A man walked into the gourmet deli where I work one afternoon. He headed over to the deli case, head bent, fully engrossed in a text message. I put on my most helpful smile and approached the edge of the counter.
“Hi, sir. How may I help you?”
There was no reply. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, my helpful smile plastered dutifully to my face. Finally, he lazily raised his eyes, still texting, and gestured towards a bowl of herbed orzo. I nodded and reached into the case.
“What size container would you like?”
Again, I was met with silence. I looked up to find him, once again, engrossed in his phone. After waiting for what seemed like a second eternity, he raised his eyes once more, blinking his way out of the media haze. When he saw that I was waiting for his reply, he looked almost irritated.
“Medium, whatever,” he snapped.
After many more similar exchanges, his order was complete. Because his hands were full…with his phone…I offered to carry his items to the register. Without so much as a nod, walked to the checkout. As I bagged the last item, I took a deep breath and asked one final question.
“Would you like your receipt today?”
I placed the receipt into the brown paper bag.
“Have a good night.”
Head still down, he left.
I would usually assume he was having a bad day, except every instance he comes in, we repeat the same exchange. He is so engrossed in his device that he cannot even stop long enough to tell an employee what size container of potato salad he wants. Unfortunately his behavior is not a phenomenon. Everywhere you look, you see technology engrossed individuals. There are concert-goers recording the entire show instead of experiencing it. Families are eating together while all staring at the TV screen. We live in an age where we can connected to almost anyone or anything with the tap of a finger, and yet, at times, it seems we have grown farther apart from one another. I keep asking myself, “how has technology changed the world?” With this new technology, our connections haven’t improved: they have changed.
Our new-found modes of connection are astoundingly powerful, in the positive and the negative. How has technology changed the world? On the one hand, we’re exposed to information and people we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. We can keep up friendships, learn about non-profits in Haiti, support local artists; the benefits are not lost and the generations who use technology certainly understand this.
However, as with anything positive, there are also negatives; one of those being that technology allows us to live a fantasy life. We can “like” causes we will never give a dime to, share and save images of dream homes and projects we will never create, and research destinations that will never be seen.
Technology is a powerful tool, but only if you use it to motivate actions.
I have watched countless peers ogle for hours at images of what they would like to be doing on tumblr. I have witnessed friends feeling torn down because they are constantly bombarded with the highlight reel of someone else’s life, making them feel as if their goals and lives aren’t as “cool” or “interesting”. Again, media provides an unmatchable platform on which the world can gather to share ideas, but ideas that never come to fruition remain just that; intangible dreams.
Now the challenge: what if you were to spend a year devoted to reconnecting with the world around you? In the year 2016, I will embark on a journey, entitled Global 365, to discover just that. One year of continuous travel to six different countries working with six diverse non-profits, all to see what happens when a millennial uses her media to reconnect with the physical world around her, not just the virtual one.
As I travel, I will keep the internet up to date on my findings and adventures via my blog. During the course of that year, I will also be writing a book detailing the entire journey which will be made available for purchase, but the revolution doesn’t stop there!
I invite you to follow my blog and join the quest. Whether you decide to finally take that road trip to the Grand Canyon or attend the art fair right in your home town, I’d love to hear how you are reconnecting and changing the world around you. Together, we can be a community that is connected not only online, but offline, because we matter, people matter, and our actions matter.
This is a guest post from homeschool graduate, coffee fanatic, and recent college drop-out, Taylor Nieman. She’s a young American writer with a passion for travel and the-road-less-taken. Her greatest desire is that through her blog and writings, found HERE, young people will be inspired to forge their own path and encouraged to live their “impossible” dream.