Technology has propelled itself from being a simple tool complementing daily life to an absolute necessity. Three out of four people in the world have cell phones, not to mention several gadgets and applications to spice these up. The world is increasingly interconnected and those who prefer the old school low-tech days are rapidly being left behind. Communication through technology and social networks are playing an increasing role in turning private lives public, broadcasting everything from having the best day of your life on Facebook or complaining about the company you work for on Twitter. Even business are preferring candidates with strong social media acumen. You have to be extremely measured as you are under public scrutiny: anything you say will be traced back to your activity on the worldwide web.
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I recall when I moved back to Ottawa in 1999, technology was still a communication tool somewhat disregarded by many. At the time, chatrooms and messengers were viable options to keeping in touch with friends and family far, far away. International phone calls were expensive as there were limited or no long distance plans – I remember obscene bills prompting me to swear by e-mails – so communication with the world outside your city was much more difficult. After all these major breakthroughs, we can now spend entire days exchanging instant voice messages with our favourite people in the opposite end of the globe with minimal fuss. Back in the late 90s, we all felt these technological advancements were convenient but we had not fallen into the deep abyss of temptation that we are currently have. I believe we valued face-to-face interpersonal relations. Now, we feel helpless without being able to keep tabs on those we care about if we have been out of touch for 15 minutes.
This lack of development actually facilitated my transition, not only back to Canada, but to being completely on my own at 18 years of age. My parents were in a different country, which led to infrequent communication, my friends from school had ventured to all corners of the world and my brother was about 800 kms away – he was geographically the closest ally to my cause. Without having that ease of spending time on the phone with them or chatting via Skype, MSN, WhatsApp and all these other applications, I was obliged to come to terms with my reality. I knew there was a world beyond my radius of operation which I could no longer influence or be part of and I absolutely had to learn how to make things works as best I could on my own. If I needed to help getting out of a jam, nobody would come to my rescue – or at least it would take a long time for it to translate into a result. This approach was similar to other postings, as through my own experience, I fought hard to earn my place in a new life where I felt I belonged.
Nowadays, anywhere you go, you will find people’s attention consumed by their phones, ipads, portable computers, mp3 players, etc. Screens are a must to operate as a normal human-being. We cannot afford to distance ourselves from these electronics in order to communicate with people miles away or who are not in our immediate line of vision. It is relatively impossible to feel alone or to truly have some quality alone time being “off the grid”. Many marriages and relationships blamed their problems in paradise on television but the market saturation of these electronic tolls are creating a much greater destructive force by way of dependencies, contributing to the already severed household dialogue. As soon as your gadget rings, your attention is diverted from what you are doing back to it and nothing else matters. “I have to find out if Ted bought that TV he planning on purchasing.” I have seen this happen countless times in meetings, get togethers, pedestrians crossing a street – and almost getting hit by a vehicle in the process due to their addiction - and even my closest relationships when I am face to face in a deep conversation. Make sure when you switch off, you hit the proper switch.
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It is perhaps easiest for people who have relatives abroad to fall into this destructive addiction – I know, I have family abroad as well. Although it is healthy to keep in touch with relatives, it is detrimental to your own well-being to be disconnected from your daily life you now call home. So many of these people know every detail about the old country - a place where they may never return to live - rather than what is happening in the country, city and community where they currently live. Furthermore, feeding this urge to stay connected with a faraway place feeds feelings of alienation, depression and home-sickness. They often feel that the grass is greener on the other side, but if this were true, then why did they leave their slice of heaven to make home somewhere else? I encourage you all to take some time off the grid, spend quality “techno-free” time with your families and closest friends, and invest in your own mental hygiene regularly. Technology is only a tool not a life support system.