My friend recently asked me why I am always on my phone. I told her that my phone was like my extended prosthetic limb that I couldn’t live without. But this got me thinking about what I would do without my phone and what people did back in the day before technology and cell phones…
Einstein discovered Gravity as he sat on a bench and watched an apple fall. If Einstein had a cell phone and had been checking his emails would he have seen the apple fall and wondered why it was falling down instead of up? In discussions of the implications technology is having on us today, a controversial issue is whether technology is offering us ways to avoid being alone with our own thoughts. Others contend that indeed all our free time is being taken up by our gadgets whilst others feel that this is not necessarily a negative thing. I however, feel that time to be by ourselves is important and we should create time for it and avoid being swallowed up by the screen.
I believe that introspection is critical to young people because it helps us come to terms with our daily challenges and unlock the creative cavities of our brains. Kate Murphy in her article for the New York Times titled “No Time To Think”, admits that introspection is “[an] imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head.” Last week I was trying to come up with a story line for my short story essay which was due in three days. I asked friends for ideas and they gave me nothing. But they did all say something along the lines of “just start writing, it will come to you as you go.”
I tried following this advice but it did not work. My storyline only came to me as I sat down alone in the sports field watching the sun set. In thinking about my own experience and what Murphy is saying, the essence of her argument is completely correct: the answers do not lie at our finger tips, but in our neurons. The only problem is that we barley have time to listen to ourselves because we are too embossed in our gadgets.
Stephanie Brown a psychologist in Silicon Valley is right that “there’s this wide spread belief that thinking and feeling will only slow down and get in your way, but it’s the opposite.” Thus, we should all give ourselves time to unplug from time to time to allow ourselves to tap into our creative ingeniousness.
Introspection makes us human and helps us build empathy for one another. The famous American comedian Louis C. K. appearing on Conan O’Brian’s talk show talks about how cell phones make it difficult to build empathy especially among children. He compares a child who calls another child fat in their face to a child who texts the same statement. He says that a child who says it to the other child’s face will immediately see the negative reaction that the other child will have but the one who texts will not see the reaction of the child who reads the text. Seeing someone’s reaction is important he argues because it allows you to see the impact your words have on other individuals and this increases your ability to empathise with others.
Author Danah Boyd disagrees with this school of thought. In her article “The Social Lives of Networked Teens” she says, “What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950’s s and the mall in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now.” I do not agree. By focusing on technology as a recreational sport, Boyd overlooks the deeper problem of human interaction which lacks greatly now. The drive-in and the mall still offered the option for teens to sit and think as they waited for an order or ate their food but technology does not and this is where the problem lies. Sherry Turkle, professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees that “[teens] need time to discover themselves, time to think,” and this is an activity vital to growing a culture of empathy within our society. Ultimately what is at stake here is not only our humanity but also our ability to easily unlock and access our creativity, our Einstein-ness. This for me I feel is something we are trading in for a Facebook notification and a Twitter follow back. This is not to say we are no longer creative or inventive today, but our efficiency at it and also our ability to process emotions can definitely improve if we learn to regularly unplug.
Main image taken from oneseventeenmedia.wordpress.com