Calm and Unplugged

What a treat — I’m at the airport, and it’s just like the old days: I’m alone, and unreachable. Things are calm. I think I may not be able to charge my devices well in the country where I’m headed, so I’ve turned everything off. Powered it down. Nothing can beep me, buzz me, or otherwise interrupt my thoughts.

Things are calm.

How peaceful!

We’ve become slaves, willingly. Like the earth to the Ashén (accent on the second syllable, from “Stargate”), who slowly sterilized them into oblivion and took their planet, we’re cheerfully allowing the gleam and glow and chords and chirps to lull us into forgetting how to be human.

I remember a time when we tried hard not to be at anyone’s beck and call all the time. If you were, that was considered servitude. People aspired to jobs that would elevate them above the beck-&-call masses.

Now we are all at the beck and call — of machines.

Even parents often seem to prefer the cold chirp of technology to the babbling, happy conversation of the children they created. How many times have you seen a mother or father pushing a stroller or just walking together with their child – with a cell phone held to their ear?

What does a child learn from such non-interaction? That they’re on their own? They don’t matter as much as that little gizmo that has their parent’s rapt attention? That’s a lesson that can ruin our planet.

Focusing on many things at once – checking e-mail while surfing a FB page while sitting in class, for example – impairs our ability to focus clearly on only one thing. I see this in my classes all the time. Students seem to require constant stimulation, constant entertainment; it’s rare when they can all focus on one task for any length of time. Our attention spans are suffering from the constant battering of our daily electronic lives.

As I sit at the airport waiting for my flight, the effects of this phenomenon are obvious. No one talks anymore. In a waiting-room filled with people, the only ones I see talking are talking to a machine.

I tried chatting with my neighbor in several different places as I wandered the airport. Each time I smiled at someone and said something innocuous, a conversation-starter, an ice-breaker, it fell on deaf ears. Or rather, ears that were attuned only to the earbuds that connected them to an electronic device of some sort. Of the several times I tried, I got no reply. Not one.

In a vast room filled with people, I had no one to talk to.

How sad is that?

Looking someone in the eyes, seeing how they stand, how they smell, how tall they are, how they fluff back their hair while they talk – these are ways that we connect with other people. Ways we make friends (real, flesh-and-blood friends). They convey so much more than just a FB name or a thumbs-up or an e-mail message!

I choose to opt out of servitude. I like my interactions real, not virtual. Connecting with people, face to face, is one of my greatest pleasures while traveling. I love hearing and seeing how my kids process the world! I refuse to be a slave to technology.

How about you?

3 thoughts on “Calm and Unplugged

  1. Great article! So true! I recently heard on NPR that our average attention span (8 seconds) has dropped below the goldfish (9 seconds).

    • Yes, I saw that in my college classes. Each year it seems it’s worse. Do you think anyone will notice and try to change it before it’s way too late…or are we doomed?

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