So Connected

Recently, I was challenged to think about the implications of “Generation C,” and what technology and constant connection means, especially in terms of the college experience.

It’s easy to immediately say that essentially being online all the time is terrible. For me, I’m constantly checking my Twitter feed to see what others are up to in the world, and my phone battery started dying faster once I pushed my work emails to my phone. Yet at the same time, being connected means I am only a touch away.

That’s right. A touch.

I am not even a phone call away anymore. All someone needs to do is push a few buttons, and I instantly know they’re thinking of me, or conversing with me thousands of miles away. It means that those awesome people I meet at conferences or while traveling are no longer a cumbersome email away or a long-distance phone call away. I know what’s going on in their lives as they simply live them.

And they know what’s going on with mine. They knew on February 5th, 2011 that my dad had passed away. They didn’t find out months later over a random newspaper clipping. I didn’t have to slave over a prolonged obituary; instead, a simple tribute on my blog broadcast the news.

Impersonal? To some. Simple, sincere, and meaningful? To me.

With the connections, though, comes information overload. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with conflicting news stories coming in at all angles. Sometimes I don’t know how to process other people’s feelings on the recently-failed consolidation efforts of NASPA and ACPA. Sometimes, I just want to find a picture of the perfect short white wedding dress that I hope to don light years into the future. Yet there’s so much thrown at me, it leads to shut downs.

How does a person filter out the unnecessary then? How does a person step back into his or her own being to reflect, to be?

Unplugging.

I unplugged a few weeks ago, and it was wonderful. No phone calls, no Facebook, no TV–just some books and some music and some time to myself. People can mourn the passing of a time when what I just mentioned was the “norm” and the only way to live; however, my generation and future generations can learn to appreciate even deeper the peace-of-mind one finds in disconnecting.

I know at least for me, I want to actively educate the future generations on the simple pleasures in life. But to do so, I first need to remember to appreciate those things. If the portion of our culture that allows us to disconnect becomes entirely lost, it is our own fault (“our” referring to not just my generation, but those ahead of us). It is our fault for falling into the trap of not seeking out balance in the face of growing technology. It is our fault for thinking that the “best” form of communication is electronic. It may be more effective for many (including myself), but it should complement, not replace, face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. It is our fault for either being too rigid in old habits or falling completely to the other side of the continuum and buying blindly into the world of technology.

And yes, some technology is allowing us to bridge the gaps in distance and still hold onto more “traditional” forms of communication–it opens up the possibility of exploring the world with fewer limitations, in my mind. Long-distance relationships and the challenges found there came up in a discussion in the #sachat community. For me, a relationship is best sustained when there is good communication, regardless of proximity. If I could work anywhere in the world and know that my partner or my friends could be anywhere in the world as well, yet that we could still have a quality relationship with lots of interaction–I would be incredibly happy with that. I’m in a place in life where restrictions and boundaries are meant to be challenged. It’s not for everyone, but try to think of the possibilities technology holds for quality communication.

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