We owe most of our modern marvels to advances in technology. Technology has cured diseases, pumped water into our homes, flooded our night-life with lights, and transported us around the world.
This track record of success has also convinced us that technology keeps us connected. While better communication is definitely one of the benefits it can provide, what it really does is keep us plugged in.
Thus, many people blame technology for the bad communication habits of the current generation. But perhaps it’s time we turn some of that blame on ourselves.
A Distracted Generation
The constant desire to remain plugged in creates a life of constant distractions. No matter how strong your focus, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the low hum of the television set in the living room, or the vibrations of our phones on the bedside table, screaming update after update.
Whether it’s ISIS beheadings or who just liked your picture on Instagram, your devices want you to know it all.
After a while, the fear of missing out becomes a real thing. You want to know what’s happening, when it’s happening, and who it’s happening to. It doesn’t matter if you go, or you help, or make any other valuable input. It only matters that you know.
Thus, we spend more time with our heads glued to screens than we do making conversation, face to face. We have transformed articulate phrases into tacky emojis, and plunged family dinners, and even first dates, into awkward silence.
Real communication has in essence become… inconvenient.
Plugging in for Work
For those of us who work in public relations and social media, this fear of missing out becomes tied to not just our social life, but our job as well. You have to know what’s going on, and clients expect witty feedback on everything from earthquakes to plastic surgery.
For freelancing specialists, the pressure is even more intense. There is no clocking out and going home for the evening, or relaxing on the weekends. Clients want to be able to reach you at all times, no matter where you are.
Vacations don’t truly exist when you freelance as a content strategist, unless you unplug.
The Deadzone up North
In spite of this, it’s hard to give up social media during a trip. We all want to share our vacation pictures on Instagram and Facebook, and tweet about our most hilarious moments.
But when I go up north with Michael to see his family, I’m probably more likely to be struck by lightning than get proper phone signal, and WiFi at home starts to feel like a lifelong wish.
We wander around the yard at midnight just trying to send a text message; and a hour and a half’s worth of driving to a friend’s house suddenly becomes attractive, because they have internet.
The struggle is real…
Last weekend, we went even further into the dead-zone when we visited Michael’s 95-year-old grandmother, on her farm.
We trudged through the open fields, dodged cows, climbed tractors, jumped fences, and went prying in the barn. It was a great reminder that off-screen life can be just as interesting, and even more so because we’re living it ourselves.
But I’d be lying if I said I could live like that for more than a few days, at most. The truth is, though technology has caused us to develop terrible habits, we can’t overlook the benefits.
Not only does it keep us connected with loved ones who live continents away, but it helps us to make it through emergencies, or just to find our way home.
It also helped me to immortalise the experience.
Striking a Balance
At nightfall, after our day of exploring had come to a close, Michael told me:
I’m glad you brought the camera and took pictures of the farm. They’re tearing down all the barns soon. This might be the last time we see it like this – or at all.
Thus, I don’t truly advocate for unplugging. Instead, I advocate for finding a balance in our lives. It’s essential that we continue to harness all the benefits of technology without becoming sucked into the wormhole of the psychological and physiological damage it can cause.
So let’s use our phones to actually reach out to the ones we love again. Let’s send more than a “hey” and “‘sup” or an emoji in answer to our best friend’s rant.
And let’s take pictures that ten years from now will remind us where we were and what we’ve seen and experienced, instead of the amazing contouring we pulled off the night before.
Check out some of the pictures from my rural exploration below.