Day 174 – Digging Further Down the Rabbit Hole
I recently received an email from Gwen Bell with the transcribed talk she gave at BlogHer 2011. I read the talk called ‘Change Yourself | Unplug, Unfriend, Unfollow, Unwind: Is that Sacrilege? and one part jumped right off the page. A light bulb literally exploded in my head when I read this:
>> GWEN BELL: I would like to hear a few more things, before this session, Amy, she is sitting at the front and we met and she shared with me do you remember what you said about people looking at their devices.
>> AUDIENCE: I said, talking around this conference, I’m seeing, you know, people I recognize, but their heads are down in their devices and I feel like, well, they don’t want to interact right now. So it’s, you know, it’s really hard to engage with people and part of me is thinking, well, it’s okay if I don’t run into them, I will see them on Twitter, so it’s fine.
>> GWEN BELL: Wow, that’s interesting! Okay.
>> AUDIENCE: I think it makes you vulnerable, and you get going with it and you realize, I didn’t even say that to myself. Oh, Wow!
What struck me about this admission from Amy was that I experience this problem with communication everyday, and a lot of the time it’s because I am the one with my head buried in technology. For example:
My mom says ‘bye’ to me in the morning before heading to work. I look up from my computer, smile briefly and then reply having already looked back down at my computer screen. Later, I walk into the office at work and gingerly greet people on my way to my desk. All I generally see is the tops of their heads above their computer screens or their eyes glancing up quickly before looking away again. During classes, instead of looking at the whiteboard, my students stare into the pockets of their dishdashas, and then smile up at me as I approach, hand out stretched, waiting for a phone to be placed inside of it. At break time I sit with my friends/ colleagues who hold up a finger to my talking face every time their cellphones ring. While they do apologize before or after, they also ‘have to’ answer that call or reply to that text message.
And the list continues of ways in which human to human, eye to eye contact is interspersed with long periods spent staring at screens. It’s no wonder I often sit in bed at night wondering why I feel so disconnected from the people around me.
Yes, we may be ‘communicating’ through these technological devices. We may be satisfying our need to connect with others through technology when we cannot physically be in the same space as them. However, we are here, right now. There are people all around us. There are people longing to connect sitting arms length away and we do everything else we can to stop ourselves from turning round, facing each other and spending as much time as possible interacting.
When we turn to technology to communicate we drag ourselves away from a NOW that could be filled with connection, discovery and understanding with the people around us that could ground us more fully in the moment and help us dispel the Samsara we most often find ourselves in.
Even right now, as I sit here typing this my cat is eye-ing the top of my bookshelf. He’s daring me to break eye contact for long enough to allow him to jump up amongst picture frames, glass candle holders and other breakables that he will then push off the shelf onto the floor to grab any attention (positive or negative) that he can get out of me. He’s fed up of me sitting at a screen while he’s sitting right in front of me, and he doesn’t have an iPhone to check and keep him busy while I sit here glued to my MacBook.
I can’t help but think that with all this ‘communication’ we’re doing now we seem to have only multiplied Samsara for ourselves. Whereas Samsara used to simply be the physical world we saw around us, it’s now that world captured upon a screen and we’re burying ourselves further into it, seeking freedom, but actually digging ourselves further into the hole that we have been struggling for eons to climb out of – the hole of Samsara.
So, what is the best way forward? Well for starters I better hit publish and pay that cat some attention because I just heard breaking glass and if that doesn’t get my attention then there’s no saving me…