After a ridiculously fun night out on the town with live music, lots of dancing and three gigantic scoops of ice cream to top it off, the morning followed. And it wasn’t as fun as the night before because the night before also included wine. Needless to say, “Not Drinking Today,” is taking a brief hiatus. Only for a few weeks, though, as the town I call home is July fourth festive almost 24/7 and wine is once again part of my nightly party.
Part of the morning after of the night before, is the morning bathroom. Without getting too detailed, (even I have my standards), I headed in for a much needed bodily function. On the way, I passed by my phone that I had made a conscious effort to leave face down since I woke up, and unconsciously grabbed it to take in with me. I’m guessing here- for the purpose of multi tasking. I can’t even believe I am saying this aloud. Multi tasking in the bathroom? Have I lost my fucking mind? Part of the routine of a night before is to load up on fat and carbs with a fervor. I hopped on my bike to get to the bagel shop at the speed of light and as I was waiting for my order found myself standing next to a woman also waiting for her order. She had her phone on the counter and was scrolling through messages missing the order taker’s repeat question of “What size did you want your coffee?” I finally answered for her, “Medium,” I stated because my waitressing skills from thirty years ago never seem to disappear.
My answering, “Medium,” caused the distracted woman to actually look up and quickly apologize confirming her request for a medium sized coffee. The young girl getting the coffee for this lady barely looked concerned as I am sure this is a regular occurrence at the counter in the morning with all of the sleepy customers ordering bagels coffee with barely a glance up from their phones for eye contact. Have we all lost our minds?
I recently heard a statistic that people are spending more time on their smartphones than television and this number is supposed to keep rising. Besides phones being phones, phones are now our cameras, video recorders, computers, radios, education, movies and television all wrapped in one small little, carry with us all the time even to the bathroom, package of convenience.
People are looking down at a rate that frightens me. From a physical perspective, our heads are perpetually down without moving our heads up and back for the counter balance of our poor necks, and from an emotional perspective, the lack of eye contact and smiling at one another. We are capturing every waking moment of every waking thing as part of our daily routines that is unprecedented in any human experience we have seen in our lifetimes.
What I notice about my own use is how sidetracked I can become in a nanosecond. I am a typically sidetracked person anyway, so clicking and moving around a screen is probably not helpful to my very sensitive brain. I wonder how much all of this bluescreen is negatively affecting my body. When I pay attention to the way I feel, it is usually a bit fragmented and staticky after a run with the screen for too long. Physically, mentally, spiritually, these elements of who I am, are hyper challenged when I am on the screen too much, not to mention the disconnect I feel in this false sense of connection.
I was at the beach yesterday and watched, between the parade of non stop thong wearing booty, hundreds of young people from middle school to college, looking down at their phones as they walked together. It used to be that we just walked the beach with a Dels Lemonade in one hand and the other hand free. Now every single hand has a phone, mostly iPhones, easily each one a minimum of a thousand dollars.
As I left the beach, I walked by adults on this packed hot pre July 4th weekday also on their phones, reading, texting, scrolling, trolling and some outright personal phone conversations like their beach spot was their own private phone booth. It is not. Everyone can hear the one sided conversations. Everyone can hear the bings, the swirls, the dings, tings, pings and every other distracting and inconsiderate noise polluting sound these tiny three by six inch lifelines make. Without so much of a deeply considered thought, we seem to have adopted these machines as an additional member of our families. Phones have taken the place of our time away to be with our thoughts alone.
Daydreaming used to be this pause in our busy lives. Now I find that when I do give myself over to daydreaming, as a thought enters my mind, instead of allowing it to move around the way day dreaming does so magically, I often interrupt its flow with the need to Google an idea.
Here is an example. I was sitting looking at my garden and watching the birds and bunnies forage for food, peaceful and quiet as I nursed my subtle hangover waiting for the bagel carbs to kick in. A question popped into my head. “If I could make a radical change in my life, what would it be?” The desire to sell everything and have a minimal life is always nagging at me. I like the extremity of this thinking. As I begin to consider the small rv I would need to get, I think about my friend’s little van she just reconstructed with a bed and some shelves and how handy she is. This thought leads me to thinking about if I could possibly figure out how to set up my own little space in a van and that lead me to thinking about where I might find someone who could do this for me. My brain immediately thinks, “Google it, Alayne.” And I have to fight the temptation. But like a pint of ice cream in my freezer, the call to Google beckons and I have to work at resisting. This would have never happened ten years ago. I would have just thought about the idea and let it flow the way ideas are supposed to. Then later, when I made my way to my office, maybe if I remembered, I would look up the how’s on the computer somewhere.
Phones have changed our human condition. Humanity has changed and simple day dreaming has become melded with technology where every click, snap, and search feeds the illustrious algorithms of big tech information about us so they can make our lives “easier.”
“Easier” seems to be the go to tagline to get humans to perform like circus animals. I remember when I was a little girl and TV dinners came out right along the time where kids were getting mini black and white televisions for their rooms and their own phones. Getting my gourmet cooking mother to buy a TV dinner for my brother and me took a lot of convincing. She had her standards, thank goodness, in retrospect. I also remember begging my parents for my own phone. It was a big deal when I got one and my father limited the amount of time I could spend talking on it because back then there was no call waiting in the seventies. If my father tried to call, there would be a busy signal and he would not be able to get through. This would not make my father very happy causing the threat of complete disconnection from my new phone. Leverage was what he had and most times I obliged the rules.
As I watch more and more people, especially our young people, with their heads down in their phones rather than a book, as I think about the future of actual television sets and going to the movies as a possible relic in the future, I feel worried about humanity. Will people actually stop trying to capture every moment when they realize they are actually missing every moment?
Humanity and technology is an awkward dance. Like the invention of the washing machine and dryer to make the washing of clothes much easier, we cannot imagine living without them. We have become dependent on their convenience and the thought of going back to using a washboard and a tub to clean our clothing seems ludicrous to our modern American way of life. This is the same with technology now; there seems to be no going back. Our entire lives are on our phones and I am afraid because of this, we must figure out how to co exist and still have human connection beyond a text.
Human connection feeds my sense of well being. I love a good deep hug, a serious sensual kiss, dinner in the garden, a dance on the front porch, spontaneity. I enjoy a beautiful book from the library trying to give my busy mind over to it on a breezy afternoon without looking at my phone for at least an hour. I am finding more and more that this break from technology must be a new habit I have to work on.
I know I do not need a phone by my side at every waking minute. I have to sometimes force myself to remember this as Apple would not want us to ever be away from our phones. I need to remember to look up, put my head all the way back in the opposite direction that it has has evolved into, downward like the pictures of the evolution of humans over time- head bent forward looking for food.
This time though, instead of feeding us for survival, we are looking for the human connection, but what we seem to have forgotten is that it is right in front of us if we would just remember to look up at the person standing right next to us.