It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. – K.T. Jong
Yesterday I enjoyed a late lunch with my sweet love and another couple at a restaurant that had a strict no cell phone policy. (They also had a child behavior policy, which, in my opinion, was both honest and bold-good for them!) It was the first time that I had seen one specifically spelled out in a place of social interaction. Often, if I attend a meeting, concert, or lecture, an announcement is made regarding electronic device use. More often, the request is rudely ignored. But not here! The lunch was delicious, the conversation deep and humorous and the only background “noise” was the appealing beat of Cajun music that befit the restaurant’s cuisine.
Up to that moment, I had (coincidentally) been pondering our culture’s “digital addiction” and its effects on our overall ability to communicate, concentrate and socialize with one another without the nearly constant interruption of a ringing cell or a buzzing text message.
Believe me, I am not against any of the newer ways that we can talk, gather information and stay connected to one another. Without advances in technology, I would not be writing this blog! Moreover, I like my cell phone. It is not a “smartphone”, however; texting and talking are enough for me! I remember when I first got one. I was 42 and had received it as a birthday present. I wanted it for emergencies only. It was the post 911 and lock down era and I thought a phone was necessary. In truth, I was lucky to have it because I got a flat tire on the way home from work just two days later! One call to AAA and the problem was solved quickly.
I also like the Internet for various reasons. Besides listening to NPR on the radio, it is the only way that I receive world, national and local news. I love reading the newspapers but I do not have it in my budget to pay for delivery. And, for me, most television news has seriously strayed from true journalism and factual reporting. Now, it is nothing but sound bite and crash and burn nonsense interrupted every three minutes by five minutes of advertising. I enjoy having access to different sites where and when I am ready to read the news of the day without feeling that my intelligence is being insulted. I also love, love, love online banking and bill paying! I am a better money manager as a result!
Email, of course, is a terrific tool as well. It helps me communicate efficiently with work colleagues and stay in touch with the people who I socialize with in my hometown and through my volunteer work.
Still, there are inherent problems with staying “plugged in” day and night, seven days a week – now referred to as 24/7. Where do we draw the line? For each email, text message or voice mail, there is almost an instant obligation and expectation of a response. Whatever happened to the dinner hour, bedtime, or weekends? Think of the oxymoron “working vacation”. WHAT? There is no such thing! If you are working, you are not on vacation!
CNN recently reported on “digital addiction” and the interviews provided an interesting insight as to how we function (or not) because of these advances. Reporter Brandon Griggs featured three “smart phone addicts” and how they use their device for nearly everything in their life. He stated that the phones are time capsules of our lives, dominating our work, our social interactions, our purchases, our travels, our passions and our guilty pleasures. During the course of one week, one woman reported that she sent 256 emails (part of it was work), 34 updates and comments on Facebook, 18 “likes” and 93 “reads” of same. She also spent 9 hours of that week surfing the net. Additionally, she played games, checked her bank account and listened to audio books and voice messages. Another young man reported that he was a “happy addict” but also stated that he could only go a few minutes without checking his text messages. He became anxious, depressed and even began to get sweaty palms if he forgot his phone at home. Without it, he says that he feels cut off from the world.
And never mind the physical health problems that doctors and physical therapists are seeing! Doctors are now treating “Text Neck” (think of how you hold your head while looking at a screen) in increasing numbers-most especially in teenagers who now (along with 8-12 year olds) spend an average of 7 1/2 hours a day using entertainment media.
I do not consider myself in any way close to being addicted to my phone or the Internet. But it was this summer that I began to understand my need to break free of others’ expectations that I would be available to answer emails,texts and phone calls regardless of where I was on this earth. Having gone through a long divorce and an even longer post-divorce process, I was always in a state of digital alert for communication from either my attorney or my former husband. I wanted and needed to break free from the unhealthy mind-set that had been dominating my existence for the last few years.
My summer vacation to the West Coast was definitely the impetus for this change. I needed to free myself from the emotional responsibility for every possible scenario that might happen while I was away. So, I set up boundaries. Simply put: Don’t contact me unless it is an absolute emergency! I would not be checking emails, surfing the net, calling or texting.
Frankly, I had grown weary of the distracting factors that I felt were impeding the forward movement in my new life. I was just plain fed up with allowing another person’s agenda to interfere with my peace of mind. By making this decision, I was freeing myself of the idea that I was accountable for everyone else and their needs.
Now, I no longer have that sense of urgency that used to rule my life on a daily basis. I have learned that things have a way of taking care of themselves in their own way and in their own time. Becoming “unplugged” is liberating. Too many people in this world today spend their time looking down, their face basking in the glow of a screen. We lose our perspective this way. ( Literally, people are not even watching where they are going! )
Unplug yourself so you can plug-in to see what’s in front of you, plug-in to see what’s above, plug-in to just BE.