Movin’ Out of Virtual Town

The For Sales sign is on the lawn; I’ve packed up am and leaving Virtual Land to head back to the small town of my custom made tech-reduced reality. I’ve enjoyed being with all of my digital neighbors for a bit, but it’s getting crowded, I’m bored with trying to keep up and the neighborhood is changing. Since moving here and trying to keep up with the online life, I’ve become aware of my behavior change from having an inclination to spend physical time with others to clicking along beside them. Facebook became addictive, the first thing I checked in the morning and the last I checked at night before I went to bed. Years ago I joined to connect with old friends; now participation has become shallow. And so has everything else app for me.

I’m returning to a low tech place that could be abandoned by now, yet that was thriving a mere five or six years ago when people were still communicating chiefly through voice and personal interaction, still having fun spending face to face (not screen) time together, enjoying activities and life and each other without the dependence and interruption of technology, videos and photos. A time when words, gestures, screen-free eye contact and real laughs out loud gave electricity to a room and helped people connect deeply, get to know each other, fall in love across a table.

Perhaps because I have a curiosity and background in human communication and psychology and I’m accustomed to observing people I am especially cognizant as to what has been happening to the way we relate. The more ways we have to communicate, the less we connect.   I remember the pre-phone obsession era, so it is somewhat unsettling to be a few feet away from someone who isn’t aware of my presence because they’re staring at their device or to be walking across the campus where I work and see dozens of individuals phone staring as opposed to groups walking and talking with each other.

Admittedly, Facebook has given me the joy of watching the lives of my friends and families unfold. Births, accomplishments, announcements, deaths are posted every day. Yet what used to be moments to cherish are now split second scrolls, lost in volume and quickly replaced by the one below. There is no time to savor, feel the emotion or hold space for any in my heart for long. Meanwhile, in between there’s the mental work of filtering out the vindictiveness, opinions, judgments, politics and food plates. It is not lost on me how closely Facebook resembles my mental illness, the online version of bipolar disorder, reflecting the alternating manic and depressive thoughts that are part of the diagnosis and the world.

I’ve been a part of many conversations where it is unanimous that technology is taking over our lives and dumbing us down, always defended by the excuse that this is the direction the world is headed, so you must keep up. Intuitively, that’s not my world. So, I got rid of my television, cancelled my landline and gave myself a ten-minute per day Facebook limit. The external information clutter cleared from my life, I recovered my peace of mind and got my concentration back. Beautiful.

With Virtual Land behind me, I’m reaping the benefits of my tech-reduced life. It’s way easier on the budget. I’m planning face-to-face gatherings by sending out paper invitations and spontaneous get-togethers through calling (rediscovering voices) and emailing. I hear about my friends’ life events firsthand or through the grapevine; still giving all of them enthusiastic “Likes.” Only now it’s so much better because I have the precious time to revel in these in the much slower way that I prefer, I get to cherish the moments once again. Home sweet home.

 

 

 

Just Plane Cool

Just felt like plane old writing today. I live in close proximity to a major airport. The usual incoming traffic pattern brings the jets in view one by one outside of my living room window. In the wintertime when I am curled up on the corner of my couch on dark evenings with my notebook, I watch them. There are so many, starting out as small lights in the distance, then piercing the dark, getting bigger as they grow near.   In the summertime they are close and powerful overhead. I like that. Most head in via straight lines, yet some approach at such angles that I think the pilot and copilot must be engaged in some sort of a bet with one another or the control tower folks and that the passengers must be on top of each other sideways.

Whatever the situation, my overall thought when I watch them is how amazing it is that these instruments of wonder are transporting loved ones to loved ones all over the world in very short bursts of time. How cool is that. Make a decision to visit, click a few clicks, pick a date, head to the airport jump on board and you’re there. Nice. Even if your purpose is for business and less for fun, you’re benefiting your life by earning money through the convenience of getting from city to city quickly. No matter that many get aggravated by the inconvenience of long lines, delays and security.

During my lifetime I have been both fascinated by and phobic about traveling by plane. A few years ago my family and I took a trip (by car) to North Carolina where I insisted on visiting the place where the historic first flight took place. Risking nerdiness, I walked the path that the Wright brothers’ unstable airplane took, still feeling the energy and their excitement of the moment. It brought me chills, and gave me satisfaction as does every instance where someone has an “impossible” idea, becomes fixated on it, gets laughs at and bullied about it until they make it work. What an example of how the human potential is underestimated and underutilized. If we can take one small “hmmmmmm” and some canvas and wood and run with it (literally down a field) combine it with a few more thoughts and will to make it work and turn it into what air travel is today, just think of what else we can do.

For this most part we take air travel for granted these days until occasional tragic accidents happen and the media brings them to our attention. That did happen here a few years back and two miles from my house when a commuter plane crashed with all on board losing their lives. Those are events that bring about grief, awareness to policies ways to improve other lives. Devastation sometimes brings good.

Through time I have become friendly and comfortable with air travel, taking pleasure in the serenity of the cramped space and quiet time, now always seeking a window seat, even if it is near a wing. That way I can be on the lookout for the moon or special sunrise or sunset (no longer the hairy monster of the movies that I used to see). So line them up, plane by plane by plane big and small down from the sky and onto the runways and back up again. It’s a constant cycle of people meeting, corporate partners shaking hands and making deals, relationships being established, reunited and restored. Even if one is traveling to a funeral, without the need to focus on the drive, potential thought-provoking time is able to take place to process grief, consider amends or happy memory therapy if need be. Watching them from my house makes me smile, understanding that these are no longer just the giant hunks of suspended metal that I watched overhead in my youth, but family connectors.