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Pulling the Plug

It is Saturday morning, and I, like so many of you, have just reviewed my ever-present to-do list, trying to choose the least distasteful item to tackle first. Laundry? Bathrooms? Grocery shopping? Instead, I pour myself another cup of coffee and check Facebook, then email, browse ebay and Pinterest. Finally, I turn on the TV. The hosts of Good Morning America proudly proclaim that it is "national no-text weekend," and then launch into a lively discussion about how difficult turning our backs on even one phase of technology can be. I agree. We live in a techno-world, a virtual black hole of a time vacuum, where hours can evaporate right before our very eyes. And we stay constantly connected wirelessly via cyberspace and text.

Now don’t get me wrong, technology has revolutionized the world, which in itself is a good thing. I am researching the Civil War for my current novel, and asking Mr. Google about specific dates and places has been a godsend. But like any revolution, there will be casualties, spoils of war. And for so many of us, our interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships have suffered.

We substitute emojis and text-speak for real phone conversations. (My grown children already know that if I call, it is an emergency, since I learned long ago that they rarely pick up when their cells ring.) We have fewer face-to-face encounters. And as a result, the art of casual conversation has been lost, altered forever as meaningful dialogue, heart to heart talks, have been replaced by quick posts and hastily scribbled messages, followed by the “send” button. Enter a busy restaurant on a Saturday night, and you will find a phone at each place setting, as essential to the tableau as a fork and knife. God forbid we should become disconnected. And in the process, we ignore the real-life, living and breathing dinner companions, who sit across the table. Even in places like supermarket check-out lines, airport and hospital waiting rooms, where strangers used to connect in a brief moment, you will find people desperately clutching their devices, oblivious to the world around them. This, my friends, is the true zombie apocalypse that some of us fear.

But perhaps the biggest victim in all of this busyness is ourselves as we sacrifice self-awareness, altering our perception in big ways. We don’t know how to be still, how to quieten our own minds long enough to be lost in thought, to explore who we are, to free our imaginations. We feel the need to fill every waking moment and as a result, disconnect from ourselves (while ironically, plugging in and connecting to the world wide web.) And as a result, we are influenced by the technological images which are always pushing the next big thing, somehow convincing us that we are always a step or two behind, not quite current or relevant (or good enough). We forget how to be present, to appreciate the sound of a bird chirping or savor a cold glass of tea on a hot summer day. The precious moments escape us, and we are the losers because of it.

So I have revisited that to-do list. And I have added to it. I will take a quiet walk in the woods, without Pandora blasting in my ears or my phone, just in case somebody needs to be in touch. I will light some candles, take a long bubble bath, and enjoy the quiet time. I will experiment with a new recipe, inviting those whom I care for to join me for food and a bit of idle chatter. I may even try to meditate if I can calm my monkey brain. And please don’t text me. I won’t answer until Monday morning.

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