CONSTANTLY CONNECTED, YET ALSO DISCONNECTED


Walking on the treadmill at the gym provides me with headspace, thinking time, reflection periods. Today as I trudged along, working off my Silly Season excesses, I caught a glimpse of the woman to my right, briskly walking, but deeply involved with texting on her smartphone as she walked. I thought:  Lady, you’d better not mis-step – you’ll be in dead trouble!  Her face showed she was probably  in her mid-30s,  so no surprises there, I’m accustomed to seeing younger people wandering around, zombie-like, entranced by their mobile screens as they shop, walk, cross roads, you name it, that little screen has them hypnotised. But on the treadmill? This is a new one.

I have long thought this laser focus was confined to the 35s and under.  But imagine my surprise when my gaze shifted to the treadmill on my left, and there was a senior citizen, and he had the grey hair and wrinkles to prove it, tapping away like mad on his cell-phone as he trotted on his treadmill.  Yikes!  Clearly the disease is spreading.

One of my teenaged grand-children once loftily informed me that young people had to be connected all the time ; this in response to my comment on their passion for texting. She did not elaborate on her statement being convinced that I couldn’t possibly understand, because I’m so old and therefore, completely out of touch with modernity. Exercising every atom of self-control, I refrained from slapping her and chewing her head off. This is where the generation gap shows its ugly face.

And don’t get me started about couples in coffee shops and restaurants.  One wonders why they bother to accompany their partner, because there’s no personal conversation, laughter, general chit-chat, eye contact. Uh-huh. Those heads are bent, eyes riveted to the tiny screens and their fingers flying over the keys. Zero interaction between the table-mates. You’ve got to ask yourself: wouldn’t it be cheaper to simply stay at home, text as long as you like, from the comfort of your own sofa, and make a mug of Nescafe? It would certainly be cheaper!

As an aside, I blame the arrival of Twitter, a few years back. Now people seem to feel obliged to report on their every  action, trivial or otherwise. You will not be surprised to learn that I refuse to Tweet. Texting: yes, no problem. It’s very useful. And P.S. I’ve even heard of Whatsapp.  But Twittering?  I’m cosily hunkered down into my crusty old generation gap, thanks very much, and I’m sure you don’t want to know I’ve fed the cat, brushed my teeth, and eaten two dried apricots. Yawn.

I find it curious that so many friends have sent in post-Christmas reports  gushing about  their  holiday breaks spent in remote Karoo  dorpies, or in beach shacks, sans electricity, sans cell-phones, having a wonderful refreshing and relaxing break.  Note: un-connected for days – if not a whole week or longer.  Gasp!

Isn’t there a disconnect here ? It seems that a city mind-set has to be constantly connected. You have to be reachable, day or night, at all and any time, whether the seeker is your boss, a friend, a kid, a phone survey troll  – the permutations are infinite. And yet, once out in the country,  the connection virus weakens and some people even – I’m assured this is true – switch off their cell-phones. For hours, if not days, at a time.  Totally radical, huh?

I’ve had further thoughts on the topic.  By being so electronically connected, 24/7, people are disconnected from the world around them,  from people and events – life itself. Isn’t this ironic?  They’re not connected at all. They ‘re oblivious of  the natural world, the nuances of sunshine on foliage, the sudden flit of a bird out of a nearby bush, a swirl of colour in a woman’s scarf, smiles on little kids’ faces, the  touch of a friendly hand on a shoulder, the list goes on and on. Life, with its myriad textures, sounds, colours, sights, is shut out in the tunnel vision of electronica.

Yes, they might be viewing a friend’s pictures on Facebook, a birthday party, a Youtube clip – sure, but this is not the real thing. This is not here and now. This is experiencing life at a remove,  life via the printed word, symbols and mini-graphics on a small screen. Here and Now is reality.  What reflects off the oblong screen is an image of reality, a shadowy doppelganger.

Do we really want to live via the printed word? Do we realise we’re living a dream life in our heads when the entire glorious, marvellous, terrifying wonderful world is right in front of us?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “CONSTANTLY CONNECTED, YET ALSO DISCONNECTED

  1. Firstly, congrats on joining a gym and staying fit, good on you! Texting on a treadmill is insane, I’m all for multi-tasking but not to that extent! I totally agree with your post, the generation of today is consumed by social media and smart phones stealing precious time, preventing one from appreciating the present moment. Unfortunately this is the way of the world now and I don’t see it improving sadly. I find my phone a huge distraction as I always feel the need to respond to messages immediately when in actual fact, it’s not a matter of life and death! I also find it to be the most distracting when writing and trying to create something magical as it’s more easier to waste time surfing facebook instead. It requires self-will to lay off these devices and unfortunately society is failing dismally. A thought-provoking post as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said Alison. I don’t get this habit of going out with someone for the evening and then spending all the time texting other people. I mean, if you like that other person that much why aren’t you out with them instead of the guy sitting next to you?? Ive seen people reading a book in the gym while on the bike or the treadmill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alison, this is a wonderful and thought-provoking piece of writing. I too have felt very frustrated with seeing people glued to their phones in every day life and at events. I have been to numerous music concerts, and here people feel the urge to video record and snap pictures while the act plays, thus blocking the view of others that stand behind. I do understand the need to capture memories but some people seem to have the desire to capture constantly, never truly feeling or thinking in the ‘present’. The world is a wonderfully beautiful place, but I think somewhere along the line technology and the desire for knowledge is quickly taking over. Thank you for writing this. I am on my commute o work now, looking at various people on their phones 🙂

    Like

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