(Image photo shopped by me! because I did learn something from that challenging digital art course 🙂
I just finished working on my computer, taking an online art course, getting to know, and enjoy people who I have never met in person, and most likely never will. I am living in a house where I can lock and unlock the door from the phone that I carry with me everywhere because it keeps me connected to more than a 1000 people (LinkedIn) that I barely know, and more than 300 (FB) who have I have gotten to know pretty well simply by what they choose to show me.
And though I am not ancient, I am old enough that I clearly remember a time without computers in my home, a time when I carried a quarter in my shoe for an emergency phone call, a time when I wrote paper letters to people I loved who lived far away, a time when I went to a restaurant and ate and talked and never once looked up something on my phone, a time when sometimes people just sat still and thought about things, or lived in the present instead of frantically trying to take a photo to make sure they could share it with their “network” of friends.
And it is additive to be able to connect like that instantaneously, and it is fun, and there are some wonderful benefits from all the connection. I get it. I confess, I am addicted too. But like any addiction the pleasure is short-lived and the value relatively small. Like a wind-up toy that is unwound, when the screen is off so is the experience. There are no pink cheeks, or sticky salt water and sand left to wash off.
I believe that I have successfully made the transition from antiquity to the cyber world. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I can eventually figure out how to use whatever software I need to do a job, and then use it, with perhaps a few bobbles, but with at least a tiny bit of aplomb.
Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are amazing and fun, but deceitful because as their names suggest they are still virtual and mixed, but NOT real. Y’all! There is no substitute for a hand on your shoulder, a real hug, someone’s breath on your neck, or feeling a heartbeat next to yours. And nature, oh my, what online is like a warm spring breeze? A rollicking ocean? Or a leaf illuminated by the evening sun? VR and MR offer “close”, perhaps even “very close”, but still not real.
The thing that frightens us most about the cyborg idea is loss of control. But, real control is a myth anyway. We can make choices that can make a difference, but we can’t really have control over anything.
And I do have a choice. Every time I have a free moment I can choose what I do with that time, at least until something that is out of my control interferes. Am I going to have a conversation with the server at the restaurant, or will she find me on my phone posting on FB? Am I going to read a book, write a poem, paint a picture, or play hide and seek with my granddaughter? Or am I going to binge watch my favorite show?
We do live in a technological world, and we do have to be a part of that if we are going to have jobs and function successfully. And that is not all bad, a lot of the connection and equalizing is really good. It is only bad when we lose everything else, or diminish it so much that we forget the realness of real.
I think we love the virtual world so much because we can forget about the real world so for at least a little bit we don’t have to hurt. But pain has a connection to deep joy, and by skipping the pain we miss the point. In the real world, we don’t have control, but we do have a choice. We can choose to go see a friend instead of texting, or take a dip in the ocean. We can choose to do something real- or we can watch a movie.
The articles I read in my class inspired me to challenge myself to take one typical day and keep track of my screen time. I’m going to include it all, even those few minutes at a stop light when I am checking my work email.
Then I’m going to make a choice about how “real” I want to be.
Because it is my choice!
Excerpt below from my favorite children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margory Williams
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side…”Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then your become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”…
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to carefully be kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.