photograph taken by nicolle luthringshauser on atlantic beach, nc
Today in our society, it seems as though people are found interacting with their phones more than the human beings that surround them. In a crowded room, I am found alone looking at people staring at screens rather than each other. Walking to class, I am found watching people mesmerized by these same screens rather than the other beings and beautiful world that surrounds them. Now of course we cannot just throw these things out the window and say farewell. Our phones, our laptops - all of these screens have become necessary for our everyday lives. We are demanded by society to use these objects to better our lives but the question is:
Is it really bettering them?
A year or so ago, I was constantly "instagramming" and "snapchatting" all my daily tasks and events in order to help share my life with my friends. How else would my dear high school friends know what I was doing every second of every day? Whenever I came home, my friends would rave about seeing all of my photos and videos and admire the fun I was having at school. While it was true that I was having a great deal fun, I wasn’t really all that happy with myself. I made a lot of amazing memories and yet at a deep level, none of it really fulfilled me or made me proud of my life. I felt as though I wasn’t growing at all, rather going backwards in all the progress I had made in finding myself.
Every time my family would come visit for a game day, we would go out to dinner after to reflect on our day together. My sister would always laugh about the amount of people she had met who told them I was their “best friend”. Like so, every time I would be walking through campus with a friend, waving at every other person we passed, they would always comment on the fact that I knew everyone. While I had all of these people that considered us “best friends” and these “friends” to wave at on campus, I felt more alone than I ever had. The common phrase of quality over quantity really hit me here.
As I started to shy away from posting my everyday life, I noticed a loss of connection with some of the people I was once close to. The people who often responded or commented on the things that I would post didn’t really reach out anymore because of the lack of content to interact from. I realized that my generation was much more keen on interacting through social media rather than going out to lunch or coffee and this wasn’t exactly something I was happy to learn. I began to realize the true extent of these hundreds of friendships I had made and that they didn’t really mean much of anything in the grand scheme of things. While these said “friends” may be in attendance at my funeral, who would be there for me while I was having a bad day?
At first in my journey of cyber disconnection, it seemed as though I had gone too far. My goal was to connect more so in my everyday life rather than my cyber life. While I felt good about my life change and more in touch with reality, it was quite selfish of me to completely write off those who were unable to be a part of my daily life. I realized the people who truly did care about me and my life were missing me and their sense of connectedness to me. While I was focusing more on the real world rather than technology, I was still feeling a sense of disconnect. This left me beyond confused about what connectedness and disconnectedness meant. Too much social media left me feeling disconnected to the real world, while not enough social media also left me feeling disconnected to the world.
Through my ups and downs of over-consumption and under-consumption, I finally found the solution to my problem:
As simple as it sounds the secret to feeling a true sense of connectedness with the real world in every aspect, including by use of technology, is balance. This struggle I was experiencing between people and technology is nothing new and has been researched by numerous renowned psychologists. Sherry Turkle, a distinguished professor at MIT, has researched the psychology behind people’s relationship with technology. In her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Turkle claims in order to fight this loss of connection, we must revive person-to-person conversation and learn to use our technology more intentionally. When living your entire life through your phone rather than through your own eyes, you are missing out. When living your entire life only through your own eyes and not using the magic of technology to share with the ones you love, you are missing out. The best way to fulfill all of the relationships you can is by being mindful of the way you balance technology in your everyday life.
While this balance is extremely different for everyone, I encourage everyone to try to find that balance. A balance that ensures you are showing the ones you love everyday a sense of connectedness, whether in person or through technology. A balance that urges you to put your phone down and appreciate the company of the beings around you but also encourages you to share the exquisite things you find in life with your faraway friends.
As technology can be used for harm, it can just as much be used for good. My hope is that this balance will aid you in experiencing a greater connection with our earth and the beautiful people that inhabit it (near & far).
Start a conversation with a person you don’t know rather than scrolling through a feed.
Take a minute to notice the birds chirping or clouds moving above you.
Connect with yourself and everything around you.
Then when you feel a sense to share the things you find beautiful and meaningful in life, pick up your phone and use the magic you’ve been given to connect with the world.