kinds of shit I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT. And yet, like the polar vortex, this social media app chewed me up and spit me out, giving me an entirely different life and personality. Yuck.
- I was spending absolutely no time outside.
How did I let it get this far?
Why are we so dependent upon our phones for stimulation?
Can anyone actually be in a moment anymore?
I had to have my month old car looked at yesterday because a small part of my front light is out. Yep, a month old and already problems. Technology.
As I was sitting there, waiting patiently in the car dealer waiting room with the rest of the folks, I looked around. Every single person, even the people working there, were on a device. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
I was listening to the radio on the way home from the dealership and a woman commentator stated how her daughter, younger than 10 years old, had to tell her mom and dad to put their phones down at dinner.
Yes, seriously, because my own kids did that to me a week ago. “Put the phone down mom, you’re always on that thing.”
We are addicted to our phones and computers and our technology. If taken away from us, we wouldn’t know what to do and yet 10 years ago, most of us were living with way less.
Addicted. ADDICTED. As in I don’t know if we can control ourselves. As in, I may need to walk away from it. Forever.
If asked, could we put our phones and computers down for an hour? For five hours? For an evening? For a day? What the heck would we do with our time? Good lord, how would we function at work?
As a biologist, we are taught about the carrying capacity of organisms in an ecosystem. That an organism’s population will grow to a certain number and then something will happen (human intervention through overhunting, pollution exposure, disease, etc), sending their population size into a crash, from which they can recover and reach a point where their population becomes stable.
Is there a carrying capacity for technology? Will a point be reached where enough is enough and anything beyond will have consequences? And what will those consequences look like?
As much as I would like to get rid of the technology in my home or job, I realize that isn’t exactly realistic. Technology saturates every facet of our lives from cooking to keeping our homes safe to shortening the time it takes to complete some tasks.
In the same moment, I believe to reach to the depths of our being, to find the best of ourselves, we need to step away from technology, every once in a while, and sit with ourselves. Maybe this is why meditation is on the rise. We’re so plugged in and disconnected with ourselves and others that to re-connect, we need to set aside moments of our days to intentionally disconnect.
And so this week, I deleted the social media app on my phone. Seems so silly, so simple, so easy. And it was. The impact of that small change was felt immediately.
I played board games with my kids last night, instead of all of us sitting on a device in the same room, disconnected. We laughed and joked and I reconnected with my kids. The anger I was wearing like a cloak around my shoulders has disappeared. The crazy chaos of our lives, the limbo in which we currently live, didn’t feel as dark and heavy. It changed from lives of not knowing to lives of possibility.
At work, I took two hikes this week, taking my SLR camera with me, not the camera on my phone. I listened to the rushing water of the river and talked with teachers about other beautiful areas to hike in Maryland. I took photos of bluebirds and watched the dominant males chase others away from the feeders. I reconnected with nature.
Hear me clearly. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog, or find these beautiful photos, and my writing certainly would not reach anyone. Technology’s presence in my life has allowed my writing to flourish. That benefit is not lost on me at all. I fully acknowledge there are times technology has made my life easier, actually given me more time, and given me a more comfortable life.
But I noticed that for me, its increasing presence in my life, done by my choice, was causing negative consequences in my attitude, in my behavior, in my choices, and in my interactions with others. I have never been depressed but I was on the verge of sliding into a vat of ugliness; I needed to stop that slide before it began.
If any of this resonates with you, take tonight and put your device down. Resist the urge to check your social media apps, to fill empty time playing a video game, to answer that one last text or email. All of it will be there tomorrow.
Instead, take a walk outside. Invite your spouse, partner, kids, neighbors or dog to go with you. Notice the seasonal changes happening around you. Allow your mind to still. Breathe deeply.
If it’s cold where you live, stand in front of a window. Invite your spouse, partner, kids, or pet to observe your world with you. Allow your mind to still. Breathe deeply. Wait until the stars come out and watch their slow movement across the sky.
In order to re-connect, disconnect.
I promise, you won’t miss a thing and will gain so much more.