Instagrams Or It Didn't Happen: Why America Can't Unplug
At school, my name is iTyler. This is not a name I gave myself. If we were allowed to choose our own nicknames, I would be Princess Consuela Bananahammock or something far more creative/Friends-related. No, this is the name my friends chose to represent my unnatural attachment to my iPhone. This name can be both funny and frustrating at times, mostly because I’m reminded of its contradiction every time I try to disprove it (see bullet 1). And therein lies the problem.
While I’m usually the first person to defend social media, I know enough to recognize that there are negative aspects of this constant connectedness, ones that are especially prominent among certain workaholic Americans. We’re not very good at unplugging ourselves from this digital society, for a number of reasons that I’m about to mention. It’s in a list format, because that’s kind of my thing:
1) We develop patterns that other people enforce.
Whenever I attempt to unplug, either by leaving my phone in my room when I take the two minute trek to the mail room or disabling the notification sound for a few hours so I can binge watch a TV show in peace, I always return to a series of impatient text messages from friends and family demanding that “I should really bring my phone with me next time.” And yet, when I listen to this advice, when I snugly tuck my phone into my pocket just to cross the room, I’m branded with the nickname iTyler. This begs the question: How are we, as a country, supposed to break our technology dependence when everyone expects you to maintain it? And why are we dependent on it in the first place? Well probably because…
2) Losing touch with those we know scares us.
It mostly scares your mom when you don’t answer her text within 2 seconds of receiving it but I bet somewhere deep inside, it freaks you out too. When all your friends are chatting about Amanda’s latest party pictures, and you’re sitting in a corner, Facebookless, phoneless, computerless, and generally technology-less, you’ll begin to wonder why you ever considered unplugging in the first place. Technology keeps us connected to our loved ones and lets us know that they’re okay, that they’re still out there living, breathing, and eating Frostys in the Wendy’s parking lot at 1 in the morning. Instagrams or it didn’t happen. That sort of thing.
3) Also, losing touch with those we don’t know scares us.
When I decided to take my online writing hobby seriously, investing in a Twitter and a blog was basically a requirement. Networking has gone digital and if you’re not answering your tweets, Facebook messages or emails every hour of every day, you could lose a follower, a potential fan or a future employer. In a world where finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is more promising than finding a job, those future, undeveloped connections are what keeps us going. The more we unplug, the less likely we are to find employment opportunities or new friends, and that simply won’t do.
4) We are surrounded by technology.
Have you realized there are promotions for technology everywhere? I can go into a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and find a little cardboard flier propped up on the counter advertising QR codes that can tell you how many sheep there are compared to people in a 3 mile radius or where the best places to cow tip are (with reviews). Even if you walked into an abandoned forest with the intent to cut yourself off from society, you would likely see a plane go overhead or stumble onto someone’s abandoned iPhone. Geez, what does a girl have to do to become a transcendentalist nowadays?
5) We sleep with our devices as close to us as possible.
The invention of the iHome secured Apple’s position as the world’s number one addiction. (Sorry, caffeine.) We roll over in the morning to check the clock and before we even see the time, we see our phone, where there are Twitter and Facebook notifications waiting on screen, along with email reminders and drunk texts that your friend so kindly sent your way the night before. I personally set aside 2 minutes in the morning (I actually set my alarm to 6:28 rather than 6:30, which is when I get up) so I can go through my social media loop. It scares me. But the convenience wins me over. I can plop onto my mattress, send my goodnight texts, plug my phone in, set my alarm, check the news, all without having to get out of my bed. It becomes routine and once that happens, there’s no turning back.
Other countries don’t have this problem. In fact, Spain sets aside a whole portion of the day to unplug in what essentially is a scheduled, country-wide naptime. That’s a country that has its priorities in order, people. We can’t stop the proliferation of new technology, I know. All I’m suggesting is that we look up from our iPhones for a second and enjoy the world around us. Don’t take any pictures of it. Don’t check into FourSquare. Don’t update your Facebook status. Just look at it, with your eyeballs, and not through a screen. Unplug for just a second, and it will make all the difference.