Wednesday, January 21, 2015

28. Freedom From Technology

Recently I wrote about freedom from pop culture while hiking. Though pop culture is easily accessed through technology, I promise that this post will be 100% different from that post. It's a different subject. These were two different suggestions given (in quick succession) during our original list brainstorming session, that day in New Jersey.

Now, on to the words!


I didn't send a single text message from March 7th 2013 until May 9th, 2013. The first text message I sent was to my friend Jessica, out of the blue. I was sitting in a coffee shop in Daleville, VA. We'd just gotten our rental car, and we were about to embark on our tangential road trip up to Boston for my friend Meredith's wedding. I had to get in contact with Jessica to coordinate meeting up with her and our other friends. I sent her a text, and within seconds, she replied.

My brain had a conniption fit.

It was as though I was standing on the edge of a void, screaming out Jessica's name, and against all physical probability, her voice came barreling back to me out of the ethereal nothingness. It was like being some sort of divine being, capable of profound feats of sorcery. And thus it was that my second text message in two months was:

Yes, I dug back through my iPod and found this text from May 9th, 2013.
Neither DT nor I had a phone with us for the trail. I had my iPod touch, but I only used it in towns to write and upload my blog posts. It didn't occur to me that I could text people or go on facebook. Within a week of being on the trail, that entire part of my brain shut down. I could only fathom being in social contact with people in my literal, physical vicinity.

I believe that I am, and have always been, pretty good at being 100% present with people who are in front of me. This makes me a pretty bad long distance friend, as I am usually horribly bad at getting back in contact with people who have reached out to me. Even though I am able to focus on the people in front of me and don't get distracted by my phone or text messaging, I am easily drawn into technology the moment I am alone. Technology makes it such that we are never actually alone. Even when we're all by ourselves in a room, we clutch a wizard talisman in our hands that lets us beam our thoughts directly into the brains of people 1,000 miles away from us. Do you realize how FREAKING WONDROUS YOUR PHONE IS?!

I do love when people get frustrated with their phones being slow, or having a few seconds lag time. Like, ugh, don't you just hate it when your magical Harry Potter device takes a few extra seconds to beam your thoughts to outer space, then back down to thousands of connecting wires to tell people on the other side of the world that you're jamming out to Taylor Swift?

There is only one second in between a thought being in my brain, and the same thought being downloaded into your brain, no matter the physical distance between the brains in question.

Every once in a while we think about this, and then we let it go. If we had to go around being agog at the miracle of modern technology, we wouldn't be able to get anything done, and we DEFINITELY wouldn't have enough time to perfect exactly how to express our deepest fears through emoji. So we need to take it for granted, just to keep ourselves sane.

But this also means that we are easily drawn into technology, willingly chained to our facebook pages, our snapchats and instagrams. I am not a technology naysayer. I love it, frankly. I think it's fabulous, and I think it's the way that we are moving in regard to communication. I am not resisting the transition to our social interactions being through a screen.

However, I am resisting the idea that it has to be that way all the time.

When you're long distance hiking, you can leave your phone behind. You can leave text messages unanswered. You can leave emails unanswered. You can decide when and where and how you decide to plug in, and no one will get mad at you. No one will be offended that you didn't have service in the middle of the wilderness.

You can be free, truly free.

Free to be alone. Free to be entirely present with the soul of the person sitting right in front of you.

Free to let your thoughts exist and flow in more than 140 character soundbites.

Clever Girl

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