Does technology lead to emotional laziness?
So, tonight, after a long day, I finally settled on the couch to enjoy some alone time. I started texting a friend. She had a horrible day. Truly awful. She had taken her small son in to see the doctor and after wrestling him into submission for a battery of blood tests, the fire alarm went off. Then, the doctor went home before the tests were even done. It called for some outrage on my part. And I felt outraged. Then I realized, as I was typing “What?!?!?!” into the text box, that my body language, heart-rate, and surroundings were totally incongruent with what I was writing. I was literally eating frosted mini-wheats while wrapped in a velvety blanket. It got me to thinking about Twitter and all the ways we engage in heated debates and empathetic connection. It’s kind of like those rides at theme parks where you strap yourself in and become a part of an immersive screen experience. The chairs shake. There is sound all around. It feels as if you are dipping and swerving with the camera. But the whole time it is completely climate controlled. There isn’t any real fear for personal safety. There isn’t the harsh reality of the actual space. Just an experience that allows for a thrill minus the risk. I pondered that tonight, sitting on my couch in my pajamas, thinking of all the times I have engaged in outraged conversations or encouragements of one kind or another. It’s not that the feelings behind the words weren’t honest — just that they lack the depth of an actual encounter. I wonder if the ease at which I can engage on all levels of the emotional spectrum without actually experiencing those emotions has made me a lazy communicator?
On Twitter or while texting, I can be engaged in multiple activities and still respond “appropriately.” I can multi-task the shit out of everyday outrage — and not even furrow my brow in the process. It’s awesome because I can appear completely engaged while doing a million different things. It’s kind of amazing and kind of terrible at the same time. I’m reminded of a picture I took early in the summer. I was driving my kids to this little town almost three hours away (I can’t even remember the name of it) because my son had lost his 2DS, and I was buying him a new one off of craigslist. Seriously. About an hour and a half in we stopped on the side of the road because the boys had to pee. There was a railing that separated the road from this beautiful grass-covered slope leading to a glassy lake. The boys went down to the lake, urinated, then came back up to the car. The whole thing lasted 3 minutes. I snapped a picture and posted it on facebook with the caption, “Summer in Alaska” I think.
Isn’t it pretty? And soooo misleading? It looked as if I had taken my children to frolic in the wilds of Alaska the beautiful instead of subjecting them to 5 hours in the car for a new video game. I don’t regret putting the picture up — it’s a great shot. And I truly enjoyed that moment. It’s just that all this technology really lets me lead two very different lives. And while I am really connecting with other people, and conversing with them, it is often happening in very disconnected ways. The photo is real. The caption was true. But that was not my real experience that day, and that bothers me a little.
It reminds me of online dating. While in that world, I got to be a total slob on the couch while texting different men who were looking at the pictures I had posted and imagining that was me. I mean, the pictures were of me — but me at the best angles. Me when all the stars aligned and the light was just right. And I was doing the same. Looking at this avatar of sorts. Talking to someone while looking at their latest (or not latest) cool adventure shots. Only really, they were probably lying on their own couch, tighty-whities on, dishes in the sink, etc. It’s all so almost real. Just real enough to be interesting. Just real enough to be true. Technically.
I hope that all this lazy sharing and living doesn’t translate into lazy being. I have heard stories of traveling groups of tourists who pretend to play volleyball for the photo op. I used to think it was funny, but now I’m worried that I might be living my life that way. It is so easy to go through all the motions of connection without actually feeling the interactions you are participating in. Come on. How many of you have typed LOL while eating a sandwich and binge-watching Netflix? I don’t want to post one thing and actually live another. But as long as there is technical truth behind it all, and I can be safe and lazy in the comfort of my own home, it is awfully tempting to be a tourist, taking snapshots of my own almost life.