How many times a day do you check your mobile phone? How much time a day do you spend in front of a computer? Do you own a tablet or iPad? Do you have a data plan on your mobile phone? How plugged in are you on any given day?
I am writing this on a laptop. The Wifi connection is switched off, because I have to make it a point to avoid the internet while writing. I own a small tablet device that I use to check my emails when Wifi might be available. I use it to play games, watch movies or TV shows, read books in PDF format, because it’s a pain to read PDF on an ebook reader, of which I also own one.
I have a smart phone and, yes, also a data plan to connect to the internet during the day.
I am thoroughly plugged in.
I’m not going to preach either way, because we each have our own reasons to be online so much, or maybe less in other cases.
To unplug entirely in this day and age seems almost unthinkable. Unless forced, most people wouldn’t consider it. Mind you, I’m obviously leaving a large part of the world out that has neither access nor use of the internet, doesn’t own mobile phones and possibly never heard of Google or Wikipedia before.
As plugged in as we are as unplugged are quite a few others.
I make it a point, however, to leave my phone in my pocket when I am with others. I don’t need my phone 24/7 and even when I check my emails there’s usually nothing important for me to check anyway. Sometimes that is different, of course, especially when I am looking for a job or a new place to live or whatever life changing event might be looming. A lot of our communication (in fact most of it) relies on email today, so naturally people don’t want to find out hours after the fact that they received an important email.
Yet, nothing is ever more important than the people I’m currently with, usually friends or family. I am here and now with them (not as I am writing this, don’t get me wrong) and I for one would consider it quite rude to keep constantly checking my phone. I don’t need to update my WhatsApp status every five seconds or read messages people have left for me, who are not currently with me.
I want to talk to the people around me, across from me, who are there in the flesh. I don’t want them either to keep checking the bloody phones, because I am not invisible. How is someone, who isn’t even in the room, more important than the people who are in the room?
What did we do before smart phones or mobile phones as a whole? Did we used to call or email everyone every five seconds? And before that? Did we sit down to write letters to everyone all day to loop them into our latest goings ons? Would they even have wanted to know?
Letters were hardly ever written on a daily basis and usually only contained important information, not the minute titbits we feel the need to share nowadays.
Nobody seems to know anymore, how to put down their phone and look the person across from them in the eye and concentrate on them. For all intents and purposes we all suffer from ADHD, because concentrating on a single thing for an extended period of time feels like a waste of effort and, moreover, said time, because we could be doing at least five other things at the same time as well.
Do you like it when you’re telling someone something and they get distracted by their mobile phone and show you the latest trend on Twitter instead or a funny photo someone posted on their Facebook wall just now?
I don’t. It’s rude. Simple as that.
Yes, I use all of the above as well. Generally only as much as I find any of these things useful. Facebook can be a black hole for time unless you’re careful. Following dozens, if not hundreds or more people on Twitter is completely pointless, because you’d never be able to read everything everyone tweets. There’s no end to it.
How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many of them are a part of your life right now. How many are likely to continue to be a part of your life? Are you still interested in everyone’s lives? Do you stay in touch with them? Do you care either way, if they are on your Facebook friend list or not? Would you even know, if they unfriended you one day, because they decided to maybe reduce the number of people, whom they’ve not had any contact with in just about forever?
If you rather talk to someone on WhatsApp than to me face to face, I suggest you go and meet the person you’re talking to on WhatsApp and maybe send me a message later that I can then ignore, because what would be the point?
These are tools. All of them. Your laptop, tablet, smart phone, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google, Wikipedia and whatever else. They can be useful, if you know how to use them. Especially if you know how to prevent them from taking over your life.
We don’t actually live online, believe it or not. There’s such a thing that is nowadays abbreviated to RL. Real life. Online isn’t a place. You may not have noticed this, because you spend so much time there, but it’s not a real place. Have you ever seen the internet? If you say yes, I say I find that highly unlikely.
Sure, you’ve looked at websites, plenty of them no doubt. But a website is not the internet. It’s zeros and ones coded into something that makes sense. I may oversimplify here, but that’s what it boils down to anyway. Zeros and ones.
You’re looking at code all day long and you don’t even realize it. Your life depends on it. It shouldn’t, but someone it does.
Can you stay away from Facebook for a week or even a day? Can you log out of Twitter and not get the latest tweets? Can you put your phone away and not check it every five seconds while we’re out having a coffee and maybe a conversation?
I can and I have and will continue to do so in the future. And no, it doesn’t make me feel superior, because your reliance on the internet doesn’t make you inferior. Such terms shouldn’t even be applied, because it doesn’t make any sense. Using any of those tools to whatever degree doesn’t make anyone a better or worse person per se.
Just remember that there is such a thing as real life and that it is also very much worth it plugging into. It’s okay to stay in touch with friends and loved ones via Facebook, because you’re not where they are or vice versa. It’s okay to use Twitter to follow someone you admire or get a bit of a news fix or find out if your tube is running a good service.
It’s okay to post a photo on Instagram or send one to someone via WhatsApp. It’s okay to own a laptop, a tablet, a smart phone and an ebook reader all at the same time. They’re tools that each serve a purpose and there’s nothing wrong with using them if they are available to you.
Count yourself lucky that you were born in a part of the world where you have access to all of it. Just don’t depend on it all the bloody time. Switch off your computer and go on a walk with a friend. Leave your phone at home when you go on a date, because you really want to concentrate on the person across from you.
Say hi to someone on Facebook, who you haven’t seen in forever and tell them congrats on your wedding. And maybe let go of the people, who’ve never really been friends to begin with.
Unplug every now and then and appreciate the fact that the sun is shining and the day is yours to seize.