Do you remember the moment you chose to tune out everything and everyone around you to pay more attention to what’s happening behind the screen?
Do you remember giving technology permission to blur the lines between what’s right and right now?
Chances are, you don’t remember these moments because we never officially signed up for the perils and dark side of living a digital lifestyle. We were sold on a promise of connectivity and closeness. We were promised empowerment and enlightenment. But somewhere along the way, we were led astray. We started to miss what and who was right in front of us. We started to forget important details and points in time. We started to become less present and aware. The challenge is that many of us don’t realize it. And many times, we fight back against the truth even if deep down inside, we feel something is off.
This is for better or for worse the new normal. But none of this has to be a lasting norm or way of life.
I truly believe that when we signed the terms of service for many of these devices and apps that we did not sign a new social contract that would wreak havoc on our lives and relationships. I truly believe that we wouldn’t intentionally trade our attention for virtual attention or our wits and sanity for anxiety, distraction, and busyness. I don’t believe we would willfully have agreed to welcome the need for constant stimulation and validation. No, the promise of all of this was and is too intoxicating to pass up. The suddenness of the immediate and overwhelming (short-term) rewards was enlivening in real-time and every time. Everything happened so fast that not only did we not formally agree to these social contracts, we quickly established new norms and behaviors and now can’t (or don’t want to) break them.
I get it.
There’s an entire generation that only knows this as the only way of life. At the same time, there are generations who recollect their analog lives before all of this connectedness and yet, many are just as connected as digital natives.
But before you accuse me of being that person who talks about life in terms of “in my day…,” you should know that I’m a tech apologist and a still recovering digital user. I use the term “user” intently. I’ve been working on things and still need to. I am here to simply ask you to think about your day, your routine and behaviors.
How many times do you reach for your phone in one sitting?
How many times do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling and swiping?
How many notifications do you receive in one hour and how many do you respond to?
How long does it take you to get back into the zone following each distraction?
Think also about the days of your loved ones. Think about the days of your colleagues and online network of casual friends and connections. They’re strikingly similar in many ways.
As the old saying goes, everything in moderation and too much of a good thing or activity can be harmful if excessive. So what’s excessive? Most likely all of the answers to the questions just above.
This isn’t a call to arms. This isn’t judgment. This isn’t a platitude or truncated list of “top things to do differently.” It’s a simple ask, but also a rather complex one…just reflect for a moment. That’s all.
I’ll close by sharing an excerpt from New Year’s Thieve by Hillary DePiano:
“Life goes by so very fast, my dears, and taking the time to reflect, even once a year, slows things down. We zoom past so many seconds, minutes, hours, killing them with the frantic way we live that it’s important we take at least this one collective sigh and stop, take stock, and acknowledge our place in time before diving back into the melee. Midnight on New Year’s Eve is a unique kind of magic where, just for a moment, the past and the future exist at once in the present. Whether we’re aware of it or not, as we countdown together to it, we’re sharing the burden of our history and committing to the promise of tomorrow.”