Reality and Virtuality
I love technology. Maybe because I was young enough to watch its progress and sort of grow with it. My first experience on a computer was when I started working for an airline as a telephone reservations agent in 1981. It was a bulky computer with a black background and green type. This is commonly known as DOS format, but back then it was the only format.
The next seven years were spent in various jobs where I did mainly computer work in the old format. It was not user-friendly, made no logical sense, and it was incredibly boring. At one point I was promoted, and my reward was a memory typewriter! That stored a very small amount of the data that was being typed so that you could view it on the tiny screen and make any changes before printing. It was a fun new toy, but it really didn't have anything exciting to keep me intrigued for long.
When Windows 95 came out, we bought a computer for our home, and I have been hooked ever since. The day that computer arrived I played with it until about 3:00 a.m. I could not believe all of the features and how easy it was to use. Then came the Internet. You can "log in?" What? Access anything, anywhere? That which we now take for granted was almost incomprehensible to me at the time.
So for about the past fifteen years, I can safely bet that not a day has gone by that I haven't been on the computer. Now I have a smart phone. It's really not healthy for someone like me. It's all-consuming. Need the weather? Wait, let me check. Need a recipe? No problem. Counting calories? Check. Need a prayer, a Bible verse, a quote? Got those too. I even have an app to keep track of the mileage on my sneakers. Go ahead, read that again. You read it correctly.
While I was away last week I stayed off of the computer entirely, and I left my phone on "airplane mode" to use it only for my downloaded music. No Internet, no calls, no text messages, no distractions. Guess what? I didn't melt. In fact, I realized just how much technology is taking from me while I am fooled into thinking it is giving to me. I learned that technology has become a false sense of security, identity, and even popularity. A false reality really. I concluded that my self-worth has been in many ways attached to the messages I receive or do not receive on my various toys. And all of that greatly affects my mood and my outlook on any given day.
Maybe it's just me, but I am always checking email, Facebook, phone messages, and text messages. If I get too many messages, I become overwhelmed and anxious. If I don't get any, I feel kind of sad and alone. In essence, I am looking outside of myself and my physical surroundings and into a realm that doesn't have any real existence (except within my mind and on some computer or phone screen) to connect and to feel connected.
But a funny thing happened when I turned it all off. I was actually more connected than ever. I was fully present to the people I was with and much more conscious of my surroundings. I felt more caring. I felt more love. I felt more awake, alive, present. There were no mood swings, and no sense of isolation even when I was alone. It was just me living fully in the space I was in at any given moment. Try it sometime. Open up the Windows on your computer or phone -- jump out and look around and within. Breathe. Observe. Listen. You might just find that God had it all covered long before Bill Gates.
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