Yesterday I forgot to tweet. Yep, not a single message sent out on the grid. I didn’t post anything on Facebook. Even my hyperactive Instagram account took a holiday. My total text message count stayed under 10. And, believe it or not, my laptop was out of reach all day. Sure, I watched the email numbers increase on my cell phone, but I just simply let it go.
Instead, I slept in, drank coffee with my roommate, went out to lunch with my sister, perused an independent bookstore and spent the entire afternoon and evening with my family. It was my sister’s last day in town and for nearly eleven hours that was all that mattered.
We live in an “interruption-rich” environment, according to Nicholas Carr, author of Is Google Making Us Stupid. He suggests that our balance of connectedness with technology and connectedness in relationships is out of whack. We wake up, check our phones, get on the computer, run to a meeting, get back on our computer, check our phones again, post on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day and so on. We continually engage with technology and continually disengage with our relationships.
It becomes increasingly difficult for us to disconnect, to step off the grid, to retreat, to reconnect with our friends and our family. There is an anxiety attached in this, Carr suggested, that may actually affect how our brains synthesize the overwhelming amount of information we take in. We become distracted, we lose the ability to focus on any one thing for any given period of time, we prioritize (or fail to prioritize) in a vastly different way.
I’m not arguing, nor was Carr, that technology is bad. Far from that. There are great benefits of technology – connecting with family and friends around the world, investing in our own ability to consume and digest information, easy access to incredible research bases, and so forth. But technology needs its proper place in our lives and sometimes it needs to be the last thing on our minds.
As humans, we are designed for community and connectedness, but we are also designed for authentic love and conversation. When we place our technological connectedness ahead of our ability to have a deep connection face-to-face, we fail ourselves and we fail our relationships.
This is a hard concept to grasp in our tech-savvy society. Heaven knows that I’ve failed on multiple occasions, to put down the device in favor of the conversation. But days like yesterday – the whole day in conversation and relationship with my family – serve as gentle reminders of the need for authentic connection, abundant with laughter and, now, shared memories.
May we give thanks this time of the year for the times we have put relationships above technology and for the moments when, instead of “Tweeting” about an experience, we share that experience with someone we love.
\”It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives\”
– Pope Benedict XVI, 45th World Communications Day