As someone who has had the great luxury and privilege of growing up right before the internet became a daily part of our lives, before smart phones and “the cloud”, before constant instant gratification, I am lately more than ever feeling nostalgic for times less technical and polished. Having every friend and family member’s phone number memorized and taking out time and space to call them. Having your mom drop you and your friends to the rec center every week of the summer to swim at the pool for hours and saving up your loose change to buy a Mr. Pibb from the vending machine. The smell of a library book. Meeting your best friend at your favorite tree to explore the neighborhood on roller blades on Saturday afternoons. Finding an excuse to talk to a boy you had a crush on and finding out just one more bit of information about them to hold you over until the next encounter. Day dreaming, imagining, writing with pencil in your journal about the type of parent you would never become, depending on how angry you were at yours in that moment. Really listening to the lyrics of your favorite song over and over and applying each detail to your current teenage dilemma, as if they were singing it just for you because they understood you so well. This was my beautiful, innocent adolescence and maybe this is why I feel ever so unsatisfied with the manner in which our minds are evolving to function now, and why I fear for the slightly tainted adolescence my children may one day have to experience.
These days, I am almost constantly looking at a screen of some sort unless I am sleeping or eating dinner with a friend or family member face-to-face. I am continuously bombarded with information from so many media sources, most of which conflict greatly. I read (skim) dozens of articles a day while talking (chatting) with my best friends online and listen to music (whatever is on Spotify in the background) while of course actually completing tasks for a work project simultaneously. Even during a TV show, I am playing Candy Crush when there is a dull moment in the storyline. I do most of my shopping online, down to buying deodorant on Amazon and having it delivered to my door in two days. I judge someone based on their Facebook profiles and decide whether they are someone I want to make time for in my life or not. These are not conscious decisions we make, its part of our ongoing daily processes like driving – its become second nature to reach for our phones every few minutes, sometimes without even knowing why. I know this is not the case for many people in many countries across the civilized world, and where your time and attention is spent takes so much more thought and deliberation. However, this experience hits closer to home for far more people in my life than not, and it is becoming more and more evident that the technology is no longer facilitating our lives so we can go and enjoy the important things, but rather we are becoming slaves to it and our numerous virtual profiles are just another thing to maintain.
One of the reasons I love (and crave) travel so much is that you don’t have a choice but to be disconnected and in the moment. I have potentially invested a lot of money, precious vacation days off of work, effort and time to get to my country of choice and i’ll be damned if I am spending it checking work emails and playing Candy Crush instead of soaking up every amazing moment. I am the best version of myself while travelling, more adventurous, brazen and rooted to the real me than I ever could consistently be in the “real world” of Dallas. I get to be the girl taking a long, leisurely (sometimes tipsy) lunch at a sidewalk cafe in ___________ (fill in the blank: Paris, London, Mumbai, Sydney, etc.) I get to lay on the grass barefoot and read an entire book (yes real book) in one sitting. I get to get that tattoo I always wanted but could never muster up the courage for, or watch the sun rise over the ocean after a night spent drinking and joking with friends around a bonfire. I get to live the adult version of what I feel my childhood consisted of – completely being disconnected and free, paying attention only to what I am doing in that very moment and living fully in the present.
And then I wonder…what about those not so lucky to travel? The people who don’t have that as an outlet to the raw and real parts of ourselves…how does the rest of the world deal with this overstimulated, hyper-connected phenomenon? Some, I believe, are fine with this version of reality and continue playing their video games, watching sports center or porn, and don’t care to know any better. A vast majority of people, like me, create moments of relief from the constant pulling and tugging of technology through travel, philanthropy, religion, cooking, running/yoga/swimming, sewing, gardening, etc. A rare few decide to escape completely and backpack for months or years through the various underdeveloped countries of South America, India, South East Asia and Africa in order to abandon comforts like cell phones and grocery stores to live in a raw, chaotic and inconvenient way where everything is energized but a task in and of itself…only to eventually exhaust themselves and return home more content with this life knowing it was their choice. But the ones who I admire most and aspire to be like are those who manage to live in this world and never lose sight of themselves or their curiosity no matter the circumstances. They are still thirsty for knowledge, expressing themselves creatively and giving undivided attention to their loved ones. They don’t eat, they savor. The don’t have sex, they make love. They experience and indulge and breathe into life and create memories even while residing in this colossal hoopla of American/Western convenience and consumerism.
Those are the ones to surround yourself with, to hold onto, and to use technology to facilitate bonds across time zones with. Those are the people who elevate our quality of life, the ones we should emulate, knowing that you can stay exactly where you are and still be on a quest for knowledge, wanting to live each day, week and year with purpose and balance. We are lucky to have had the childhoods we did and we are luckier still to have the technological advances that we do. We just have to make those two worlds meld by setting the right intentions and keeping this notion in our consciousness. It’s time as a generation to wake up, rise above our screens and go back to looking at the world through our eyes and minds first and foremost, just as curious as we once were.