Hey Slugs! Today we are sharing a great article, written by one of our hard working PEP members, Samer, about how technology can affect our ability to be connected with ourselves. Have fun reading!
THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY
You are sitting on a chair, waiting. You are having a difficult time in a class this quarter and decided to seek help by going to your professor’s office hours. You are waiting to talk to him but the guy in front of you really just does not understand what is happening in class. As you sit there waiting, the urge to check your phone encapsulates you. You get out your phone and begin scrolling through Twitter, mindlessly looking at tweets, and continue reading well packaged thoughts from people you barely know.
Later on in the day, you are at the bus stop, waiting for the 10 to come and pick you up so you can go home. As you are sitting there by yourself, the urge appears again. You open up Snapchat and begin to watch everyone’s stories and you even begin to post some funny ones yourself. Later in the night, it comes to the point when your roommates are asleep and you are sitting in the dark and you feel so much discomfort. You pull out your phone and check Facebook. You used to be able to just get into your bed and crash. This was my daily reality and this wasn’t what life used to be like growing up. It wasn’t like this for my parents either. But imagining that is so strange now and that in itself is weird. I feel the world around me changing, but I don’t know if I like the direction it’s going in. Some people don’t see growing social media use as an issue, but I eventually saw the results of those growing urges.
In a world dominated by technology, it only seems normal to check your phone in your spare time. And the long term effects and rooted reasons for it don’t seem apparent. But when I actually sit down and think about it, the fact that most of society feels bound to technology is a bit scary. Can technology/social media (phones specifically) be detrimental to the development of humans?
People always feel the need to check their phones so that they don’t have to be alone. It has become the most accessible means of escape from their daily lives. It allows an instantaneous escape from reality. And it is so normalized. Everybody has a phone. Everyone is on it. Your parents tell you to get off your phone, but you see them on Facebook all the time. I realized that this desire to escape reality was exactly what was happening to me and I realized that I was on a treadmill.
You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what your phones are taking away, the ability to just sit there. People can’t just sit there and do nothing anymore. We need to always reach out and talk to someone and to be communicating, because it makes us feel good. It feels good to talk to other people and to feel connected to or validated by other people. It doesn’t feel so great to be alone anymore, because we have the option not to be. Why would we choose to feel alone when we have a slab in our pockets that can fix the loneliness?
But the real question is does that slab in your pocket fix all of that? Why are we lonely in the first place? Does it really make you feel completely better and make your problems go away? And the truth is, I didn’t feel like myself when I was on my phone all the time. And when I was alone, I felt so unbearably lonely in a way that I never used to feel. A way that felt unhealthy. I felt that although people were aware of and joked about the strangeness of social media, they knew that society had put us in a position where it’s hard to stop. Writing messages on a screen takes away from engaging with others and learning how your words impact others, which is crucial for developing empathy. I can’t imagine a world without empathy. In a way, I noticed that phones desensitize people from their impact on others and they make it difficult to be in touch with oneself. How can someone learn to get to know oneself if when they are alone, they are always somehow virtually connected with others? I know that when I picked up my phone I felt myself losing touch with myself completely and it wasn’t a good feeling. But it was also a satisfactory feeling because I felt in touch. I felt in the loop. I saw that people viewed my snapchat story and it felt good, it felt like people were with me. But were they really? There was a hollow feeling alongside the feeling of contentment and I knew that that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. But in a world dominated by this form of communication, what was I supposed to do? Louis C.K. says that we shouldn’t be influenced by the actions of others, and that regardless of what the social norm is, we should not use technology as much in order to practice being alone and communicating with others face to face.
And that’s what I did. I stopped using my phone as much. And while I received a lot of calls and texts saying,
“Why didn’t you answer?”
“How could you ignore me like that?”
“You can’t just not check your phone like that.”
I was pretty amazed at how people reacted to me lessening the use of my phone, and that only supported my suspicions about the results of being one one’s phone all the time. But what I did find was that when I spent time with people, I was truly enjoying myself. I felt lost in the moment. Time became less relevant. That in itself felt like a form of escape, in a healthy way. An escape from society and an entrance into the way I feel the world should be. Spending time with others. Enjoying the moment. Being free. And despite what others say, I feel that the benefits are so much greater than the drawbacks.
While I think it’s hard to avoid technology completely, I think there are ways to start to erase that hollow feeling and the urge to check your phone. It’s possible to eliminate the need. Practicing being alone without any technology is a way to start getting back in touch with yourself and remembering that the virtual world is not the only world. It was difficult at first, but I found myself finally enjoying time alone with myself. Dealing with that frustrated feeling and learning to deal with the discontentment can help you grow as an individual.
-By Samer Muhareb