Disconnectivity: You Should Try It

September 03, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

“Society relies too much on technology. We’re losing our ability to connect to people. We care far more about our virtual personalities than our actual relationships.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard renditions of these statements before…and we all definitely think about what they mean to us. More often than not, however, those thoughts are interrupted by the vibration of a Whatsapp, an email, or Facebook message.

My parents told me a few months ago that for two weeks this summer, we’d be on a cruise travelling around Alaska. But they didn’t first gush about how beautiful the sceneries would be, or all the things we could do on the cruise – the first thing they told me was that I’d have no Wi-Fi for those days.

That hit me hard…they thought I’d find it a pressing task to be disconnected from the world. I knew it wouldn’t be, but I was still interested to find out if I felt like I was missing anything.

For the duration of the cruise, we were pretty much removed from the world. Wi-Fi was available, but was extremely, extremely expensive (understandably, because the Pacific Ocean isn’t too laptop friendly) and quite slow. CNBC, BCC World News, and Fox News were available via satellite, so we were kept updated on major world news events. Aside from that, most days were spent with no connectivity…but more importantly, an ceaseless, extraordinary view. On select days, the ship would dock in various Alaskan towns (Skagway, Juneau, Ketchiken), where free Wi-Fi was available briefly…for about ten minutes in each town. I’ll admit, I did buy Wi-Fi once on the cruise during the 24-hour HKU course add-drop period – but getting accepted in time into one decent Common Core course was so worth it. I also shamefully got in a few token Instagram pictures and snapchats during my ten minutes of Wi-Fi on port days.

However that said, without a screen occupying me every other moment, I had the time to watch things, people, places around me. I’ve always considered myself sufficiently observant, but on this trip I realised just how little I see, or listen to. A moment I would normally have spent replying to a text, was spent watching an elderly couple, both 80-something years old, laugh uncontrollably over something, their fingers entwined. There was another moment, where for a split second, I looked out at the ocean, and out of sheer luck I saw a gigantic whale swimming nearby. Instead of running my finger on the edge of my phone glass, I’d touch tree surfaces, icy cold water, seagulls flying right by me. Really, really small things that would normally go unnoticed, genuinely made my day, and I guess I wondered how many moments I probably miss on all the other days where I’m not forced to stay disconnected.

Occasionally, if I want to avoid an awkward encounter/conversation with someone, I’ll stare at my phone screen like its a winning lottery ticket. It is literally the perfect object to avoid eye-contact, confrontations and other uncomfortable situations. I’m quite certain most of you do it too. Succinctly put by a wise man, “checking your phone after someone else pulls out their phone is the yawn of our generation”.  Inevitably, I had a lot of awkward encounters on the trip. But I also met many amazing people, and always learnt something through their quirky conversations. I was pleasantly reminded of how fascinating people are compared to handheld devices.

Having so many crazy experiences in such a short time showed me who I really wanted to share them with, and truthfully, most days I didn’t even realise I had no technology by my side. I barely missed it and things were just calmer. Coming back to my phone after days and being bombarded with things I’d normally wasted time on was an eye-opener of sorts.

I guess ultimately, the “cliched” articles talking about our reliance on technology make some very valid points. Because of my phone, I’ve missed appreciating little things around me. I’m also sure that in the coming months I’ll forget about the last month and continue dividing significant parts of my attention to my phone, but till that happens, I’m going to stick to keeping my phone on Airplane mode as much as I can.

If you’re with friends, place your phones in the middle of the table and make the first person to touch their phone pay the bill.  Enable the “Do Not Disturb” function on your iPhone on a permanent basis. Or just put your phones on Airplane mode for a few hours during the day – trust me, you won’t miss much. In fact, you’ll probably miss a lot more if you don’t.

Hope this first semester is treating you guys well! :)