In the past 24 hours, my perception of the digital age has shifted dramatically. Perhaps it’s been coming for many years (possibly since my heart was broken via the internet but that’s a story for a different day) or perhaps I just got a quantum leap kick in the ass.
What I do know that my heart is hurting right now. Hurting in the way that makes me cry not just for myself but for the world. I see the world around me becoming more and more digitized and people becoming less and less connected to one another. I saw the irony of me sitting here typing this on a computer so I took a break from typing this post at this point, pulled all the kids away from their devices and painted with them for an hour.
Sometimes our relationship with these devices confuses me. I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in several months yesterday. She mentioned that she wondered if something was up with my phone because I hadn’t responded to her texts over the past three months. It made me wonder why she didn’t call. I told her I didn’t get any texts from her. I told her I don’t really do my life over email and text anymore. I drove away pondering this as I brought her daughter to my house to hang with mine. The minute she got to my house she asked for our WEP key for her laptop and proceeded to spend nearly her entire 24 hour visit on her laptop, looking at comics and chatting with someone else and ignoring my daughter. My daughter didn’t even know what to say. She was hurt and confused. I can understand why. It all seemed a bit pointless (not unlike watching two people sitting together at a restaurant staring into their respective iPhones).
By contrast, last night, I went out with a friend to see a movie and have dinner. He never once looked at his cell phone or pulled his eyes away from the conversation. He was completely engaged. What a blessing! I sent him an email letting him know I enjoyed his company. In his response, he said he “saw my mouth water” at the guy in the Calvin Klein underwear ad that was played before the movie.
I told him I didn’t recall my mouth watering. I said, “I’m not that attracted to abstract one-dimensional people in magazines or movies. I like the real thing. I like the smell, taste and feel of a person. I like to feel their heat and breath next to me and to hear the timbre of their voice resonating in my ears. I like how they move and how they respond. I like the visceral response I get to a body next to mine. The world of computers, magazines and screens is rather sensually flat.”
This is just so true for me. I cannot bear to have relationships anymore that aren’t in the flesh. Anything else is just a stand-in for real intimacy. We can fool ourselves that we are in love or lust with someone that we have “sext” with or have known for years on the internet but that’s not reality. Reality is messy, complicated and takes courage, patience and open-hearted communication. I’ll take that over pixelated intimacy any day.
So what’s the answer? How do we get technology to serve us instead of the other way around? How do we let it add value to our lives instead of wasting precious time and creating schisms in our relationships? Here is my take on it:
1.) Use it as a tool don’t be a tool when you use it.
2.) Realize you don’t look cool with that iPhone, you look insecure when you whip it out all the time. Find something else to do and talk about. Really.
3.) Ask yourself what value it is adding to your life. What exactly are you so connected TO? Be ruthlessly honest with yourself here. Do you get enough exercise and fresh air? Do you make eye contact? CAN you? Do you remember what life was like before computers? I do. It was a lot less complicated and filled with more real connection and a lot more beauty.
4.) Stop hiding behind the wall of the internet and be who you are. If life is messy, call it out! If you’re not as attractive as your profile pic shows, just be real. We want authentic, not fake. I know someone who is in a great deal of emotional pain but won’t call it out publicly because she’s afraid her “followers” will know she’s not perfect. I’ve done that before and I refuse to now. I see how desperate I was for perfection. How about if we all stop that? Now!
5.) Check email and facebook less often, pick up the phone and make a real coffee date or make a date with yourself to do something fun and creative. Smile and chat with people at the bus stop and put down the freaking phone when you’re driving for goodness sake. I mean that too FOR THE SAKE OF GOODNESS.
We are quickly becoming a society that is so plugged in, we are forgetting to touch, dance, smell and listen deeply. I appreciate the internet and cell phones. They help me stay connected to a greater number of people, support my friends, and allow me to learn and be efficient (when I allow that.) What I’m finding is that I cannot let go of the sensual beauty and grace in life. There is so much to see and hear, to touch and taste and make love to.
Please, let’s not forget.
What do you think?