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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Disconnecting from Over-connection


Ahhh – the internet.  That great nameless, faceless void in the sky that simultaneously keeps us all connected while keeping us apart.  It is almost impossible to assimilate the fact that children born in the last decade have never known a world without this sort of technology.
And really, not just the internet. Cell phones have completely revolutionized the world as we know it. In many, many senses, that is a great thing. No more being stranded on the side of the road, hoping a stranger will stop and help. No more wondering if you need to buy milk, or if there is already some at the house. No more angst about whether a loved one is alright when they are a bit late. For this worrywart, those are all good things.
But in my opinion, we will never again have a true notion of solitude. We are connected to the rest of the world in a way that goes beyond a healthy relationship, into the obsessive, all up in each other’s business sort of way, where you are never alone.  People can’t even end a conversation before going to the bathroom! (Oh, don’t get me started on that). I think the result is, we have forgotten how to be alone. How to be quite, and still, and patient. 
With our smartphones in our hands, we have the internet, games, messaging, email—enough instant entertainment to keep a person occupied for decades.  Do we even remember the days when waiting in the doctor’s office meant exactly that—waiting? Or when we left the house, and we wouldn’t know who called until later that evening, when the red light was blinking on the answering machine?
When I think of life before cell phones, I think of the bliss of living in the moment. Multi-tasking was rubbing your belly while patting your head (which actually works out better than juggling emails, writing, and all the other tasks we try to cram into the same moment in time), and messaging was sitting down to write a letter using pen, paper, and *gasp* cursive.  There was no glow of electronic screens constantly bathing my face, no pings and beeps and wooshing punctuating the day.
Yes, I was young and with less responsibilities, but I know life was slower for everyone back then. And quieter. And less chaotic.  I realized recently that my cell phone is almost never out of my sight. Ever. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed, the first thing when I wake up, and my constant companion as I navigate the 50 million tasks of the day.
And you know what? I don’t like that anymore.  I’ve decided that I want to be out of contact a bit. I want to walk away from that siren device, cutting the invisible string that ties us.  I want to be unavailable for a few hours, and out of touch on occasion.
I want to remember what solitude feels like. Not loneliness—just privacy. Holding a few things to myself instead of sharing so much on a constant basis. I want to have something to talk about with friends when I see them that they haven’t already read on my Facebook page or on Twitter.  I miss sharing good news in person—don’t you?
So, for a little while, I’m going to try to take a step back. I’m going to leave my cell phone on the kitchen hours and walk away when I’m in the house. I’m going to turn off the notifications, choosing instead to check on things in my own time.
Who knows—maybe I’ll relearn what it feels like to not instantly know what tomorrow’s weather is, or when Genghis Khan roamed, or how many movies Clint Eastwood has directed. Crazy, huh?

So tell me—how attached are you to your cell phone? Are you ever more than a stones’ throw from it? Do you remember what it was like before they were invented?  I’ll warn you in advance that I’m working the day job today during the Christmas rush, so I won’t get back here until this evening. Fitting, no? ;)

18 comments:

  1. I remember when phones came in one color and had rotary dials. Or they did at our house, because renting a color phone with touch tone cost more. But then my parents didn't get a color TV until I was out of the house, LOL (and I'm the youngest child, too).

    When I was still working retail--as a supervisor, so I had to enforce the rules--we had a lot of trouble with the younger kids, because they would claim to need to go to the bathroom, when in fact they were hiding out and texting their friends. They weren't even supposed to have their phones on them during their shift. And if I had to confiscate a phone or told someone to put it in their locker, OMG that was a disaster. What if they missed something. I used to shake my head at them and say how when I was growing up, no one had cell phones. If people didn't get you the first time, they, you know, called back. They waited until they got you--or you know, maybe it wasn't all that important to begin with. And the kids would look at me like I was nuts.

    I do have a cell phone. It's on the other side of the house from me right now. My daughter thinks that's nuts.

