Dear World, I've Found Someone Else

It's not you, it's me - really. Well actually, I've found someone else. It's someone I just can't seem to live without. She never leaves my side, well except for that one time in the cab in Vegas, which in all honest was probably my fault. But, she came running back to me the next morning, or rather the cab driver dropped her off at my hotel. She pokes me when I need poking, checks in when I need checking in, and she can tell me the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow in 0.18 seconds. Sure, she falls asleep on me from time to time, but all I have to do is plug her in and turn her own and she's back to normal. She's the tweet to my retweet.

She's technology. Forget 100 years ago. What did we even do 15 to 20 years ago? In mere seconds I've broadcasted to the world that I'm at Golden Gate Park, pinning my exact location and proving it with a photo. I look around and see technology in full effect, from the teenagers texting to the marquee displaying when the next bus will arrive to tourists viewing the photos that they've just taken on their camera to the food truck taking orders with an iPad. What years ago was checking my email once per week, is now instantaneous as my smartphone alerts me of new Twitter messages and emails.

Burger King was onto something when they created the slogan "Have It Your Way". With technology, we can do what we want and be who we want to be. Technology often allows us to be something that the real world typically wouldn't allow. We can be a movie critic as we broadcast our opinions across media platforms. We can be a modern-day Lewis and Clark, blogging about our adventures abroad. We can be a social butterfly, talking to followers on Twitter like we've known them our whole lives. If there's something you want to be, the evolution of technology can likely make it happen.

However, has the efficiency of technology that we're so quickly to praise produced a false sense of reality? Has technology while attempting to deepen our relationships to the world around us in fact diminished our relationships with one another. I can't help but wonder if technology has become a surrogate for human interaction.

larva tacos
larva tacos

I've recently considered this while comparing different situations when I'm out with people versus when I'm by myself. Take for example going out to eat. If I'm by myself, I'll have my phone out the entire time, usually lying it on the table in front of me, and picking it up at least every few minutes. Despite having automatic notifications, I'll refresh my email, look through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, browse through Tumblr, check to see if anyone has commented on my blog, look at the latest schedules and scores on ESPN, check in to Foursquare, and sometimes take photos of my food to broadcast across my social media outlets.

Last week I met with a friend for dinner and drinks and during the two hours neither one of us pulled out our phone to see what we had missed. This isn't too abnormal for me. I rarely reach for my phone when I'm out at an event or with friends. Sometimes if I see them do it, then I will, but typically I don't. And I find that afterward, when I do pull my phone out, I haven't really missed anything. I've never been disconnected from technology for a period of time, whether one hour or several hours and said: "I can't believe how much I missed. I'm never doing that again."

This isn't a technology roast. I like technology - a lot. And no, I'm not going to sing I Love Technology from Napoleon Dynamite. I've often said that the friends I made through Twitter were the support I needed to start down a new path in life a year and a half ago. I've in fact met nearly 200 people from Twitter, some of whom I am fortunate enough to call close friends. However, social networking only goes as far as the in-person relationships that result from it.

Ultimately, I want to re-think how I use technology. When I think of some of the most memorable moments in my life, many have been devoid of technology. I can name you the top three sunsets I've seen: South Africa, Costa Rica, and San Francisco. At all three of those sunsets, I didn't have a camera or smartphone with me. My most memorable weekend from traveling for nine months last year was in Costa Rica, when I intentionally left my laptop and iPhone behind for a three-day weekend to travel. What did I miss? A handful of tweets, a couple notifications on Facebook, and 60 emails, of which over half were junk. It took no more than a half-hour to catch up when I returned.

We take time off from work and so many other parts of our life, so why not take some time off technology? I'm using this as a challenge to myself. For Thanksgiving weekend, I'm taking a couple days off without my laptop and turning off notifications on my phone. I'm heading up to Sonoma to spend Thanksgiving with a friend and his family, ironically who I met via Twitter. I challenge you to do something similar. Take 24 hours or even an entire weekend for a technology detox this month. And don't use that time to watch movies or catch up on reality TV. Take a girls weekend, go wine tasting, tour a local brewery, plan a hiking trip, or go pick strawberries. Just do something. And afterward, do this: Come back and tell me if taking a break from technology was a decision you regret.

Additional Reading:

Have we become too dependent on technology and allowed it to distance us from human interaction?

The photo of my on the celly above is courtesy of Kirsten Alana.