I’m checking my email to see if you responded to this yet.

17 11 2008

I recently took a trip to a large YMCA park with the school that I teach at to chaperone a student retreat. (I survived) While I was there for the weekend, I had no cell phone reception and no Internet connection. I am an extremely connected and technology oriented person. I have an IPhone which means that I’m connected to my email at all times. I sometimes refresh my inbox every five minutes to see if anything new has come in. I’m connected to the New York Times and Bloomberg News. I have Wikipedia at my fingertips. Heck, I have the entire Internet in my pocket all the time. It was almost a shock to my system to be away from TV, email, text messages, and the Internet for even two days. This got me to debating within my own head whether being constantly plugged in is a bad thing. At some moments I’ve thought that I wanted to get away from it all. I wanted to stop playing video games so much and go read a book. I wanted to leave my cell phone in my hotel room when I go to the beach. Maybe I don’t need to watch so much TV. But then, what’s wrong with playing video games? It’s an entertainment medium for storytelling just like books. One requires imagination, the other problem solving skills. Why is reading an email at the beach such a bad thing? I’m not sure that it is.


One side of me enjoyed the peace and serenity of the woods without my cell phone near by. On this day, I was able to enjoy the little things with some ignorance of the outside world and just take in the lake, the woods, the burning fire place. I didn’t have to care about the shootout at the Waldorf-Astoria or the impending deep recession. It was nice to be focused on life’s simple pleasures. I was able to read a book without being interrupted by an instant message or the thought that How I Met Your Mother was coming on soon. I was able to enjoy a conversation with the people that I was eating with instead of constantly checking my email. After about a day without my connection to the outside world, I was able to adjust and I kind of enjoyed getting away from it all, even just for 36 hours.


At the same time, part of me likes being connected. I was recently standing at the train station listening to some music when I saw a group of pigeons walking along the train platform and all of their heads were bobbing as they walked. I randomly wondered why they bobbed their head when they walked and was able to look it up online right away from my phone. (In case you’re wondering, it’s to stabilize their visual surroundings. We move our eyes to do this as we walk, many birds move their head instead) Sure, this is useless information, but it was randomly interesting and I was able to get my questions answered right away. I can say that I read the New York Times every day because it downloads to my phone in the morning. I would never do this with a regular newspaper. I stay in touch with my family because I am connected. I regularly email or Facebook with them and keep in touch. I probably wouldn’t do this as frequently if I wasn’t constantly connected to Facebook and my email. Being constantly connected has afforded me many opportunities for both knowledge and the opportunity to continue relationships with people that 10 years ago would have faded with time.

My students have lived all of their lives being wired. They’ve always had 500 channels and access to cell phones and the Internet. Many of them struggled with not having these things for two days. One girl, in particular, told me that she didn’t enjoy the trip because she’d much rather be watching TV or being on the computer then being outside. She got dirty and this was not acceptable. Being constantly wired has blinded us to simple pleasures of life like building a campfire and roasting marshmallows or running around in the pouring rain. (I did run around in the rain this weekend. It was fun!) Rain is an excuse to sit on the computer all day.

I don’t know the answer to this question. What I do know is that all of the positives of the exponential growth of technology and our dependence on it does have negative effects on us. I know that I am too connected or maybe just connected too frequently. The breaks are nice and, I’m finding, necessary to enjoy life to its fullest potential. I don’t know where, when, or how frequently I need to unplug from this constantly wired culture, but two days away from it all has shown me that sometimes we should be stopping to smell the roses instead of stopping to check your email.




One response

20 11 2008


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