Living out in the middle of nowhere can be lovely. There is the peaceful tranquility of being surrounded by nature. And a quiet morning spent sipping coffee on the front porch is pretty darned special. Even when the rest of the world is busy, that silence is only interrupted by the chirping birds or crickets.
But there are drawbacks. The wild critters like to eat my prized hostas and begonias. The weeds grow into stealth specimens that are virtually impossible to eradicate. Pollen season is particularly brutal. (Imagine yellow and green snow.) Running out of milk or bread means a thirty-minute trip to the grocery store. And our internet service sucks: think dial-up-from-the-90’s bad. On any given day, I see “This page cannot be displayed” dozens of times. It is maddening.
I suppose that I didn’t want to readily admit to my techno dependency, but I belong to a society that shops with Amazon Prime and uses Google as a reference. Yes indeed, I am as reliant as anyone. So after our poor connection failed, leaving me incommunicado for almost a week, I confess, I was pretty frantic. My life is different without it. And not in a good way.
This is not going to be a post about how I cleaned closets and cooked gourmet with my spare time. I won’t smugly report that we have rediscovered the art of conversation at our house, nor did I tap into my inner Namaste and learn how to meditate. But I did have a bit of an epiphany.
So much of our human association is through cyberspace. Don’t get me wrong: I have some amazing relationships that would have never existed without Facebook. And it is always fun to locate someone out of the past and chat via messenger. While social media is a place to brag about the latest successes, it is also about encouragement, sharing of ideas and connecting. I have certainly come to appreciate the emails and messages from folks who want to show they care.
But let’s face it: we live in a far different place and time than our parents and grandparents did, and the world has evolved into something much more complicated. Certainly, technology has revolutionized the planet, which in itself is a good thing. 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.) We have fewer face-to-face encounters. And as a result, the art of casual conversation has somewhat 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 unplug. 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 sounds of the world 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.
I did read a book this week and organized my pantry. I lit some candles and took a long bath. I spent more quiet time in prayer. Perhaps this techno vacation allowed me to find a few hours that ordinarily I might have lost looking at Pinterest. I am not yet ready to give up my internet completely, but unplugging occasionally might not be a bad idea. After all, even human beings sometimes need a reset button.