You’re sitting with friends and realize the conversation has gone dormant. You look up to see that every single one of you is hunched over a smartphone devouring some sort of social interaction, instead of regaling your besties with stories of your most recent date and deciding that this is the best guacamole, ever. Sound familiar? If not, I praise you and wonder what crowd you are hanging around, I want in! But, if this scenario does read like something from the story of your life, I put forth an open plea to kindly start making changes to how you and others relate to technology.
Dependence on technology is growing as quickly as your love for The Mindy Project — with a fast and voracious speed that is hard to control. I’m no saint when it comes to technology use. In fact, I’m writing this mostly as a mental body check to reel in how many hours I spend on my iPhone. I also am not a technological determinist or an advocate for a total detox from all things social media. Simply put, I think it would be totally awesome if we all spent a little less time worrying about how many likes our Instagram photo has and a little more time asking our mom how her day was and really listening to the answer when you meet her for coffee.
In many cases studying our smartphones or tablet is required; we live in an ever evolving world with emails to answer, texts to send and hilarious and endearing Snapchats to take. We also live in a world full of people and cool experiences that warrant our undivided attention. Sometimes I find myself scavenging for my phone in the elevator to save myself from the awkwardness of standing silently with someone for the 15 seconds it takes to get to my floor. This is ridiculous. What if the person I’m sharing the elevator with is my future husband, or a really cool girl I can share fashion tips with or just someone who was kind of nice and all I needed to do to uncover that human discovery was to smile and say “hi”, instead of checking my email for the thousandth time?
I’m not naively imagining a world where people frolic through the streets holding hands and leaving their personal technologies behind, because everyone would be lost all the time, we wouldn’t be able to listen to Katy Perry’s new iTunes radio playlist and that just isn’t a realistic idea. After all, Google glasses are a thing, so this whole technology as a fun lifestyle thing is going to stick around and probably continue getting bigger. I don’t want technology or smartphones to disappear; they are like little magic boxes that make a lot of stuff better in the world. All I want for you and for me is to be able to make eye contact with friends, family, colleagues, pets, boyfriends, grandmas, that random person on the street, the skilled barista at Starbucks… and hold conversations with them. Because sometimes you can brighten someone’s day or hear amazing advice about life from your cabbie on your way home from the airport while you’re crying over a cancelled flight.
And if all of these words aren’t inspiration enough to start unplugging from the devices you practically shack up with, I leave you with a personal story that acts as a word of warning.
I was in Paris last spring spending a week doing amazing things for school; i.e drinking wine, eating pastries and practicing my meager French. For the most part the trip was full of me breathing in every moment of my time abroad. But sometimes, when the mood struck, I would feverishly check my iPhone to see if the WiFi gods invited me into their world. One day when I got access to the internet I had my eyes glued to my phone, strolling the streets of the City of Light when all of a sudden…BANG! I ran into a pole. Let me repeat, I ran into a pole in Paris because I was staring at my phone, probably checking my Facebook. I hope this embarrassing anecdote never becomes reality for anyone else. It was a low point in my little life, but I think it can be seen as a lesson for us all. Look up more! Take a break from your phones and relish life in real time.
Ally Garner hails from Madison, Wisconsin, but is currently a grad student studying media and public affairs at The George Washington University in our nation’s capital. She loves to write, eats a cupcake at least once a week and lives for all things Tina Fey/Liz Lemon. Get her talking about yoga, history, Harry Potter or traveling and she’ll go on for days. Also, her life philosophy is laughing is the best.