To be sitting with nothing digital in my hands almost makes me feel uneasy. I glance from left to right, but there’s no one to lock eyes with, for mine are pointed up and theirs all down at smartphones, thumbing away at a reply or posting some extravagant photo. I feel raw, almost exposed. There’s nothing to hide how alone I am, how disconnected I feel with my surroundings. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. I’m too connected to this reality, this geographic plane that is so pure and free from technological pollution. I don’t know how to immerse myself in it anymore. I try and fetch the comfort from childhood years, the comfort that pushed us to ask strangers’ children to play in the park while our parents drank wine across the courtyard of a restaurant. The comfort that allowed me, a kid blessed to have grown up in an era where “snapchat” was as distant as the concept of a touchscreen, to talk to the people seated beside me on a train without feeling like I was crossing an unspoken boundary of privacy.
To return alone to these juvenile years was both refreshing and isolating. Refreshing, for my responsibilities had greatly diminished. I was not culpable for an ignored text or lack of substance on my Instagram feed. Physically, I had nothing to hold on to, nothing to misplace. There was absolutely no social pollution that could lead me to believe that I was missing out on anything, that I was somehow forgotten. In this shrunken world of mine everything that I knew about was happening right before my eyes. Beyond that, it was just a myth. On the other hand it was quite isolating because I didn’t have the safety net of appearing preoccupied that all my friends had. When a conversation fizzled out I didn’t have the liberty of plunging into my alternate universe to make myself look busy. I felt like I was the loser, that a conversation ended because I didn’t have anything else to say and while my opponent could retreat into their corner, I was bare and defenseless in the middle of the ring. This was especially apparent at times of transition. On busses, in cars, or during wait times people didn’t even try to converse with me. All my friends reverted their attention onto their phones. My eyes skipped from screen to screen. There was no substance to their technological usage, mostly just scrolling through random news feeds, articles and the like. Almost acting as a hiatus from societal conversational pressures, these “tech breaks” divided up their day. Being stripped of that privilege for thirty-six hours was quite a challenge.
I almost felt as if my attention span was pre-programmed to stop and give itself a rest from reality, for any time I tried to entertain myself through a different medium, such as my new novel, I was unable. I felt as if I couldn’t get lost in literature like I was once able. I used to be a spelunker, bushwhacking the depths of a single cave ceaselessly. Now I am hiking through on a trail unwavering from the directions in my guidebook, trying to soak up a little bit of it all rather than immersing myself completely in one. My book wasn’t piquing my interest and after 3 pages I wanted to move on to something new, to keep browsing. However, as paperbacks generally go, there wasn’t an option to “open a new tab” and I was locked in.
No longer can we accept being plugged in through all transitions, awkward moments and whatnot. In order to recapture the beauty of the human race we must learn how to be social beings again and stop hiding behind a screen. I urge people to leave technology behind. Go to dinner with your friends and leave your phones in the car. Study each peer. What makes them tick? How do they order their food, how do they grasp their fork? Imagine the days where you had no way to plan things instantaneously. Attempt to meet up with friends at a set time and place rather than finding each other through “Find My Friends” or other tactics. Save stories to tell in person, grant yourself the privilege of seeing their reaction face to face rather than over a screen, only viewing the words they use to express how they feel. Above all, let yourself escape the intangible digital world, get outside and reconnect with an environment that is real.
By: Katie Evans ENO Brand Ambassador