Photo Credit: Bekki Draper @ http://draper-photo.com/about/
Normally I post on my blog on Sundays, however this weekend I decided not to. Instead, I went for a hike out in nature with my partner and a few friends and I’ve got to say: it was really refreshing, grounding, and made me feel more connected.
Last week on Facebook I posted a status asking my friends and acquaintances if anyone else was feeling disconnected due to the use of technology (despite the idea that it is supposed to make us feel “more connected”). I was surprised by how many people responded and agreed that they felt the same. Some people even admitted to feeling lonely. Honestly, I don’t like to admit it, but I agree. I mean, I am happier in my relationship than I’ve ever been in any other relationship, I have amazing friends, and I love my new job! I shouldn’t have any complaints, right? … I’m not complaining. I am just making an observation based on my own human experience and condition. I am looking back at a time (that I’m so grateful to have experienced!) in which cell phones were not the bane of our existence, in which the Internet was still unknown to the average person, and we still went outside everyday. Perhaps I’m getting a bit nostalgic, and perhaps it sounds naïve, but I miss the connection that people had with each other. The real connection, where people didn’t swipe left and right to determine if someone was “worthy” of spending an hour with in the middle of the night, or meeting them at a bar for a cheap thrill.
I miss the days when we knew what our friends were feeling because we had to actually call them or go over to their houses to find out that they were pissed off at us, or happy, or surprised, or sad. I miss the days without emojis because in those days, we read body language and facial expressions, and differing intonations in people’s voices. We made phone calls and talked for hours. We rode our bikes to our friend’s houses. We played street hockey and organized neighbourhood theatre productions. We broke the rules. We made new ones. We snuck into our friends’ garages and stole ice cream bars out of their parents’ freezers. We built real relationships. We actually had the courage to break each other’s hearts. And it broke our hearts in turn. We felt deeply, whether we were consciously aware of our actions or not. We felt the aftermath of them. We didn’t just fall off the face of the planet when a relationship wasn’t working for us anymore. We faced our problems head on.
I’m not saying we don’t feel things now, but I think we feel things differently. Of course I’m generalizing, however I believe that to some degree we hide behind our technology, and I think that it creates a separation between us and our friends, family, and communities. I think that it fosters anxiety disorders and reinforces the idea that making plans and not showing up is okay. It has become “socially acceptable.” And don’t get me wrong: I’m guilty of all of this too. Perhaps I’m writing this to take accountability for the times when I’ve disconnected from others out of sheer laziness or convenience. I think though, for the most part, I’m writing this because I feel like western society is starting to feel like a strange sci-fi story. If you haven’t read “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury, I highly recommend it. It discusses a man who is targeted for being “out of character” simply because he has maintained his connection to the outer world by going for walks every night. Everyone else sits inside their homes on their “viewing screens” and the outside world has this sort of post-apocalyptic feeling, in which the streets are empty and there is no human activity for miles. He is criminalized simply for doing something (walking) that is natural to our humanity. Keep in mind that this story was published in 1951. It’s a bit of an alarming “prediction,” if you want to call it that. I often go outside and see the emptiness of the streets and “The Pedestrian” is one of the first things that comes to mind. My parents’ have had the same next-door neighbours since I was in college. They had their first child when I was in my early twenties. They have since had another, and I think they’re about six and eight years-old, however I’m not entirely sure. I have rarely seen any of them outside in the years that they’ve lived beside my parents. I think they have a dog, but I never see the dog outside. I think they have children? I think they have a dog? Honestly, there are no signs of children or a dog, other than seeing them on a VERY rare occasion.
How can we remedy this? Is it possible to reverse the effects that technology has had on how we socialize and interact with others in society? I propose that we simply take more time away from our “viewing screens,” which can be difficult depending on the line of work you’re in. For example, I am online all day because I’m a content writer. However, I’ve stopped spending so much time on my computer after work. Unless I’m writing creatively for my own pleasure, I don’t really open my computer anymore on the days that I’m working. I don’t think that’s quite enough though. I think that we need to extend this further and actually go out of our way to make more plans with people, and actually follow through with them. (I have definitely been guilty of not following through with plans, and I know that it needs to stop). I’ve noticed, within my own experience, that the idea of going out can induce a kind of anxiety that is debilitating, and it’s something that I need to work through. I am also sensitive to others’ energy, and that can sometimes be overwhelming, however it’s not an excuse to stay inside and become antisocial. I don’t want to see future generations (and our current generations) going through life without socializing, having fun, and knowing the real meaning of connectivity—not just some BS social media nonsensical notion of “connectivity.” I believe that we need to create real social circles again and have gatherings the way we used to, as opposed to the virtual social circles that we have online. We are social creatures, and it’s been proven that we can’t last very long on our own. I mean, some people can, but I don’t think the average person can. We need meaningful relationships with each other and the world around us to sustain happy and healthy lives. Perhaps these ideas are primitive when thinking about how we exist in our world today, but I really think that sometimes going back to the basics isn’t such a bad idea. Sometimes we really shouldn’t fix things that aren’t broken.
All I know is, that hike that I went on yesterday with friends did a lot of good for me. I felt happy, rejuvenated, and alive!
What are your thoughts? Is there a way to remedy this? Do we need a remedy for the way that we interact with one another? Are we doomed to experience the reality that Ray Bradbury predicted for us? Is it already happening and we’re just unaware? Can we restore the ways in which we used to connect with others, or have apps like Tinder completely destroyed how we define our relationships and expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!