October 20, 2013 § 9 Comments
Far from vanishing, my species is overwhelming the earth–just as Martha’ s once obliterated the sky,
But my species is undergoing a voluntary and collective evolutionary change that is making the kind of human I am seem quaint, a relic, irrelevant.
Humanity and technology are evolving together. We led it, now it leads us.
Before technology made it easy to connect, meet up, or network intangibly, we looked into each other’s eyes, offered a handshake, lay back in the grass together and stared at the stars.
We spent time alone.
Alone is where the self ticks along, the individual becomes individual, where thoughts are given the isolation and deep time needed to become ideas.
Of course we gain from the easy connection technology gives us. I can see my daughter and grandson in New Jersey every day on SKYPE. In an earlier time that distance would have reduced us to infrequent letters, earlier still and that distance would have been a permanent good-bye.
But what do we gain by making connection constantly available?
We can reach anyone anytime and they can do the same to us. We justify this availability with worst case scenarios. If I break down on a deserted stretch of road I can call for help before the sun sets and I hear banjo music. If disaster strikes somewhere in the web of my life I will know instantly!
The generation that has never known the state of being solo sleeps with their on-call device under a pillow.
It won’t be long before the pocket or purse will be seen as inconvenient. Why not implant the rest of humanity in an easy to carry chip somewhere in your body?
We are not interrupted every second—but we could be. That possibility keeps us in idle mode, like a sleeping computer. When not in contact we wait, ready to be activated by that beep, that jingle, that unique ring tone shared by a million others. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we salivate on cue.
We participate in the great bagel a high school friend ate for breakfast. We help a sister choose which pair of shoes to wear for her big date.
We are right there to co-enjoy, be sympathetically horrified, share indignation, kill time.
So, what is lost?
We have traded a leisurely river, one with eddies and slow spots, for constantly churning rapids. We cannot keep up with the rush of all humanity, but we are left breathless by the effort.
Time with other people now comes with a disclaimer: I am here for you exclusively–unless I get a text. We are much better in the flesh, really. We can be hugged and our facial expressions are nuanced. Compare a real smile to this: : )
Always in touch, the deep time needed to think a complex and individual thought without seeking the approval of the collective is lost.
Something anticipated, even yearned for, touches us more than instant gratification. Missing someone and longing to see them makes coming back together a moment that races the heart.
When everything arrives with an equal sense of urgency we are less able to distinguish between the important and the trivial.
We mistake the virtual for the real so we spend less time experiencing the world where yes, there are mosquitoes and we get sweaty, but where magnificence is scaled to remind us that we are small and finite, a fleck in something beyond our comprehension. Rarely awed, we believe we are large and in charge.
We farm Farmville and never plant a real tomato in genuine dirt.
Perhaps we are just young at being this kind of species and we will develop the wisdom to know when to turn our connectedness off and enjoy solitude and our own thoughts, when to stop clicking YouTube videos and get dirt on our hands.
And perhaps I really am Martha. It feels like it some times. You say, “Just a sec!” and I am alone, watching you stare at your smart screen, no longer with me at all.