Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Art of "Now"?


I read an article recently about our cultural addiction to social networking. 

Yes, of course I read it online.
On Facebook.
On my iPhone.
While in the doctor's office waiting room.
Still scrolling while walking in next to the nurse holding the chart.

What do you mean I have to put my stuff down to get on the scale? Surely my phone doesn't weigh... all right! Fine! don't have to look at me like that!

It's everywhere. All the time. And it's not just here in the states. While traveling to Ireland recently I noticed it wasn't only an American problem - international airports, major cities, small towns...I guess that makes it pandemic. I have to admit, it was strangely comforting, and somewhat validating...if not a teensy bit disturbing.

We humans can't seem to have more than ten seconds of downtime lately without checking our phones, our computers, our multiple social networking accounts. As with most cultural shifts, This Little House on the Freeway lifestyle we've all so readily adopted has been part blessing and part curse. Awkward silence has been conveniently replaced by the awkward clicking of buttons and speech bubbles with hidden text floating aimlessly above peoples' heads.

Here's the thing: I do it all the time too.

That picture above? It's mine. I took these this morning as I sat at my kitchen island waiting for the timer app on my phone to beep for the French press. This was before I'd had my first sip of coffee. My addictions. Blended together in full color with a couple of filters thrown on, for all the world to see. I'm not ashamed. Neither am I proud. It just is what it is.

I love being connected, but sometimes I have to admit, it does hinder the "now".

I have a friend at work - let's call him "Joe". Joe is a big proponent of the "now".

Joe's wife is dying.

Joe can't afford to live in the past or plan for the future. For Joe, it's all about the now. He bases his philosophy on a book called "The Art of Now". Disclaimer: I haven't read the book. I don't really know anything about the book, so I'm neither endorsing nor condemning this philosophy. I only know Joe, but I do think Joe is onto something.

This idea of mindfulness. Of being present in the present. 

The basic premise? You can't change your past, and dwelling on it shackles you to it. You can change your future, but worrying about it only hinders you from doing what needs to be done NOW, in the present, to accomplish it. Maybe that's why so many people get paralyzed by life.

The danger, I guess, is not "living in the present" - it's not living in the present.

Then again, it's kind of what social media is all about. Our experience of our own nows is being celebrated - embraced even. I suppose the flip side of this is being so steeped in the technological "now" that you miss being present in your own present. You could very easily end up living vicariously through everyone else around you's pictures, snippets of thoughts and events. Or worse, becoming completely dissatisfied with your own life as you watch others experience theirs. Because let's face it, while you're concentrating on theirs, you're not doing anything about changing your own.

I find it interesting that Facebook calls it a "Timeline" because it really is a real-time accounting of our lives. 

I don't feel like diving any deeper into the social philosophy of it all. There are plenty of articles written by people smarter and more well-known than I am out there to be read and discussed, but for all of you who thought I was going to get on the bandwagon and side with the old farts and the technological nay sayers... I'm not.

I think it's all about balance. Do some of us need to get off our phones and get into reality? Absolutely.

But at the same time...This is reality. The new reality. 

Our world has changed, and you can't... change it back. So we need to morph and find ways to adapt  and move forward in this new, technology-steeped world while somehow keeping our relationships intact. Can we do it?

I have faith in humanity... We may spend a lot of time trying new things and adopting fads and following trends. We may be a whole race of lemurs running blindly and blissfully toward certain death, but I believe we'll self correct eventually. The universe will demand balance, and our circuits will overload and need to routinely unplug. We'll find a way to be in our own 'now' without losing track of everyone else's. It'll happen. And until it does, I'll be walking the line here with everyone else (but I'll try not to be rude at the doctor's office).

Lynda Meyers is the award-winning author of Letters From The Ledge. Her next novel is a series that is currently in production. Stay tuned for news and updates.