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Unplugging in the Age of the Internet

The importance of being

A moment in Tibet, 2016

With a blink of the eye, we’re already halfway through 2018. As the past couple of months flew by with traveling and reunions, I gradually recognize how my complicated relationship with social media is shaping my existence as a human being the age of the internet. As much as I love how social media keeps me and my distant friends—especially those from different continents and time zones—connected, I do not like how it tries to mimic and take over real human interactions—not that I think it ever will.

I imagined, what if Facebook and Instagram went away completely? How will it affect me? This imagination first scared me. Yet, as I plunged into this train of thought, I realized that without online social chatter and distractions, I could concentrate better on my priorities, and use all the stress-free time I have to make something really happen in my life, whether it be hanging out with friends, exercising, painting, reading or writing. I should have nothing to fear. I will still have the contact information of people whom I made a real connection, and I will now have time, to actually call them or make plans to hang out. What I really lost, was snapshots of other people’s life. I actually lose nothing of my own.

Two weekends ago, my roommate from my semester exchange at the University of Hong Kong came to Washington DC. For the past one and half year, we’ve probably only texted each other three times. Yet, we spent a whole day catching up. As we chatted everything that happened since we last saw each other, I realized how million-fold I enjoy interacting with people in real life. Not all friendships survive reunions. It made me more than grateful for these relationships that I’ve come to build genuinely in-person.

Face-to-face conversation is more than just talking: it is looking into the other person’s eyes, communicating through body language, feeling the rise of body temperature as your conversation gets heated, and sharing the same air, space and moments of each person’s life.

Technology is so integrated into our lives nowadays. From day to night, we are always plugged in. Honestly, we probably cannot live without it. However, we can choose how we want it to be part of our life. Just like social media, we can decide how we want to use it, instead of letting it control us.

In my opinion, interacting with people through technology is just interacting with a device. Digitization gave us the access and ability to create more resources, but a typed email is not equivalent to a written letter, just like a snapped photo on your phone is no longer as precious as a physical picture that you may frame and keep on your desk. When I receive postcards traveling across the world, even if they only carry a few sentences, I feel so much joy that a typed message will never deliver. Just like reunions are occasions made special, these objects also carry efforts and meanings, which we’re slowly losing today as our lives move forward with technology.

The heavy interaction with devices dulls our senses and sensibilities. I have always believed that life on earth is all interconnected, and there’s something great about human beings, that’s more than our rationality could make sense of. We always have a piece of nature in us, more than a piece of us have in nature. For me, only being in nature makes me truly feel at peace. So yes, some days I’d rather be hanging out with trees, birds, squirrels, than ‘connecting’ with people online. I think unplugging is very important to stay alert and aware of our natural world in the age of the Internet.

I love this quote: “all reality is interaction,” said by an Italian theoretical physicist philosopher and writer, Bravo Rovelli, the man who makes physics sexy (according to the Times). In his words, “reality is a network of granular events; the dynamic which connects them is probabilistic, between one event and another, space, time matter and energy melt in a cloud of probability.”

How beautiful is that!

The second you are not facing the screens, the second you are interacting with live creatures on earth, you step into others’ reality, you became part of their space, time matter, and energy.

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