Wow… I confess. It’s been quite a while since I paid this blog any attention. Although I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to live up to the expectations I have for this blog, I’m happy and grateful for the clarity I gained on how technology is impacting my life during my unintentional break. Over the past two months, I started a challenging new job, learned how to better cope with problems in my personal life, made new friends, laughed longer and louder than I have in LONG time, and established more financial freedom for myself. To say the least, it’s been a great month. Easy in some ways, difficult in others. I’ve learned a lot and feel pretty confident heading into the new year.
However, I keep coming back to this idea that some of the challenges I am facing now are new to us. I often look at my life and marvel at how drastically the way we live and communicate has changed due to the introduction of technology. When something challenges me, I find myself saying “wow, this wouldn’t have been a problem 30 some years ago.”
Being a #ProductOfTheInformationAge means we face a unique set of problems that didn’t exist before technology altered the way we communicate and relate with our world. Our short-fused worries would have been unheard of back in the day. As Mom and Dad learn how to use new technologies alongside us, who is preparing us for the woes of the digital world? It’s no doubt that technology is changing the world but more seriously, how is it changing us? What kind of people are we becoming and what do our modern problems say about our priorities?
This month, I’ve outlined five modern problems I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and one way I’m bringing light to the issue in my own life going into 2019.
Being Present (and Productive) Is a WHOLE Lot More Difficult
I think one of the most discouraging things about living in a tech driven world is seeing everyone on their phone all the time. At dinner, on dates, IN THE MOVIE THEATRE, at weddings, eVeRyWhErE. Although I haven’t strayed into movie theatre territory, I’m totally guilty of overusing my phone and checking out of the present moment when there’s nothing to do.
When I catch myself reaching for my phone too often, I vow to cut down my screen time. And that’s when I realize time and time again, that needing to reduce our time in front of a screen is a NEW problem, a problem that has made its way into our pockets with the introduction smartphones.
Having access to a screen wherever you go only makes learning how to be present with the people around you more difficult. Think about how often we get sucked into our phones, not realizing that hours have passed. If loving your life and appreciating the little things was hard before, it’s definitely a million times harder now. Just check in your pocket.
Our Online Lives Feel Like a Requirement for Success
Social media is perhaps one of my least favorite parts of the Internet. I’ve used various platforms off and on since middle school and I can say confidently that my real life is a lot more fun when I’m not so focused on my online life (or spending too much time with people who are hyper-focused on their online lives). That being said, I sometimes feel if I don’t use social media I will obscure myself, especially in terms of my blogging and writing career.
Because social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool and cost-friendly way to increase your exposure, it can feel like a new requirement for success. I often feel as though I’m not spending enough time building my own personal brand through social media and wonder what opportunities I’m missing out on. This feeling and the anxiety that follows is completely unique to those born and raised in the Information Age. We grew up seeing people find success through having an online presence and now that it’s become somewhat of a gold standard for building an audience, it seems depressingly futile to attempt success without using social media in certain industries.
We Can See the Neighbor’s “Grass” Without Leaving Our Bedrooms
Ah yes, the highlight reel. The unintentional evil of the internet that encourages us to be outwardly focused and fulfilled. Despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of social media, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing that we attempt to put our best foot forward when we express ourselves for the whole world to see. It’s only natural to want to make a good impression on your audience, especially when that audience is the entire internet.
I think underneath it all we are just trying to measure up to our ideals. Sure, it’s unhealthy to think we can live in a picture perfect world and seek validation through likes and shares but social media isn’t real. It’s what we want to see: happy, healthy, beautiful, adventurous. It’s the dream we all cling to and maybe, just maybe we feel like we can reach it through a world we can edit and control.
However, I think the trouble comes from being able to see all the “perfect” things everyone is doing, buying, eating ALL the time. It’s like looking over the fence into the Jones’ yard on a near constant basis. Then instead of trying to express our genuine ideals through our posts and pictures, we are in a competition with the neighbors who’s grass always looks greener. Instead of seeing the Jones’ once a year on Christmas or whatever, they live in our pockets and we start doing things for likes and validation rather than for ourselves.
In ways, it’s crazy to think this type of world even exists. We know so much about everyone now that the world is over connected and in my opinion, it just pulls our focus away from our own lives into the the lives of others. New problem, weird to think about.
Instant Gratification: Enough Said
As a #ProductOfTheInformationAge, we’re built for speed. Need an answer fast? No worries, we can Google it. Need directions? Forget stopping and asking a local. There’s plenty of apps for that. Want those new shoes? You can order them while waiting in line for a coffee. Everything we want and need is only a few taps, swipes, and voice commands away. In that way, the internet has only taken instant gratification to a whole new high.
While I think the internet has made us all more efficient, it has also created a whole lot more impatience. We don’t know how to wait for things like generations before us did because we hardly ever have to do it. I’m slowly coming to realize that everything worth doing takes time. Like REAL time. Sometimes days, sometimes months, sometimes years and that’s OKAY. Seems obvious spelled out but it’s hard to remember when the whole world is moving so fast that your dreams really do take time, love takes time, finding success takes time. Nothing REAL happens as quickly as you can order food through Uber Eats. Just saying.
MINDFULNESS: Bringing Light to the Problem in 2019
As I’ve said before on this blog, I am fascinated by technology. I love checking out new gadgets and seeing how a new app can help me live a better life. I get just as excited about a new phone as the next person and I rely pretty heavily on being connected. I’m not the kind of person to suggest to the whole world to go off the grid, ditch their phones, and live like we did in the 1800s (HA). I do, however, think our new way of life demands a new way of thinking.
In my opinion, we can’t just accept these modern problems, say that’s how it is, and continue to live like zombies. Technology is an opportunity for us to recognize when we live our lives by default and see how often we really put ourselves on autopilot. How many times a day are we checking out of reality and living in some anxiety producing fantasy? Is success really measured by how many followers you have? Is technology finally the kick in the butt we need to wake up to what’s actually going on in our lives?
I think the answer to many of the questions we have about technology is mindfulness. It’s not necessarily about eliminating our devices or staying stuck in the past. It’s about being aware of how our behavior is evolving in response to our devices. It’s about identifying opportunities to become better people both on and off the screen as a result of these changes. If we can recognize the present for what it is, we can empower ourselves to do more with technology rather than less with our lives.
That’s it for this one! Have a happy and healthy New Year and tell me on Twitter what kinds of posts you’d like to see in 2019!
Follow me on Twitter (@shawna_117) and use #ProductOfTheInformationAge or #ShareWithShawna to tell me about your modern problems and let me know your thoughts on this post! If you’re new here, check out my About page for more information on my goal to make the world of technology and the lives of the people who use it a more mindful and supportive place.