Our Constant Cyber-Connections Keep Us from Real World Interaction

Daylight Savings Time (DST) has taken effect, did you know that? I sure as hell didn’t until my friend’s iHome went from 1:59a.m. to 1a.m. and I got confused. Fortunately, everyone’s alarm clock (and by that I really mean to say cell phone) knew about DST.

Back in the day, I remember all of my teachers, both of my parents, and others reminding me to not forget: set back your clock or you’ll miss the school bus! Oh, the good old days.

The human network doesn’t really do as much for us, now: we have a huge electronic network to let us know when, say, the party moves up an hour (Facebook will text us) or when someone tries to fly into Obama’s airspace; Twitter will keep us up to date.

Instead of dropping roots in a new place (this one’s near and dear to me, being 3,000 miles from home for college) you can just keep sending 160-character bursts between yourself and the people you used to be friends with.

The ropes of our human network are fraying with the stress of the interpersonal disconnections we’ve been making in our real lives due to ubiquitous technology.

Each generation redefines normal. My dad always laughs when he tells the stories about wearing a tie-dye poncho and being in fashion. But redefining normal as we are, we adapt the cognitive ‘normal’ in real time. Unfortunately, our bodies minds only adapt in evolutionary time.

A recent Harvard study concluded, “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement [with]…an emotional cost.” The study was about daydreaming, but the conclusion applies to any separation from the moment we’re living. When you’re walking, waiting, or sitting on a bus, your mind can wander; you can talk to strangers.

Instead, we browse the web, text, or use an application on our cell phones, mp3 players, or whatever other networked electronic is handy. In not spacing out, we lose something.

We’re not talking to strangers anymore, not acknowledging the people we walk past. We might not be able to name it but we are missing a part of the human experience, staring into our phones.

This morning, working on this article, I decided to walk to breakfast without touching my phone. I tried, three or four times, and stopped myself: something strange happened. I was smiling. At strangers.

When I met up with my friends, I was feeling happier than normal from the smiling I had just done. Our conversation was lively as ever, with lots of laughter at thoughts of last night. Well, three of us were laughing. One, busy being a long distance friend, spent most of the meal texting, missing out on our joking about the drunkard who tried to grope me at the party.

The conclusion that the Harvard study came to seems rather obvious: when you’re off in your own little cyber (or dream) world, you’re going to miss out on life!

Now, it’s true that we want to escape our parents and have a better life than them with the novelties of our time. But must we be so different? I’d love it if I cold toss on a poncho each morning and be “stylin’”, just like my dad back in the day.

That’s not going to happen. More than that, I’d love to laugh at myself with my kids in ten or twenty years. The only way that will happen is if I live my life in reality instead of cyberspace – funny comments on Facebook can never be as funny as stories of last night’s party.

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