Now that the word is out that I am fifty I can admit that - as someone who grew up in a world where televisions were still black and white, the main form of long distance communication with someone long distance was via a letter (which could sometimes take weeks to arrive) and telephones had cords attaching them to the wall - I do sometimes find myself struggling and feeling uncomfortable with the new ways of doing things.
Gone are the simple choices and the ability to take your time over things. Now don’t get me wrong there are some extraordinary things that can be done nowadays that really do make our lives easier. We are able to get any information we need instantly at the press of a button, we are able to promote our business’s and products locally and even globally and we are able to stay in contact with people all over the world in a way that is so much easier and more effective but sometimes I have to admit that there are times when it all feels a bit too much, too fast and way too invasive.
I no longer have a television as I find it way too distracting - especially the constant bombardment of adverts - and the fact that there are now unlimited channels which means you could spend half your life (and you know who you are) just meandering through the channels trying to find something to watch. On the positive side it is great that you can find amazing documentaries and that there are programs that can educate or make you laugh…..but there is just so much available and so much of it so banal and mind numbing that it hurts my head. Hence no television in my home for the last five years or so – much to the disbelief of the TV licensing people who still harass me every year and treat me like I am a freak when I insist that I just don’t have, and am not ever intending to get, a set. “But what do you do of an evening without a telly?” I was once asked “Other stuff - that is of interest to me” was my reply.
Email communication is the other distraction- how many of you find yourselves reaching for the phone every time it bleeps and then reading through emails that are often work related even when you are not in working hours – and therefore not being paid to do so – and then spend your down time distracted as you unconsciously or consciously think about the action plan or the response to the email.
The same can apply to friends and family and lord knows, because as someone living in this technological age I have been forced to try it and I know many others who have done so – this relates to the dating arena now too.
So how many of you feel under pressure to answer those emails or texts or messenger messages right away because you know the sender knows that you will have seen it - because they know that almost no one ever goes anywhere without their phone - and almost no one these days ever goes longer than a few minutes without checking their screens to see if there are any new notifications; and of course there are the bleeps and the rings and the incessant noises being made. And you know that if you don’t reply immediately you are either going to be seen as rude, uninterested or flaky; rarely ever just busy or fully engaged in an experience of some sort.
The pressure to communicate immediately is getting stronger and stronger. The opportunity to take time out to really think about what you want to say and how you want to say it is being reduced. The same goes for the length and quality of the communication. ‘How are you?’ has been reduced to ‘Sup’ and abbreviations like ‘lol’ and ‘xox’ have become the norm.
Everything is speeded up and rushed through…..no time to smell the proverbial coffee or the roses any more. Sometimes I just find myself watching people….watching their interactions – or lack thereof – and it makes me feel a little sad, it makes me feel a touch nostalgic. I worry that people imaginations are no longer really being utilized, that the ability to connect face to face is being lost, meaningful conversation dwindling. I wonder where it will end up.
I am already dealing with clients who have social phobias, people who are struggling to find relationships, and people who are just struggling to find their place in the word and real connections to others. So many people are trying to find something; anything to make them feel better – be it food or drugs or alcohol or shopping or gambling or sex or they retreat into their phones and scroll through reams and reams of pages of other people’s stuff on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever it might be - losing the irony that this is what is keeping them disconnected in the first place and what it causing the discomfort.
I am off to Peru shortly where I will be participating in rituals and ceremonies on mountain tops with Shamans, there will be no access to the internet and probably no phone signal. There is a part of me that is so excited to be free of it all and another part that worries that I might miss something hugely important while I am away......something that might change my life. I know that this is not rational but still I am aware that it is there and I know that it is so for so many people today. It is an addiction- whichever way you look at it and one that really needs to be brought under control.
So if you are finding yourself guilty of an addiction, especially one that is related to your phone and the inability to put the damn thing down you really may need to take stock. You may really need to think about the price that is to be paid for it. The moments lost – never to be relived. The experiences missed – never to be repeated. The irony of this next line is not lost on me for one moment but I am reminded of a post someone put on Facebook the other day. It was a cartoon of St Peter at the Pearly gates greeting a newcomer. As he reviewed the life of young man in front of him he said “You could have had a great life but you missed most of it whilst staring into your phone”.
Don’t let that happen to you. Do put the phone away when you are with people – or even when it is just you. Remember to be present in whatever you do. Remember to connect fully with the people around you and give them your time and attention and remember that your phone is just a machine, it doesn’t have the secrets to the universe inside it – it doesn’t have the means to make you happy or fulfilled. The answers to the secrets of life lay within you and the only thing that can make your life great is you - and the choices you make in every moment.