The past week has been an array of tasks in my personal life. As a Digital Native, I complete most of these online on a regular basis. I also would consider myself an advocate for using the power of technology in everyday life. An easy example is taking online classes for college credit. Why fight traffic, wait for a campus shuttle, wade through massive hallways, only to arrive in a classroom for 90 minutes? Why not wake up late, eat breakfast, and complete your learning in your PJs? I’ll tell you why! (Pick me!) After your leisurely homework session, you have to go to work and make the money you need to pay for the class. When you arrive, your dear old friend, the computer screen, is happily waiting to burn a hole in your retina. Wonderful. After 10 to 12 hours of total screen time in a day, your eyes tend to get tired and need a break, if only for a moment. Even now, I am writing the draft for this post using pen and paper. Remember paper? It is that stuff with lines on it that requires the flowing motion we call writing.
To cope with the inevitable need to look at a device later in the day, someone invented an application to ease our eye fatigue. Of course they did. Some smart programmer was sitting there one day and thought, “What if I wanted to stare at a screen for 16 hours straight?” We download the applications on our phones, tablets, and main computers. We extend our time with our special friend. Don’t get me wrong, I use these applications every day. I am not immune to the call of the screen. One might point out that this is a natural progression of our technology-centered technology. This person is probably correct. Perhaps even a newer type of screen will come out that is less painful to stare at hours-on-end. At one point, I was so concerned about this that I asked my optometrist if my eyes were OK after all that screen time every day. The doctor confirmed that my eyes were perfectly healthy in all possible ways. I was relieved of course, but even this small scare didn’t dissuade me from continuing to bask in the soft glow of my cell phone.
The last few weeks have been a busy time for my online world. My music is constantly interrupted by a little *ding*. I am checking my phone constantly to see if someone like the “average level” comedy that I posted. By the time I get to work, my eyes are so tired, that I try to look away from the computer as must as possible. Why do we push ourselves to the extremes before we take a break? Does anyone else do that? I crave the little rush you get with a new notification arrives. My mind was racing all day, looking for the next little fix of the Digital World. However, I consider myself lucky because of my past experience as a human. Any real-life interaction trumps the Digital World every time. This is not something that everyone was taught or has mastered. I consider it a part of my Life Skills. Pushing the chair back under the table, after you are done using it, would be another, but let’s not get distracted. I realize the irony of making a statement about prioritizing the real-life world over the Digital World on a digital blog. “You may now deactivate your irony detectors, we thank you for your cooperation.”
This life skill was learned early for me. As young as five-years-old, I knew that when someone was speaking, I needed to be paying attention. This might have been an adult providing instructions or a peer trying to make fun of me. Either way, the escape of my imagination would not answer either of these calls. One of my favorite examples of this was in my first year of college. I had some free time between classes and it was a beautiful day (this is Florida after all). My friend and I decided to relax and chat for a while. We might have been talking for five minutes when her phone started buzzing. This was still the days of text messaging, mostly. Every time one of us would get halfway through an idea, the phone would buzz. She kept apologizing (to be polite?), but I was over it after a while. I excused myself and quickly walk away back towards my dorm. Who was being mature in this situation? To be fair, I could write a good sized book of my first year of college and why this moment is so well remembered. It was…..interesting. We will save that for another time.
My final example of this was quite disturbing. The effect of this virtual form of interaction became apparent after speaking with several different people, virtually, at work. We have an instant messaging system that we use frequently. I was having a great time getting to know my “virtual peers”, as I call them, but a few days later couldn’t remember which person was which. Which one had the four kids and which one was a part-time professor? Without that face-to-face meeting, it was much harder to distinguish these people. I now speak with these co-workers almost every day for a project we work on together. I know the difference now, but that feeling of not knowing still creeps back into my mind.
What do you think? Are you concerned you might get lost inside the Digital World? Do you find it rude when someone is only focusing on their phone/computer? Do you even notice? What strategies to you use to remember similar people you meet online?