a, Opinion

A chance to disconnect

Two weekends ago, both my roommate and I lost our phones within the same span of 24 hours—hers an iPhone, mine a Blackberry.  I found her bedridden the next day, practically in withdrawal. I, on the other hand, felt strangely contented. There was something very liberating about the 10 days of phonelessness that followed. I didn’t lose any friends, I didn’t get terribly lost anywhere, and although some were perplexed by my virtual disappearance, they figured it out. For 10 days, I was subject to nobody’s pleas, calls, or check-ins—it was beautiful.

Although my experiment was involuntary, a brave few of our generation are making conscious decisions to uproot from the technological sphere of communication which appears to sustain daily life.  While giving up one’s cell phone is particularly radical, there also is the occasional youth who decides to depart from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other social media platforms. Whether these ‘technological ex-pats’ seek privacy, relief from borderline addiction, or just a step back into reality, it is worth wondering if they are truly doing themselves a favour. While cutting yourself off might be an alternative way to focus on schoolwork or gain some peace of mind, could this technological abandonment inhibit one from progressing with the rest of society? Disconnecting could, theoretically, set you off-pace with personal as well as public news, and limit communication with friends and family.  But perhaps one alternative outweighs the other.

[pullquote]While cutting yourself off might be an alternative way to focus on schoolwork or gain some peace of mind, could this technological abandonment inhibit one from progressing with the rest of society?[/pullquote]

U0 Arts student Michael Law was given a choice in his grade 12 English class: write a book report  or suspend his Facebook for a month and keep a journal instead.  This English assignment-turned-social-experiment gave him the opportunity to experience life in a vastly different way. Claiming that at first, he felt “isolated and bored,” Law’s initial reaction gave way to a new sense of freedom.

“I learned to appreciate face-to-face interactions, and started to enjoy real solitude when I’m alone—no longer having to constantly talk to people,” he says.

Disconnection may thus be beneficial in that it could improve, and increase your appreciation for ‘real world’ social interactions.  But as new forms of social media catch on like wildfire, how can we even be sure of the divide between the ‘real world’ and the unprecedented expansion of the internet world?  With phenomena like cyberbullying, dating and matchmaking websites, and live stream news updates, activities and occurrences in one world easily cross over into the other. The line separating the realms is rapidly disintegrating.

In this way, deleting a Facebook account or giving up your smartphone could suggest self-exclusion from a modern world that you, in order to stay up to date, should actively participate in.

But this is all speculation.

I think we can all agree that bullying or judging others online is not something we should seek to incorporate into the modern world.  Although I am, thankfully, not at such a point of ill-confidence or desperation, I don’t believe eHarmony, Christian Mingle, etc., are terribly effective media for finding “the one”—tampered photos and false personality profiles undeniably make up significant portions of these websites.  Much of the “news” disseminated on the internet can be loaded with unverified information, which is only perpetuated by social media, and would never have made it to syndicated television broadcast or newsprint in the first place—Kony 2013, anyone?

If the line between the ‘real world’ and the internet has blurred to a point of non-recognition, it should be re-established.  If disconnecting means losing a lot of friends or becoming out of touch with news events, maybe the friends one has and the information one hears should be re-evaluated. In my case, as I suspect it would be for most, this was not a problem.

Ideally, complete connectedness, especially that of social media, is not necessary. In a casually defeated manner, Law explained he relapsed back to Facebook after his one month stint—“It was just too addictive.” He emphasizes that the world isn’t as small as it used to be.

“Facebook has become the reality of communication.”

But is it a necessary reality? Try disconnecting, and find out for yourself.

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One Comment

  1. This attitude is only relevant within the realm of the youth in wealthy and democratized nations. Whilst I agree social media and internet proliferation has some negative impacts upon the lives of this narrow demographic, elsewhere it has had immeasurable benefits.

    Just on the ‘Kony 2013’ reference: you do realize that he is the head of an ultra-violent militia in Uganda known for inhumane activity? He isn’t another Justin Bieber or ‘Overly-attached girlfriend’ – in this instance, the internet was able to shed light on a serious subject, irrespective of the controversy surrounding the Kony 2012 documentary.

    Internet proliferation around the world is undeniably one of the most liberating and empowering phenomenon of the late 20th and 21st century. Taking the Arab Spring as an example, the use of social media played a role in coordinating civilian uprising and the internet as whole influenced greatly the younger generations attitude towards their rights and freedoms.

    Having said this, I do see where you are coming from. I just think your article needs a heavy dose of perspective. Even in our community, there are many people who do not feel “Facebook has become the reality of communication” – many of us use it as a tool in order to seek out social interaction in a real-world sense. If you are unable to divorce yourselves from your online presence, or put away your smartphone for more than a minute, I suggest you seek help: most of us manage it just fine. Outside the microcosm of the wealthy, educated and leisure-time-rich youth of the Western world; internet access is more than just the frivolity you have portrayed.

    I really liked your article, I thought it was well written. Perhaps the point I am getting at is I would like to see people critiquing not what the internet has made it possible for us to do, rather how we utilize it on an every day basis. The fact that you can date, talk and read the world’s news all from the comfort of your desk chair isn’t the problem; the problem is that it’s all some people ever seem to do.

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