Living in the moment

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Columnist

The spectacle is about to begin and I casually glance at my phone. Far from being a simple device to answer phone calls it has become my link to the world, connecting me to a variety of social media platforms, text messages and even a fairly decent quality camera. With horror I notice the battery charge is very low, and I know it will never survive beyond the first few moments of the event. And, just as I predicted, one tweeted photograph in and the entire thing shuts itself off, becoming nothing more than a cold plastic lump in my hand covered in a Kate Spade iPhone case.

I face a decision, of course. Go and charge my phone in order to be connected, or stay where I am and simply live in the moment. As tempted as I am to do the former I do the latter, because even I, someone who takes being connected 24/7 for granted, knows how precious those times we live in the moment can be.

I am old enough to remember a time before cell phones. It was a good part of my life, actually, the years when if you wanted to call home you needed to find a payphone and a dime and the idea of “text messages” seemed a lot closer to Star Trek than real life. Things changed slowly at first, with car phones coming into style, followed soon by clunky cell phones, flip phones and finally the almost impossibly slim and prone to drop-and-break smart phones.

As the technology changed so did our use of it, and with that change came a change in the way we saw the world, as it often seemed we began to see it through our cell phone and not our eyes.

I am as guilty, if not more guilty, than most. Between personal and professional obligations my cell phone is a constant companion, and there is some sense of urgency and even necessity to tweet, post and share.

In a world of text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik and the rest it has become increasingly easy to experience life through a small electronic device. There is some real value in this as we are able to vicariously live the experience of others (for instance I have “seen” political uprisings around the world, “climbed” more than one mountain and attended more concerts, parties and festivals than I can recount), but to some degree it has affected the way we participate in events too as we put a small electronic device between us and the action, acting almost as a filter of the way we view the world.

I am as guilty, if not more guilty, than most. Between personal and professional obligations my cell phone is a constant companion, and there is some sense of urgency and even necessity to tweet, post and share.

To be honest, though, I have come to relish those moments when the battery finally dies and I am freed of the device in my hand, tucking it into a pocket where it stays quietly while I am free to see the world through my own lens.

I often muse about how in a world where we are more connected to each other than ever we seem even more disconnected from ourselves. Many of our connections are tenuous, too, distant associations that are fragile and easily broken. We treat them as if they are quite vital to our existence, but some of us know there was a time before them when we survived just fine and perhaps even thrived in a world where connecting to people took time and effort and even skill as you built genuine relationships based on long conversations and letters written by hand.

There is something very “smoke and mirrors” about our social media connections, and yet we hunger for them because the truth is humans need to connect to each other as we are pack animals to our core.

On occasion, though, a dead cell phone can become a gift.

On occasion, though, a dead cell phone can become a gift. The pressure to “connect” in the Internet world drifts away and instead we connect with the smile of the stranger next to us, exchange a few words with someone walking by and reconnect with basic human interactions developed in real time and not across the flow of the Internet.

The stress of living in the online world is replaced by the ease of living in the moment, observing and simply being present as the world unfolds around us. I do not yearn for the days before technology, but sometimes it is incredibly valuable to remember that even when the artificial falls away and our cell phone dies we still have the ability to connect, to share and to live fully and purely in the moment.

– Connect Weekly –