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    1. I feel kind of bad for kids today - no obsessively calling your crush until they actually pick up the phone! Caller id ruined that, lol ;)

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  2. I agree. It can be too much of a good thing. I love that I can reach my kids if they aren't home when they are supposed to be so I can assure myself they are okay, or the kids call if they are running late (a rule in the house). I had to search for a payphone when I was in high school and going to be late. But I use the phone very little when home. In fact, reading this reminded me that I forgot to plug it in last night and will have little battery to get me through the day. Oh dear! ;).

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    1. It's actually getting harder to find payphones these days. And some of the ones I've found don't take cash anymore! You've got to have a calling card or a credit card. Not much use if you've lost your purse...

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    2. Really, Catherine - no cash??? So weird! And yeah - I haven't used a payphone in at least a decade.

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  3. I love being out of touch. I need solitude badly or I turn into a big grouch. My favorite work days are the ones where I work out of town and no one calls. Possibly because the cell reception is bad in areas, but also because I can't really pick up anything extra in town since I'm not around. I don't have notification on my personal cell, because it was driving me nuts.

    Maybe it also has to do with being a slave to my cell phone during working hours or when I'm on-call that makes me less enamored with my personal cell. I'm really working with my kids on not jumping to answer the phone when we are in the middle of dinner or doing something. We have caller ID and VM.

    Yesterday I saw the doctor and was left in the exam room for 30 minutes. I laid down on the table and took a nap. LOL. Yep, unplugging feels real good! :)

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    1. LOL - hilarious! That's the best use of waiting time at the doctor's office I've ever heard :-)

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  4. I'm a bit of a mix. There are times when it doesn't leave my sight, but then there are other times where I can't remember where I was the last time I had it, and so I have to go on a hunt for it, or send out a panicky email asking anyone/everyone with my number to call me so that I can hear it. LOL. I do not leave the house without my phone...but I can handle being without it while I'm home. I've got no problem putting it in the other room on the charger and ignoring it for a few hours. There are some days, I'll even power the whole thing off and pretend it doesn't exist. Those are rare, admittedly, but they do happen.

    I was late to the smartphone game, so I'm not as fully addicted to it as some people I know are. And I've always held by the belief that my cell phone exists for ME to be able to contact YOU if I need to, not so that YOU can contact ME at any time of the day or night. I have been known to completely ignore calls and texts if I'm busy/working, or if I just don't feel in the mood to talk. There are certain people in my family who do not understand this, and they never will. They think they should be able to contact me any time they want to. I've had a cell phone for over a decade, and they are still sorely mistaken on that point.

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    1. Sounds like you have much more healthy phone habits than I have recently. Good for you for having limits!

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  5. My cell phone exists solely for emergency purposes. Like the car brakes down emergency. No texting, no web, no aps.

    However, my phone is getting dropped from my carriers network. I have to pick a new phone and plan. Bleh. We'll see what happens once the holidays are over and I focus on finding a new cell phone.

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    1. Oh no! Well, I hope you like whatever phone you end up with. Not that it matters - I know you almost never use it!

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  6. My cell phone is what I call the Barbie style in that it's just a basic phone with no bells and whistles. I'm glad to have it for my communication. I got rid of the home phone because that was just an annoyance with calls from solicitors, etc.

    I shall date myself here when I tell you that I remember when phones shared a party line. The best part of a cell phone is that these babies are cordless and portable.

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    1. Ha - busybodies across the world wept when the party lines were done away with ;) It's crazy how far technology has come in such a short time!

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  7. I love my cell phone, but I'm not addicted to it. I like how easy it makes some important things, like keeping track of my kids. But I've never had a compunction about letting any phone ring when I'm busy!

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    1. I shall follow your lead, Deb! I may even go get an alarm clock again instead of just using my phone's ...

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  8. *Raises hand* My name is Andris Bear and I am an addict. I would sooner cut off my arm than hand over my phone. I don't actually like to be on it all that much, but I MUST have it within reach or I'm very unsettled. ;/

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    1. Unsettled is a good word - and I'm determined to get over that feeling!

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  9. Erin ~ I am very addicted to my phone. It's rarely out of reach. However, when I go on a cruise - I can't use it (I could if I wasn't so cheap, but I am.) So on those occasions I do live in the moment. It may be why that sort of trip is my most favorite vacation.

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