John Naisbitt, once said-“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”
And in this world with ever-flowing ebb of technologies this is exactly the case.
In the age of Facbook, Twitter, Iphones and others technologies there is a constant call to swim in a digital sea. We immerse ourselves in writing Facebook statuses, Snapchatting our buddies and a constant banter of other digital interactions with the help of technology. However, as the world continues to embrace the digital age, the question becomes: Do we ever truly come up for air? Or in other words: Is it truly possible for individuals of the digital era to unplug?
Well, yes and no.
Sure we can turn off our cell phones, shut down our laptops and take a walk in the sun for a while, but the issue is much deeper than that. This only addresses the surface layer of the problem: the physical aspect of interacting with technology.
While an individual may “unplug”, physically from technology, the fact remains that many of our minds cannot. In other words, fully unplugging is impossible because it is a mindset. One may even say it is a lifestyle. And this is a lifestyle that is reinforced both internally and externally.
THE INTERNAL FORCE
One major way that we see the manifestation of technology on our brain is through multitasking. Because of the multitude of items on the Internet, we have learned to skim and choose what is important. However these consequences beyond just our screen tops. Once we walk away from our digital devices, they manifest in our relationships with each other and more.
In a New York Times article entitled Growing Up Digitally: Wired for Distraction, it states “There is extensive evidence showing that our brains are exquisitely sensitive to external interference by both irrelevant distractions and multitasking. This “noise in the system” erodes our performance on a wide spectrum of cognitive activities, including the ability to recall details in our lives.” This inability to remember detail is also something that affects us even after we close down our Mac book Pro’s. It becomes a way of thinking. Even higher levels of ADHD lend a connection to our multitasking condition learned from spending our time digitally. Furthermorethere is even a language to refer to this digital existence. For example we “surf” the Internet, we “lol” at “Vines”, or even “rofl” if the vine is funny enough.
THE EXTERNAL FORCE
Another huge factor that inhibits many of us from fully unplugging is our society. Although there is no blatant rule, stating, “Thou shalt partake in technology” sprawled in gold, many of us would agree that this is silently understood. Part of being a part of “productive society” entails that we digest this digital culture. That we stay in on the latest digital trends. And that we conform to this standardized ways of operation. It’s expected that we all learn to use Word Processing, navigate the web, use a phone and the list goes on. Even for those of us that would like to have a less digitally heavy diet, we cannot. For instance jobs, schools and more require that we at some point or another utilize technology. There are emails that need checking, papers that need writing, and if these things are not done, we often receive consequences for it. Sometimes-serious consequences. For example, if you don’t answer your email, you just may miss out on that job opportunity. And God forbid you fill out a paper application for an employer, while the rest of your competition sends it in electronically. In many ways, doing things “offline” can cause you to lose out on the competition side of things. Therefore it may seem easier to conform, and do things in “the digital way”.
Within the new digital sea, the “digital native” has become much more of a fish than a mammal. While we may find air (moments of being unplugged) within the bubbles of the water, our habitat essentially remains within the water (technology). So from this aspect it is very hard to unplug. But what is more upsetting is our inability to replug into the most sacred aspect of life: In an article by ALEX SOOJUNG-KIM PANG he explains the practice of catholic meditation stating: “Catholic monastics treat meditation as preparing the mind to receive God’s wisdom; the busy mind cannot hear the divine” Far too often have I identified with this “busy mind”- too busy to witness the divinity in all people. I personally found myself missing out on this experience, because I was too busy digitally inhabiting the web, or staring down at my cell phone, or even walking around with a pair of headphones. In a conversation I recently had with Rick McPick, Professor of Religion here at Greenville College, he said to me “The majority of life is about being present”-Present to the world, ourselves, and especially others. But it’s pretty hard to be present both digitally and off the web simultaneously. So I guess this boils down to, in what space do we decide to dwell and be present? In the digital sea, or the shore of the reality.