My lovely friend Jenna sent me this New York Times article recently and I have reread it three times since she sent the email three hours ago. It’s such a beautiful and “slap in the face” reminder to be present and aware and attentive. The article reminded of this blog post I wrote almost two years ago. In the blog post I shared: “Don’t allow this online world to rule the beautiful, glorious, exciting, simple, dazzling adventurous, eternally blessed physical world we live in.” It’s important to be aware and awake in our daily lives – and not to miss out on opportunities to be compassionate, loving and supportive to those around us. I’ve been catching myself way too often scrolling through my phone for no good reason when I could be listening to a story my sister is telling me or sparking up a conversation with the person next to me on the bus. Spending all of our time glued to technology doesn’t put us in community with others – it allows us to catch up on their lives in quick, bite-sized portions. Life is too short to be alone – and I don’t want to miss out on deep and real and wide relationships and conversations because I’m reorganizing my contact list or scrolling through Twitter.
So a huge thank you to Jenna for sending and for the much needed reminder.
My favorite excerpts from the piece are below the image but I highly recommended reading the full article here. You won’t be disappointed. xo!
It is harder to intervene than not to, but it is vastly harder to choose to do either than to retreat into the scrolling names of one’s contact list, or whatever one’s favorite iDistraction happens to be. Technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat. The phone didn’t make me avoid the human connection, but it did make ignoring her easier in that moment, and more likely, by comfortably encouraging me to forget my choice to do so. My daily use of technological communication has been shaping me into someone more likely to forget others.
Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.
[Technology was] not created to be an improvement upon face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if diminished, substitute for it.
But then a funny thing happened: we began to prefer the diminished substitutes. It’s easier to make a phone call than to schlep to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someone’s machine is easier than having a phone conversation — you can say what you need to say without a response; hard news is easier to leave; it’s easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up.
The problem with accepting — with preferring — diminished substitutes is that over time, we, too, become diminished substitutes. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little.
We often use technology to save time, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or makes the saved time less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. It’s not an either/or — being “anti-technology” is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly “pro-technology” — but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.
Most of the time, most people are not crying in public, but everyone is always in need of something that another person can give, be it undivided attention, a kind word or deep empathy. There is no better use of a life than to be attentive to such needs. There are as many ways to do this as there are kinds of loneliness, but all of them require attentiveness, all of them require the hard work of emotional computation and corporeal compassion.
[Being attentive] can be messy, and painful, and almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die.