5:00 am. My alarm clock goes off.
After blearily stumbling through the darkness to silence the shrill piercing sound that my Samsung Galaxy has dubbed “Spring Rainfall”, I throw myself back into bed, phone in hand.
My morning routine is as follows-
- 5:05am- Check for and read new text messages
- 5:10am- Open my Facebook for new notifications and newsfeed (spend the next 20 minutes scrolling through updated status’s, new profile pictures, and birthday notifications)
- 5:30am- Open email to check for new messages and favorite retailer’s sale notifications/coupons.
- 5:45am- Panic. Sprint between kitchen, bathroom and closet to make coffee, brush teeth and get dressed.
- 6:00am- Run out of the house because I’m late for the morning train into the city. Realize I forgot to put on deodorant.
While this routine is ridiculous and totally avoidable, I feel confident that some part of it mirrors how most of us spend our free time- in front of a screen. Arguably the majority of jobs require that we sit in front of a screen of some kind. Without a laptop or monitor how can we respond to email, fill out online forms, and conduct research? Without my computer, this blog would be unable to function and I would just be a girl with a bunch of written thoughts and articles that no one would read. So I am grateful for the internet and for the connections it has allowed me.
There’s always a “but“, isn’t there?
But isn’t it a little ridiculous that after spending all our working time online or chained to a computer, we would continue to remain glued to a screen well after the working hours are over? I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat down at a restaurant only to find my fellow patrons, faces basked in the glow of smart phones, instagramming their food instead of conversing with their dinner companion (who in turn is busy ranting about the restaurant’s poor service on Yelp).
I don’t think these social apps are inherently evil or that our use of them will condemn us to Hell. On the contrary, I think that they offer a wonderful way to share experiences (ie, music, pictures, art) and connect us in a way that is otherwise impossible. But (again with the “but”!) there is another world out there! A world where people actually laugh out loud in the company of friends instead of sending a unenthusiastic “lol” (I doubt anybody physically rofl‘s). There is a world where people make eye contact with strangers on the bus or train, maybe even start a conversation, instead of burying themselves in an Ipad or Kindle. There is a world where invitations are written out in your own handwriting instead of sending a e-vite. There is a world where we are not bombarded with notifications and updates regarding trivial things that don’t really affect us or unify us as a society, culture or species.
This grandiose effort to connect through technology has failed and we are now a million miles apart from the neighbor who sits beside us.
But (don’t worry, this is a good “but“) there is hope for us yet. I recently discovered there is a way to escape this ‘notification nation’, this ‘living for a like’ mentality. It is so simple, so obvious, you are sure to kick yourself for not having thought of it first.
Turn off your phone.
Crazy I know (and ironic because you are most likely using your phone to read this).
Over the weekend, I went on a camping trip up in the Olympic Peninsula and by way of a dying battery and no cell reception, had to turn off my phone. For the first couple of hours I admit that it felt wrong, like I was missing one of my arms. As time passed, however, I forgot about the emails that were assuredly piling up in my inbox and instead focussed on the amazing turquoise color of Lake Crescent, the natural power of Marymere Falls and the companionship of some of my best friends. For the majority of the campout, I didn’t know what time it was and it didn’t matter. My contentedness was not dependent on the amount of likes I had on an instagrammed picture of Lake Crescent or the retweets of a post I made about the beauty of nature. I didn’t share my every moment camping with the social media world, but shared it instead with people who were at my side, enjoying the view just as much as I was.
And it all started by simply turning off my phone.