The ideas for my blog come to me in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the thought begins to sprout a few days in advance, morphing in and out of varying shapes, adding and deleting details, and growing towards something bigger, until it is ready to come forth. Other times, I sit down with a clear intention only to end up somewhere else. This morning was altogether different.
I had settled on a topic last night before heading to bed. However, by the time 10 am rolled around and I sat down to write, I had received two new and consistent messages from two different people on a topic I hadn’t considered. The first came during my morning walk with a friend and the second in an email I received from my partner.
Recently, when I head out into the woods, I have been leaving my phone in the car. It has been liberating, even though it is only a fragment of time in my overall day, the remainder of which is spent in some sort of online connection. I know there is value in disconnecting and this seems to be the most obvious place to start. After all, why do we go into the woods to begin with?
Today, we were on a new trail and at one point, I wanted to confirm my location. I was happy to find that I had left the phone in my pocket. It still amazes me that this small device can show me where I am on a map and help me to navigate through most situations. My friend pointed out that I could actually “drop a pin” at the parking area and the phone would mark the location and lead me back when I was ready. There is no denying the miracle of this technology. Yet, as I was expressing my awe, a certain part of me was also questioning to what extent the benefits were outweighing the handicaps.
It brought to mind a documentary I had seen recently called The Social Dilemma (currently streaming on Netflix) which points out that by gathering, recording, analyzing and categorizing our every move, the internet giants are shaping us into a commodity and steering us towards information that influences what we believe, what we buy, where we go, how we recreate, and with whom we interact. As a result, our perspectives have become more narrow and our exposure to new and different ideas, opinions and experiences is dimming.
This 24/7 surveillance and manipulation is unhealthy and yet, we participate willingly. We share our location, our friends, our photos, our shopping habits, and even our personal views and information in exchange for updated features, new applications and extended access. We are attracted to the glitter of the technological lure and are willing to sell our freedom and individuality for the newest gadget.
The daily email that came from my partner this morning was another reminder of the importance of balance and consciously taking time offline. It started off by saying that the school where he works had lost internet access. The teachers were running around in a panic (including himself) because the entire curriculum and individual plans were inaccessible. He realized his own reliance and dependency and this made him uneasy. I reassured him that he would be fine given his experience and natural ability to teach, with or without the internet. I sent greetings for the day and a wish that his connection would be restored before the start of class. I also pointed out that if it wasn’t, however, it may actually be a bigger blessing. It might offer him the chance to exercise his abilities to navigate his way out of the woods without the need of technological assistance and perhaps even lead to an unexpected and broader experience, one that would not have been possible otherwise.