Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unplug and Get Connected

I subscribe to Real Simple.  For those not familiar with this magazine, it often contains bits of wisdom, useful advice and general suggestions to make your life easier – in fact, that's its tag line: Real Simple ~ life made easier.  It typically features product comparisons, frugal repurposing ideas and organizational strategies, not to mention quick-and-easy dinner recipes – all things designed to help you manage your life.  But one of the other things it has that I enjoy is 'the simple list' – a monthly dose of entertaining trivia tidbits, as it were.


In the September issue, the list included this little gem: "53% of 16 to 22-year-olds around the world would rather give up their sense of smell than their favorite personal technology device."  Did you catch that?  53%.  This statistic was derived from research culled by McCann Worldgroup.  Could that really be true?  53%?  That's over half.  Sadly, I guess it is.  Don't these people realize that without a sense of smell, there isn't a sense of taste? 


Hey, if I could digress for a moment – and I can – perhaps this could be an answer to the burgeoning obesity problem, you know, if there was actually a way to cut off one's sense of smell… I mean, why eat if you can't taste anything, other than for fuel, of course, and let's face it, people pushing high triple digits aren't eating just for fuel so… I think I could be on to something here.      


Anyway, back to my point (yes, I have a point).  People shouldn't be that attached to electronic devices that they'd be willing to compromise a basic bodily function.  I think attached is the key word, and it reminds me of something I read once from The USA Today's Craig Wilson.


In one of his columns he talked about sitting on his porch watching people pass by.  All were occupied with one device or another – Bluetooth, iPod, Blackberry – people just strolling along talking, toe-tapping, texting and tweeting, with unseen entities, not engaged in the immediate world around them. He said it was a while before he spotted one "sad sack" walking by with only his own thoughts for amusement.  I can't remember now for sure, but I think he, like me, identified with the sad sack. 


I think there's something disengaging about being plugged in all the time.  It's not real living – not really. 


I had a conversation recently with a fellow hiker about a similar topic:  Is texting real communication?  My opinion is no.  Our discussion got a little heated as she ardently defended that it was.  She's obviously a big texter – and texting is fine, it certainly has its place – but I held fast to my opinion.   Think about it.  You get a long-awaited promotion, achieve a life-long goal, get engaged, have a baby, whatever the case may be, do you text this news?  Got it! Did it! Gonna do it! Done it!  Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little dry.  Or, how about the flipside, when the news is not so good?  Say you lose your job, or your health, or worse, a loved one.  What do you do then? Send out an email blast?  Got fired.  It's cancer.  They died.  No, I say in these moments, you need to reach out, if not face-to-face, at least voice-to-voice, and connect with another human being.


It's like I told my niece, who has hundreds, if not thousands, of Facebook friends, this type of communication is simply not real – and I couldn't resist pointing out that her Facebook friends aren't real either.  She disagreed, of course.  She's only 11, and I didn't want to scare her, but that didn't stop me from pointing out that 'Katey' in Boise was not only not a real friend but could potentially be a 47-year-old deranged man sitting in some basement somewhere.  When she asked why a grown man would pretend to be a young girl I told her to ask her father.  The point I was trying to make was that she doesn't truly know who these people are.  It is not real! 


Attention all Facebookers, Ben Johnson once said, "True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in the worth and choice."  I don't know who Ben Johnson is – I got that quote from a daily inspirational calendar – but he seems pretty wise to me.


We shouldn't go through life with glazed-over computer eyes, with a residual ringing hum in our ears and cramped fingers.  We should be engaged in living in the real world with real people making true connections – so, turn off the computer, pull out the earbuds and put down the device.  Hey, here's an idea, why not go out and take a walk with friend, and who knows, maybe stop along the way and smell the roses – while you still can!


~ M.