Do you remember in my fourteenth letter I wrote the following?
“I worry about young people spending way too much time caught up in computer games and the like and not spending time in the real world.
By this I mean getting outdoors; participating in sports; visiting and communicating with friends and relatives in person, not via emails, text messages and the like; bush-walking or simply enjoying our natural environment; and generally appreciating the outdoors.”
Since I wrote that message I am curious to know if you have decided to go off the grid on a regular basis and for a reasonable length of time.
Don’t say, “Here he goes again. Popple is old-fashioned when it comes to technology.” As a matter of fact I’m not. It does seem however that many people have become almost totally dependent on their choice of technology to access social media. For some it is an addiction. Sometimes that dependency appears to be at the exclusion of real conversations, personal relationships and learning experiences.
I was recently at a restaurant occupied predominantly by people many years younger than me. There were ten young people seated at the table contiguous to mine. My guess is most would have been in their late teens. I observed that throughout the entire evening hardly a word was spoken. You guessed it. To a person they spent the evening scrolling and tapping on social media interspersed by shoveling food into their mouths quickly lest they miss something pinging onto their screen.
How can ten people spend two plus hours together and hardly speak? Unsociable.
We have all seen that from time to time haven’t we? But it is not confined to teenagers either. I recently witnessed a toddler engrossed in a delicious meal at another restaurant while her parents spent mealtime reading stuff on their mobile phones. The little girl was totally ignored. Indeed, the parents ignored each other but I really felt for the child. How sad!
That isn’t communication Chilliwops. That is rudeness and it is totally unnecessary.
I have some other gripes about social media but will save them for another day. The purpose of this letter is to have you think positively about an alternative use of your time.
Now I’m not suggesting you switch off entirely from your tablet, computer or mobile phone. There is a time and place for everything.
Use of social media might help you keep in touch with family and friends whom are not easily contactable because of time and/or distance.
In my view reliance on one’s tablet or phone for social interaction and an expectation that one must respond immediately to a message as soon as it appears encourages detachment from the real world. Distant and out of touch. Too easily detached from actual contact with others. Detached from the real happenings around us.
There is a great deal of research – some of which I shall bring to your attention at another time – that suggests personal interaction and living in the moment makes one happier than spending time dabbling with technology.
Reliance on technology – constantly on social media – for your interaction with others doesn’t allow you time to think outside the square. By that I mean the time to use your imagination, to be creative. Time to dream, time to be creative and time to plan, results in greater productivity and effectiveness at school or at work.
Make the time to go for a walk and leave your phone at home. It will still be there when you get home. The messages meant for you in your absence from technology won’t disappear. They will still be available when you have enjoyed the great outdoors.
Many people I have talked to tell me their most productive time (in terms of thinking of how to solve problems or be creative) is when they go for a long walk alone. Personally, I enjoy long walks before writing. That is a creative time for me, outdoors and alone to think absent any temptation to check the Internet. My inspiration often comes from allowing my mind to float to places the Internet won’t permit. Yes technology can be very restrictive.
Some years ago I had laser treatment on my eyes so that I need not wear glasses. The specialist informed me that at some point I would probably need to wear reading glasses again. But he also said the longer I left it before wearing glasses the better. Our eyes can become lazy and reliant upon the glasses. From my experience I know that to be the case.
I am sure Nanna won’t mind me telling you this. While Nanna had the operation at the same as me she again started wearing reading glasses several years ago. I’m not patting myself on the back but I can tell you I still do not always wear glasses (only if I am reading whilst very tired). In the same way your brain becomes stronger when you use it, when you are more reliant on memory. When you take a clean break from texts, social media, games etc.
Studies have suggested reliance on the distraction of technology doesn’t allow your memory to improve or stay strong (just like the reliance on glasses). Go off the grid to improve your memory, to allow your brain to muscle up.
You’ll never regret it.
*Anton Clever is well into his seventh decade … a former teacher, soldier, farm hand, lawyer and businessman (not in that order). He has travelled extensively for business and for international clients. More recently he has been writing … currently a thriller (which will probably not be worthy of publication, he says) and has written but not published a series of “postcards” from various places (including, but not limited to, Victoria, Papua New Guinea, England, France, USA, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Iran) referring to experiences in those places. He has also written for several magazines under a pseudonym on unusual subjects but matters worthy of debate.