There’s something really strange about not having solid access to your phone or to internet for a few days. And, even though I have previously posted about my excitement around “disconnecting,” deep down I believe we all have a strict desire to be completely available and accessible at all times. This is a bold statement, I know.
The strange part here is not the actual absence of these devices (as, let’s face it, people have lived for years without cell phones or always-ready directional advice or forty ways to connect with the same person over and over), and is more so the amount of times I (also, you &/or we, perhaps) check, glance at, and monitor our gadgets. Even without, my body is programmed in this addictive way, fervently checking my phone and refreshing my email. And yet, the same reality with each follow-up: “NO SERVICE.” My phone might as well read, “CHILL OUT, DUDE,” at the top left corner where, “NO SERVICE,” haunts me. But alas, I trolled the Beijing streets for two hours yesterday morning, searching for a coffee shop and free-wireless (luckily, “Wifi?,” is a globally-understood term and need). Interestingly enough, the first few shops I found were all closed, and after two hours of walking around part of the city, I found an open shop, one with, “WIFI,” on the store’s front window. Consequently, this coffee shop was attached to the building where I am staying this week. I cannot think of a better sign that the universe wanted me to get out and explore (or that, what you need is almost always right under your fingertips – either way, I’ll take the adventure, any day).
I ordered my drink and immediately logged into the wifi using my newly purchased VPN (shout out to Express VPN – all systems are a, “go!”). I checked my texts, email, twitter, Facebook, Insta, etc., you get the point here, I was in withdrawal. And after fifteen minutes or so of reconnecting to all of my electronic needs, I paused to note that in this particular moment, I felt 10x better than I did just hours before. Was it the technology? Was it the people behind the keys (or screen)? Was it the feeling that someone out there understood me, needed me, or hoped for my reply?
I mentioned in a previous post from this spring that in my high school graduation speech, I went on a rant about how cell phones only increase the quantity of conversation rather than the quality of conversation (via a counselor from an economics camp I attended the summer after my junior year of high school). My rant was quite bizarre, and several friends, parents, and teachers attempted to connect to my speech with notes like, “You did a speech,” and, “Look at you, graduation speaker.” You see, no one really wanted to address the elephant in the room, that my speech was weird, and aside from a beautiful poem I read at the end, completely confusing.
As I think back to that speech, I finally understand what I was trying to get across: relationships are everything, people are everything, conversation is everything. I searched for wifi, not to see all of the latest Insta-posts, rather to just feel less alone. And what’s wrong with that? In a time where families move around, children go to college/camp/boarding school, and people often spend more time in their cars and offices than with friends, what technology can do actually seems more powerful than not. I chuckle a little when a friend or student tells me how much their parent is on Facebook now that they’ve officially left the nest, gotten married, or started popping out babies. They like and favorite everywhere, and send messages via walls and comments, all with zero regard for online etiquette. It’s troll-like, and I love every second of it. I now feel like that parent. I am that parent (sans-children, of course).
I finished my drink and turned off my VPN. After thanking the kind employee, I headed for then door and stepped back outside and into the fast-paced hustle of the city. In that brief moment, my eye was caught by the sun and a perfectly timed gust of wind blew through the ally. I stopped dead in my tracks, closed my eyes, and just started smiling. Although the world still turns and life certainly continues, I couldn’t help but feel fulfilled. Maybe technology isn’t so bad after all. Maybe our desire to be connected is actually what haunts us, rather than the very devices we collect.
It wasn’t until I actually wandered the streets for two hours looking for a coffee shop that I finally logged into wifi and realized that life goes on. And more so, that I could be a part of that life which kept moving even in my absence. So, technology, you win today. And to all those parents living with an “empty nest,” you win every day.
To more exploration beyond the fingertips,