Technology’s encroachment on our lives — and our need for it

I have a clingy new friend. It’s technology.

There is no consideration of personal space. Everywhere and all the time, it has infiltrated my life. Yet, I need it.

After I finished my 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Google Meet calls for my classes on Wednesday, I walked to the kitchen for a quick meal. My brother was doing virtual homework, my sister was watching a virtual lecture and my first instinct after pouring myself some cereal was to walk right back to my desk and sit in front of my laptop.

I caught myself midstep. Haven’t you been complaining to yourself all day about too much screen time? Do yourself a favor, my conscience instructed me. 

Instead of getting onto Facebook as I ate my chocolate-flavored cereal I redirected myself to the closest place I considered to be the farthest from technology: my backyard. I walked to the vegetable garden my siblings and I have been carefully nurturing. We alternate watering days, but give consistent love. 

I felt the setting sun cast its golden light on me and I subconsciously gave myself the chance to take relaxing breaths: real ones. I wasn’t being bombarded with notifications on my phone, or blinded by the blue light of my laptop as the sky turned dark around me. I was simply breathing and living in harmony with nature. 

But I ran out of cereal. 

On my second serving I walked onto our front porch. There were no people in our cul de sac, only the crows enjoying a snack themselves. I realized as I had been inside for days, I hadn’t noticed that we had reached my favorite type of weather: sunny with a breeze. There’s a difference between feeling it on your skin than to seeing it on the weather app. 

Even with my self-imposed limitations on digital recreational time the technology use is too much for me. I try to be “gentle with myself,” like people have been preaching throughout the pandemic, but am scared I’m misinterpreting what that really means. 

Do I use technology more since it’s my only way to socialize? Or do I start a technology ban so that I don’t get overwhelmed? The problem, I’ve found, is that there isn’t a golden standard applicable for everyone, all the time. 

I desperately need functioning technology during this pandemic. I panic when my laptop starts freezing and my teacher’s lecture starts to crackle. It’s not just my lifeline to education, but to interaction with people outside of my household.

I have never been a social media lover, yet I find myself appreciating how my allotted ten minutes of Snapchat a day can make me feel so much better when I spend it messaging friends I haven’t seen in months. 

I feel like I am searching for a nonexistent balance. One thing I know, however, is that there are too many reasons to be on my laptop every day, and I let myself succumb to all of them. I don’t often prioritize my human need for unfiltered nature. 

As I watched those crows on that beautiful afternoon, I wondered if they knew we were in a pandemic. What would it feel like right now if I could be hopping around with my friends instead of praying my FaceTimes and Zooms will connect? To be feeling the grass beneath me instead of the same hard chair that I got before I knew distance learning would become the norm?

When I went back to my room, I had unread notifications waiting. But I felt ten times better. Maybe, being more “gentle with myself” doesn’t mean giving myself more time to watch Netflix, but rather forcing myself to disconnect — even when it’s only for ten minutes. 

I know my need for functioning technology won’t change any time soon. But maybe instead of using the indoor bike for exercise while I attend virtual college visits, I’ll go on walks outside again now that the smog has cleared. I’ll also keep socializing via text messages and calls in order to prioritize safety, and I’ll keep trying my best with distance learning classes on my laptop. 

It makes sense for technology to be our friend right now — it just can’t be our only one.