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? ;)