Do you ever have a day where it seems like every person you’ve ever known needs something from you? I’m talking about the kind of day where you are one vibration away from chucking your phone into the garbage and moving to a cabin in the woods. The kind of day where every effort to respond to your Inbox is mocked by another incoming e-mail. The kind of day where one more person saying your name just might result in you checking yourself into an asylum.
Modern technology is incredible. With it, we can perform open heart surgery. We can travel by air and visit anywhere on our planet with ease. We can be present on a laptop screen from thousands of miles away at family events. Those are the big things that we take fore-granted. I didn’t even mention the modern convenience of indoor plumbing, light bulbs, and air conditioning. We are surrounded by incredible feats of human kind every day, and it barely gives us pause.
As a result of us forgetting modern conveniences are not natural miracles but rather manmade creations, we seem overly zealous to use them. There was a time when coming home from work meant just that. Now, your boss and co-workers have access to you 24/7, and for some reason, it is rude to simply ignore them. It’s unacceptable in our society to ignore a phone call and just be with the people you’re with. We have created this expectation to be accessible to literally every person we’ve ever encountered, and we feel guilty not responding to a text message.
There are so many great things that have come from this technology. Being able to send grandma a picture, monitoring our heart rates, and calling 911 in any emergency are a few examples. At the same time, we need to stop and think.
I advocate for a healthy lifestyle, and it goes so much further than your protein intake and energy output. It goes into your emotional and social well-being, too, and I firmly believe I am negatively impacted by technology every day. In our society, it has become acceptable for people to send text messages at literally any time of day – even one in the morning. I can literally not spend a night in my bed asleep without someone trying to reach me to tell me something. My generation doesn’t see anything wrong with that, and therein lies the problem.
I cannot tell you the last time I just got to be by myself or just got to spend time with someone else. Instead of getting to relax with my cat, I face constant incoming messages from every outlet. Instead of spending an evening with my roommates, I spend an evening with them and their best friends and boyfriends and whoever else they happen to be texting.
I’m not innocent. I do the same thing, but I’m trying to do better.
I don’t think our generation has realized this is a problem, but it’s time we start. One of my professors told me recently that the thing she misses most about her early teaching days is the chatter in classrooms. She admitted that at the time, it was always a little irritating to get everyone to hush so she could start to lecture, but she says she misses that now. Instead of looking around at students becoming friends and sharing their weekend stories, she steps up to the lectern and observes a sea of cell phones. Students speaking to the friends they have outside of the classroom and ignoring the human beings beside them.
At 21 years old, I am starting to teach myself that it’s okay for me to need time to be me. It’s okay for me to ignore a call or text message and just be present in the moment, not engaged in a virtual conversation. It’s okay to leave an e-mail unopened until morning. I do not have to be accessible when I get home in the evening, and people need to start being okay with that. When I get in bed at night, I have discovered a wonderful function called “do not disturb,” and I now use it without fail the minute I get under the covers. Whatever your funny drunk story, your emergency, your need of me, it is just going to have to wait until an appropriate time in my life.
I will no longer be a slave to virtual communication, and I challenge you to do the same. If you don’t set parameters in your own life, nobody else will. You can control when you are available, and people will adjust accordingly. Health and wellness go beyond BMI. Evaluate your lifestyle today; there is always room for improvement.