Friday, December 14, 2012

Alive Enough?

Breathing in, I'm aware I am breathing in. Breathing out, I'm aware I am breathing out. I'm alive, but am I alive enough? Do I live every day to the fullest? What about living authentically? Is it possible to be living this mindful, authentic, wholehearted life if I'm always giving some or all of my attention to my laptop or my smartphone?

This week for Pod Club we listened to On Being : Alive Enough. 

I've always resisted technology. I hold tightly to the old way of doing things. Holding a book and turning the pages cannot be replaced with a cold flat screen. Writing a letter with pen and paper to drop in the mailbox will always give me a satisfaction that my email can never allow.  I was the last in almost my entire circle of family and friends to get a cell phone. A few years ago, I was also one of the last to upgrade to a smartphone.  This week I finally retired my faithful iPhone 3G for the iPhone 5.  Last to join the club, but first to admit my addiction. I don't know what I'd do without being able to use my Mac and my iPhone every day.  I communicate mostly through email and texts just like the rest of the world. Clearly I love reading interesting websites and blogs that pertain to my interests and I love knowing I can find out almost anything I'm curious about. When I was a kid, back in the olden days of no internet, if we had a question about the world we had to look in books or ask other people. Do I wish things were still this way? No, not at all! I love that we can just "check the Google" on a whim. 

What we need is balance.

In this episode of On Being, Sherry Turkle quotes: "If we don't teach our children to be alone, they'll only always know how to be lonely".  We have a responsibility to the coming generation. They will learn by observing us how to put down the phone, take the earbuds out, turn the computer off and connect with each other face to face. We can't expect them to do it if we can't create boundaries with our ever growing technology.  

What we need is to disconnect in order to connect.

It's easy to be controlled by our online lives. Constantly checking our email and our social media accounts can suck so much vital time out of our day and what do we have to show for it? Real friendships or Facebook friends? Are we creating or just looking at other artist's creations? Are we thinking our own thoughts or just reading about other people's. I'm guilty of all of these. This year I signed out of Facebook and haven't missed it yet. I have to actually remember birthdays. I have to ask people what's going on in their day to day lives instead of checking their "wall".  I never have the ringer activated on my phone and if it buzzes or lights up with a text I don't pick it up if I'm doing something else. I wait, sometimes for quite a while, before picking it up to see what it says. This can drive people crazy, but it keeps my time on my terms.  I don't want to be a puppet at the mercy of my text messages and inbox. 

There's certainly a world of benefit to the technology we have at our fingertips. For example, we learn of news as it's happening from multiple sources. After a recent earthquake, I found myself frustrated to find nothing about it online right after I felt it. I think I had to wait ten or fifteen whole minutes before finding any reports of it on the internet! Twitter is opening up a world of first hand reporting all over the world by regular people. It can waste a lot of time, but it can serve an important function as well. Email is a wonderfully efficient way to communicate if we use it wisely. Watch out for those emails written in haste and sent off without a second thought. And please please don't ever hit Reply All unless you mean it!  

What we need to do, is carefully examine the benefits and drawbacks.

In closing, I'd like to give a little story about my new iPhone. Rob and I were driving yesterday from Los Angeles to Fresno and he was dying to try out Siri.  I gave in and found how to ask "her" a question. I asked what the weather was like in Fresno, she gave us the weather conditions for the next five days.  I asked if there were any vegan restaurants in Fresno, Siri said yes and listed three for me. What should I ask now? Rob thought for a second before laughingly suggesting I ask Siri "Who's your Mama".  So I did.  What happened next sums up my excitement and fear surrounding our future relationship with technology.

Me: "Who's your mama?"

Siri: "My mother?"

Me: "Yes"

Siri: "I don't need a mother. You are all the family I need"


Pod Club is a weekly meeting of ears and the brains between those ears. Check in on Monday when Jill and I pick an episode for the week and give it a spin yourself. All podcasts are free through their websites or iTunes.  Come back for a visit on Friday (or close to it) to see what we had to say. Leah over at Soft Spiral joins us once in a while as well.  I'd love to hear what you have to say! Comment here or join us by posting your thoughts on your own blog. 

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