There was a time when we carried cell phones (technology) for necessity but are we increasingly carrying it to kill time? You see, technology indeed celebrates connectedness but at the same time encourages retreat. Where do you draw the line?
I was sitting in the quiet area of the public library, when I overlooked a stranger cheerfully scanning every single face in the library. Without thinking, I went back to scrolling through email on my cell phone.
About two hours later, I leaned back in my chair to stretch when I was surprised to see the same person, as joyful as the first time, yet again doing the same thing. This time, I made eye contact (with a confused smile) and surprisingly enough he came up to me and sat down beside me.
“Hi! I am Tim!” he said.
Long story short, Tim was suffering from chronic depression and was trying to get comfortable with human interaction (Hence, scanning the faces in the library). It only took about 60 seconds to notice the scars on his arms, his deliberate effort to smile, and the pink flesh from under his eaten up finger nails.
He was a junior student at my high-school about 3 years ago and had seen me around. He told me that he has not been able to go back to school for the past two years but seeing someone (me) from his high-school gives him hope that he will.
His dream was to be a “anti-depression hero” and eventually saving his mother and his sibling – who also suffered from depression.
As he walked from my lonely table, I looked around me and then back at my desk. Cell phone. Laptop. Tablet. Headphones.
You see technology celebrates connectedness while encouraging retreat. My cell phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection when he came the first time around, but it did make ignoring him much easier. Was my daily use of technology shaping me into someone more likely to avoid human interaction?
We all know people who pretend to use their cell phones while waiting for a friend in public. When walking home alone we prefer to text and walk while avoiding anything human around. While working out or jogging, we like to stuff headphones in our ears to isolate ourselves from mother nature.
Here is the deal:
- Why do we prefer sending a text message instead of calling?
- Why do we prefer shooting of an email instead of a skype call?
- Why do we prefer calling when we know the other party won’t pick up and just simply leave a voice-mail?
- Why do we rather post “HBD!” on facebook instead of calling up the person?
You see all these scenarios help you avoid the emotional work associated with dealing with a human being directly. Yes, it saves time. But is the saved time worth it in the end? What use is technology if it makes the saved time less present, intimate, and lacking human interaction?
I am not “anti-technology”. Actually, I am quite the opposite. But the harmony lies in the balance of technology use in our daily lives.
People like Tim don’t walk around in every library, but everyone of us is always in need of something that another person (not technology) can give. We can bring a significant change in another person’s day if we simply are more attentive of our surroundings. There is no better satisfaction in aiding such need of others. Aiding others may not be the point of life, but it is a work of life. Because we all subconsciously know that we all will one day face death.
- Limit technology use in public. Only take calls if absolute necessary.
- Call up friends to wish happy birthday.
- Put more effort towards smiling and greeting strangers.