Coffee, Chaos, Connection and Core Values
I recently finished reading 'Hamlet's Blackberry' by Will Powers and it has made me think differently about technology. It has motivated me to develop a personal digital philosophy and capitalise on every moment of "depth" to extract the most from life. In this way I won't be spending my days just living but living each day. The establishment of a personal framework to live has been increasingly motivated by my daily observations of the general public. I have been on holidays for a number of weeks and within this time I have become increasingly aware of the suttle infectious behaviour technology plays and how it seeminglessly erodes at our core values.
Cafés, restaurants and many public venues now offer free WiFi. It would seem that everywhere we go that we can maintain connection to the grid and that it is almost impossible to escape. Even theme parks have installed free WiFi and you would imagine these locations would be reserved for personal interactions and dedicated to enhancing relationships through providing opportunities for personal engagement. Every location, landmark and piece of territory is under threat. Instead of being able to have a coffee, aimlessly browse shops or hunt for particular items, enjoy a thrilling or nerve shaking ride, relax temporarily and withdraw from the demands of life, we remain connected to the grid with the barrage of emails commanding a response while notifications and reminders ceaselessly beckons for our attention. The thorough coverage that has been created for our digital devices through available WiFi Hotspots and 3G/4G capabilities reflects the social and governmental commitment to connectivity and our individual need to become members of the virtual world. Many websites now request users to login using social media credentials. This in itself demonstrates need for every individual to join the digital crowd and blend personal lives with endlessly expanding networks. Some websites request users to login using either a Facebook or Twitter account and if you use neither of these social media platforms you are immediately disadvantaged.
When people are at the local coffee shop, you don't have to wait long until you see someone compelled to photograph their purchased beverage with an iPhone, Galaxy Tab or other smartphone and share it with the globe. The image will become posted on Instagram, Facebook, Four Square, Tumblr or some other service. A hashtag can be used for marketing and amplification of the post to reach a wider audience to collect likes or followers like trophies gathered from hunting expeditions. For some unknown reason the most insignificant and mundane activity is now considered worthy of promotion to advertise personal movements, behaviour and events that have cultural or personal interest. Applications like 'Map my Run' allow individuals to share exercise regimes and statistical results with the world. This procedure can increase accountability and a sense of motivation to reach goals and achieve personal best, however, it can be considered narsasistic. Perhaps people find value in being valued and for this reason share chapters of their lives to feel a sense of accomplishment. The urgency to share every moment can be an invasion of your own privacy and it may be preferable to sever ties with the digital world to fully appreciate moments of significance and bathe in its totalitarianism. If we fail to disconnect and our will power collapses we become enslaved by the very tool that was suppose to create freedom through its apparent inherent ability to operate as a personal assistance through aiding our organisation, productivity and collaborative power. Instead of managing and mastering our lives we are in fact being mastered.
I have decided to live more deliberately in regards to accommodating technology in my daily life. For example, today I went shopping with my daughter and elected for the outing to be special. The event would be intentional, purposeful and without need to be connected. We had travelled to the local shopping complex to visit a hairdresser and have haircuts in preparation for our return to work and school. We spent time together in the cafeteria and shared in morning tea while sparrows circled the high ceiling and attempted to find a safe location to rest in the rafters. We browsed several bookstores and retail outlets. Our shopping experience was improved by a Seasame Street performance. I purchased a coffee from Zarraffas and a drink for my daughter to pass the time while we took seats and waited for the show to start. A crowd began to assemble and the excitement and anticipation of the audience began to heighten. I sat enjoying the company of my daughter and indulging in the glorious taste of warm beverage as I observed the people gathering around me. I placed my arm around my daughter and twirled her trimmed locks between my fingers. Father and daughter.
In contract many parents sat next to their children and were occupied with their smartphones. From my positioning I could see the screens of multiple devices and users were either texting or scrolling the timeline of Facebook. Some members of the audience were talking on their phones and the gentleman closest to me was obviously taking a business call because he was discussing various financial matters and need for his secretray to schedule an appointment with a client. I noticed that most, if not all children sitting near connected parents were either misbehaving or were completely oblivious to the activity of their parents which may have been because of familiarity with having distracted parents and being momentarily forgotten when in fact the very moment should be remembered. Disconnected conditioning.
Once the presentation commenced parents armed with mobile technology activated cameras and began capturing the smiles of their delighted children. Some held their devices steady in hope of capturing every moment of the entertainment by activating video capturing applications. Several of the people around me were instantly sharing the event on social media and making comments for their post. While I made my observations, my mobile vibrated in my pocket and for a moment my reflex was to withdraw the device and check the alert. I then realised I would be like the digital crowd and therefore I resisted the temptation because I was there at that very moment to enjoy time with my daughter... not multitask. My response provided instant liberation and sense of personal empowerment. I often seen posts on Facebook of individuals posting images, comments and details of moments of signifance. I understand that moments should be shared and the occasions of which we are most proud publicised, however, at what point does sharing become more important than treasuring? I had decided to treasure the moment and not be tricked by technological temptation.
I enjoy spending time with my children and more often than not my daughter and son play beautifully together. Often we play in our huge backyard, kicking a ball, jumping on the trampoline or simply enjoying our green space. Occasionally they argue or have little disagreements and at these times my wife and I are prompted to provide guidance and encourage our children to share. We have all heard the saying, "Sharing is caring", however, this may not apply to situations where you are spending quality time with family members and have an intrinstic desire to share the experience with others by microblogging. Surely postings can be delayed and the moment fully absorbed without the need to indulge digital distraction. People focused and obsessed with sharing moments through social media may be unaware of the potential damage that is being done. The corrosive nature of online activity, compulsion to post in the company of loved ones is difficult to quantify and for this reason I encourage everyone to guard core values and protect their time through administrating self control.
Unless we harness the strength and determination to religiously decide the purpose of each and every event, digital technology may control our existence. Self management is essential otherwise our daily lives and lifestyle will be succumbed or assaulted by mobile technology. The important thing to remember is that all costs the things that matter most must matter and for this to be true family time must remain of paramount importance. If your spouse and children are truly loved and appreciated there will be no shortfall in your desire in meeting their needs. I am guilty of having an unbalanced lifestyle and have discovered my time and energy must be invested in the right places for synergy and true success.
In summary I should state that I do not condem the use of mobile technology. I firmly believe that agile devices improve many aspects of life and living. In particular I celebrate the way technology improves teaching and learning. Social media can provide a valuable means of developing connections, improving relationships and enhancing collaborative techniques. I simply believe that we must take stock of our lives, measure the frequency of our online presence and revaluate our priorities. Failure to disconnect may result in chaos and corrosion of core values.