Saturday, July 7, 2012

A State of Disconnection

Last weekend, Rob and I escaped for our "babymoon" to Seagrove Beach, Florida. We've found the perfect little cottage down there for relaxing, recharging, reconnecting, and rejuvenating our spirits and our relationship.

In the midst of turquoise waters, whitewashed sands, and friendly townspeople, I was struck by a sad realization.

On Friday night, we chose one of the local restaurants there for dinner. We were escorted to our table on a rooftop deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. With the wind blowing through our hair, we smiled at each other just to be in that wonderful place together at that moment. As we settled in, I surveyed the scene of people around us. Close to our right was a middle aged pair with sour expressions on their faces. The man gazed off into space while the woman. . . wait for it. . . checked her Facebook feed on her phone! Yes, you read that right. I quickly made the assumption that they either must have been fighting, or were perhaps on a first date, the kind set up over the internet that just wasn't going as well in person as either party had hoped. That is, until the woman looked up from her phone to inquire about the contents of my growing belly (quite the cornerstone of conversations these days), and when we were due. She went on to explain that she and her husband there had 4 children together and were down on vacation for a week with the whole family. We were meeting them on their "date night," their chance to get away from the kids while her mother watched them. She seemed much more eager to talk to me than to her husband, and it took a couple of tries to pry away from her and back to my own "date night." 

On our left was a young laughing couple enjoying a couple of beers together. My smile returned, as did my faith in romance and the human ability to appreciate the beauty of a night on the beach until she too brought out her phone. At first the girl tried taking pictures of her beau, which was somewhat endearing to me, and as I could tell, to him as well. As the evening progressed, however, I watched her spend more and more time with the phone, and less and less with her boyfriend; soon his expression matched that of the middle aged man to my right. Again, in voyeuristic fashion, I speculated. Having clearly observed the lack of wedding bands on this young couple's hands, I secretly hoped that the boyfriend would run for the hills, or at least stand up and walk away from the table in response to his date's preoccupation. It couldn't be a good sign in the early stages of a relationship that whatever was on the girl's screen was more interesting to her than him sitting there in front of her. 

Now, I have to admit, I have my phone with me most of the time while I am in Atlanta. And, as part of a bustling city, I don't think much of it that most people around me do the same. Personally, being that I practice psychotherapy, and am the owner of a business,  I want to be available both  for my clients in case of emergency, as well as for potential new business inquiries. I also want to be available for my husband. But sitting on a rooftop overlooking the GULF OF MEXICO with the love of my life. . . I had absolutely no need or interest in my telephone or in anything Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Foursquare had to offer.

As the weekend progressed, Rob and I noticed this same phenomenon over and over- people drawn away from the present moment and from the living, breathing people right in front of them and the events unfolding where they stood- by the trap of technology. I witnessed adults look more like robots, or awkward teenagers with their faces buried in their Nintendos, that like real people living real lives.

So how long has this disconnection from reality and from each other been present? Is it that I have been so disconnected from my surroundings, myself, that I just haven't noticed this before? Or was it the sharp contrast of the technology against the backdrop of natural perfection and promise of human connection that brought this sad reality to my attention? By the end of the weekend, I wanted to walk up to people, rip their phones out of their hands and tell them to "look around! See what's going on in the world that's right there in front of them!" I wanted to shout at people to stop the madness and plead with them not to let their relationships numb out and glaze over like they were doing in front of their screens! As I type, I recognize how wonderful technology can be. But doesn't it have it's place? And shouldn't that place be limited? Shouldn't we create some internal boundaries for ourselves in order to live more mindful and connected lives, and not let time and experience pass us by while we're tweeting about it?

I could go on and on, but I have probably written too much for a blog post already. Clearly I am passionate about this issue and it's overall effect on our health and wellness- mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. Are you?

Logging off,
Katie