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.