“The High Price of Being Plugged In” by Kim Malchuk, Winnipeg

New Frontiers September 7, 2011 23:39

topic: NEW FRONTIERS medium: TEXT

as submitted for the “Connected” Competition

Check out her website!

While walking through a shopping mall I witnessed a blatant act of human disconnection at its worst. A business man was walking through the mall while feverishly typing some response on his blackberry. He was completely oblivious to others while in his hypnotic state. I watched in disbelief as he walked, typed and then almost took down an elderly woman who had the misfortune of being in this maniac’s path. I refrain from calling this person a gentleman because what he did, or should I say, what he didn’t do after almost knocking this woman down to the concrete floor sickened me. He did not even bat an eye and what was even worse was that he kept on walking as though nothing had happened.

I rushed towards the woman who I would guess was in her late 70’s and asked if she was okay. This tiny, fragile, hunched-back woman had to look up to talk to me (and I am only 5’ 4”) and her words have stayed with me to this day. She simply said, “What is wrong with people nowadays? When did our world turn out to be so uncaring and hostile?”

This altercation and response saddened me. Have we become so disconnected that we actually forgot the manners our parents instilled in us on how to treat others? Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of today’s technology and use it in my everyday life. I have jumped on the social media band wagon in a very big way to help me connect and share my messages and philosophy in life with others all around the world. A large part of my daily work routine revolves around emails, updating my two websites and researching information on the internet. Yes, I love technology. I could easily spend countless hours sitting in front of my laptop (and some days I do) to stay connected, but, at what cost?

I don’t care what studies, statistics and global information says about how exciting and wonderful today’s technology is for us. No one could convince me that technology can replace the feelings and emotions that come with face-to-face or real-life human interaction. I know that I am not alone when I state the obvious because you have seen it too. Technology has created a world of social misfits. We are becoming more disconnected because of how much we allow these amazing gadgets and applications to isolate and distance ourselves from others.

Is it necessary to be ‘plugged’ in 24/7? If you are a brain surgeon or the leader of a country, perhaps it is crucial to be available at all times. If you are not, then maybe it’s time to evaluate the personal price you are paying for constantly being controlled by technology. If you feel that you are not as connected as you would like to be, turning off your BlackBerry or iPhone when you are with friends or family would be an excellent beginning. I will give you an example of how I personally feel when technology interrupts life. I would be curious to know if you feel the same way. When I am in a social environment and in mid-conversation with a close friend or family member and they decide to take themselves out of our moment to answer an incoming message of any kind, I feel devalued. Technology has destroyed social graces and has made good and caring people disrespectful. People want and need to know that they matter. If they are not getting this need for human connection and bonding from those around them, they will seek other ways of building a network of people to fill this void.

Do we really think that having 3000 ‘friends’ on facebook or having 1200 ‘followers’ on Twitter is the answer? Can we really connect and have meaningful relationships simply because we ‘liked’ something that someone else has posted? Social media is powerful and a great way to connect. I know this because I have connected to some incredible people from all around the world. I am grateful, will treasure and nurture these special connections. Oh sure, it’s nice to see the numbers climbing on my pages. It definitely strokes my ego, but I am also realistic and know that it is simply not possible for me to bond with every friend, fan or tweeter follower. The only way to form a lasting connection with others is to do it the old-fashioned way.

When my work day is done, the laptop will be powered off and the BlackBerry will be silenced. I will be present and available to those in my life that truly matter and deserve my undivided attention. If I want to meet new people I will go out into the real world and find a book club, do some volunteer work or enrol in courses, classes or some other leisure activity to increase my number of friends. Technology definitely has its place in our world and when used in moderation it’s a valuable tool to have at our fingertips. It only becomes a problem when we allow it to invade our lives and disconnect us from what really matters. Life!

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