The Three Inch Shield

Technology is awesome isn’t it? With technology, you can be connected wherever you are, as long as you have WiFi access that is.  Technology has brought Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SMS messaging and whatever you might need into one tiny little gadget.  You can keep in touch with your friends, relatives, and whoever else is important in your world whether you are on the bus, at the supermarket, at the airport, or in the bookshop. While checking your various social media apps, you can also be listening to your music on the same device.

This technology has allowed us to be so connected, and yet so disconnected.  Obviously connected, but disconnected? Well, how many times have you walked into your apartment building with your headphones on, texting away? Do you do that while you’re in the lift? On the bus? When was the last time you had a random conversation just because you were sitting next to someone on the train? Or been shopping alone and just started talking to a random stranger at the bookshop? Or stopped, got your headphones off and had a chat with your neighbour? When was the last time you got started talking to a nice looking person at a cafe? Would be much easier if both of you didn’t have your headphones stuck in your ears wouldn’t it?

As much technology can be used to keep us connected, have we become a generation that uses technology as a personal shield? I used to know someone who would pick up his mobile phone and check something on it whenever he was uncomfortable in a situation, like a long conversation, or an outing where he had nothing to say.  He is probably not the only person in the world who does this.

Yes, sometimes when you are on the bus, you are physically in each other’s faces (literally), and this tiny thing is the only way you can gain some semblance of breathing space.  However, are we also using this little thing as a shield against facing ourselves? When you get home after a busy day of having your headphones in your ears, are you still checking your apps on your phone and are those same headphones still in your ears? I’m embarrassed to say, that sometimes, I am, and I do.

We are a generation afflicted with “busyness,” always moving around, doing things, endlessly “connecting,” frantic.  And mobile technology, despite claims that it gives us more time, actually makes us even busier. Busyness however, can be another form of deflection. Personally, I am always busy when there are emotions that I don’t want to deal with.  These are the times when I simply can’t make time to sit and meditate, or need to have some form of noise on all the time.  Having my mobile phone only makes it easier.

One of my dearest friends and yoga instructors, Muz, who doesn’t take the train much, commented a few weeks ago that the last time he took the train, he was struck by how nobody connected with each other. Nobody even looked at each other, much less shared a smile.  In fact people got really awkward when he smiled at them.  Really, what kind of weird person smiles at random people? Well, the human kind.

Connecting can be done through a look, a smile, word, listening, and touch. Obviously, you wouldn’t touch a stranger without cause, but this leaves many other ways of connecting. When most people are looking at their books, smart phones or laptops, and listening to music, it really doesn’t allow much connection does it? And when you have the same things going while you are alone, how are you connecting with yourself?

Personally, yes, I love how technology allows me to talk to my mother while I am doing my grocery shopping, and how I can get friends who are in the neighbourhood to join me by checking in on Facebook.  However, there is also a need to be wary. This tiny gadget, while can be used to connect, can also be used as a shield. The main question however, is why do we need this shield?

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