Plugging into Reality

Just over a month ago, I began a new transitional milestone in my life. Instead of wearing many different hats and working a slew of part-time jobs, I simplified my life (at least a little bit) and got a full-time job. While I genuinely enjoy the job itself, and have wonderful co-workers, my work revolves around something I’ve been trying to limit my time around: technology.

My initial desire towards limiting my use of technology stems from my interest in Buddhism, Taoism and Eastern religion as a whole. Within the said religions, meditation and mindfulness are big components. Like any major desire such as happiness, mindfulness is incredibly simple in its definition, but a hard feat to achieve in practice. Being completely engaged in the present moment on a mental standpoint sounds easy, but proves difficult for some in a world of constant distraction. In an age where electronic communication is the preferred medium, and given how accessible information has become, it’s not always easy to be fully engaged in the current moment. Even if my cell phone has been put away, and all electronic devices have been turned off, it can still be difficult to be fully aware of my surroundings when I’m consumed with thoughts about all that I need to accomplish, or what I have planned for later that day.

Despite my intentions of living a life where I’m not dependent on my phone, I am by no means perfect. I’m guilty of checking out what’s going on with my friends on Instagram, or checking out some of the latest albums on Spotify, or even wandering around like a zombie trying to get enough steps to hatch eggs in Pokemon Go every now and then. However, I’ve been trying my best to limit my time on these devices, and experience the world around me as much as I possibly can. Living this desired lifestyle can be a little difficult when eight hours of my day are spent Skyping people within 20 feet of me, answering any and all e-mails within the hour and analyzing seemingly endless streams of data on spreadsheets. Needless to say, though the work doesn’t seem demanding by any stretch of the imagination, I’m left feeling drained on certain days simply from the over-stimulation of electronic communication.

There are days I’ve returned home from work where I physically felt exhausted. Upon coming home and taking a nap, I’m filled with dreams of getting buried in e-mails (this is no joke). After eight hours of virtual communication, some of the most satisfying things to do when I get home are either to go for a run or read a book, simply because the experience feels real to me, as opposed to what I experience at my desk. Even though I’m primarily an introvert, and my job pretty much constitutes an introvert’s dream, I actually crave interpersonal communication when I get off work, simply because 90% of my communication is done over e-mail.

Since 40 hours of my week are going to gravitate around a computer screen, it makes me appreciate genuine human connection and reality that much more when I’m not working. To offset being a slave to the screen while on the clock, I’ve started leaving my phone at home whenever going to social gatherings or running errands. Though it’s such a simple practice, and probably fills some people with anxiety, it’s such an incredibly freeing feeling. I feel like I have a sense of authority over technology when I take the time to step away from it and embrace what’s happening in the world around me. A few weekends back, I went to Crunchy’s to grab a burger with my brother Joel and our friend Will Burgers (yes this actually happened, the coincidence was too hilarious not to mention), and I left my phone at home the entire time. We shared stories, had a few drinks, talked about traveling ambitions and had a wonderful time catching up. I wasn’t worried about what was happening on Facebook, or wondering who was texting me, but I was genuinely plugged into reality.

It sounds like such a small accomplishment for me to leave my phone at home when going out, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s something I would commend anyone to give an honest attempt at if they’ve never tried it. Like I mentioned above, I’m not perfect by any means when it comes to technology. Being on the computer typing this post in itself contradicts what I’m trying to convey. However, I’m a firm believer that everything in life needs to have a healthy balance, and technology is no exception. While I think the access to information present in our day and age provides us with endless possibilities to grow and prosper, it’s still important to remember our roots. I would encourage anyone to take the time to engage with a fellow human being, to take the back roads once in awhile and to embrace the journey rather than the destination. The world is truly a beautiful place if we take the time to focus on the here and now, and appreciate what’s directly in front of us.

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