the big disconnect

Since March, nearly everything that I’ve done has been on a screen; schoolwork, seeing friends, unwinding after a long day, and of course, shopping.

Moving the bulk of my life online isn’t all bad. The commute to school can’t be beat, no more spending hours trying to figure out plans with friends, and I there wasn’t any shoving in a busy mall this past Christmas. When COVID is a thing of the past, I’m sure I’ll be doing a few more things in my life remotely.

Spending so much time in the virtual world has forced me to examine my relationship with technology, and in doing so, I’ve found it’s not all pixelated sunshine and virtual rainbows. There are absolutely ways the digital world gets in the way of my real life.

POP QUIZ! Think about a time you had to get up early for something like school or work. You set your alarm, fall asleep, and wake up to the “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” of your phone. Which of these seems more likely:

A) You spring out of bed, ready to get the day started. (OK, maybe you crawl out of bed after hitting snooze a few times.)

B) You shut the alarm on your phone off and start scrolling social media.

I hate to say it, but 4/5 workdays I am B. It doesn’t even make sense; I mean, why look at my phone at 7:00 AM? What could be that exciting? It’s purely out of habit. I hardly even notice it anymore. It has just become another part of my routine. Is that OK? Is it healthy to fill my brain with all the noise of the world before I’ve even had my first sip of coffee? To compare my real life to the one people portray online before I even comb my hair?

OK, so now I’m out of bed. I’ve showered, gotten changed, and I’m heading out the door. Well, not until I decide what playlist I want to listen to as I walk to the bus stop. Wait… do I want music?

Maybe I’m more in the mood for a Podcast. Oh! My favourite True Crime show just released a new episode, I better download it before I go and—Oh no! Now, I’m running late for the bus!

One brisk jog later and I am on board, albeit a little out of breath. Perfect! Now I can plug my earbuds in and browse Reddit until I get to school.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with how my day began. However, if I lived in a magical world where I wasn’t glued to my screen, I’d get out of bed on time, be early for my bus, and use the ride to prepare myself for the day ahead mentally. Can this be achieved with a little discipline? Yes. I know this because I frequently see people on Instagram broadcast how “in the moment” and “#OffTheGrid” they are.

With so much being done online, the border between “real” and “virtual” life seems to blur every day. In a world where social distancing and not interacting with new people is encouraged, it’s next to impossible to meet new people outside your regular circle. Once upon a time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to meet a new friend who had different beliefs and opinions. I always loved this because it encouraged me to re-examine myself and consider a different perspective. I don’t get that experience as much in the “virtual” world, where everything curated is designed to show me content I like and agree with, hooking me in as long as possible. This virtual bubble used to get burst anytime I had to interact with another person, but with the amount of time I spend alone increasing every day, it seems that the online bubble is becoming more like a tomb.

“Disconnecting can help us feel more connected to ourselves”

We all have that one parent or grandparent who can’t wait to tell you about how back in their day, there was no app for the weather, and you had to sacrifice the family dog if you wanted a sunny day to picnic, so I know it isn’t very original to critique our relationship with technology. However, since we are being forced to spend more time online, it’s essential to examine our relationship with tech. Things like Zoom, Facebook Messenger, or any number of virtual games aren’t bad things. They help us remain connected to friends and family, even during these challenging times. However, when it’s the ONLY way you can do so? That’s where it can feel like “virtual life” is replacing “real life.”

As we continue to navigate these strange days, it might be a good idea not just to social distance—but to social media distance as well.

Disconnecting can help us feel more connected to ourselves.