Flip the Switch

I was strolling through the neighborhood one morning, my dog yanking me along the sidewalk in a vain attempt to get to that secret place that only dogs know. I heard a young girl, maybe five, shout at the top of her tiny lungs. The sound came from behind a fence and the shouts were garbled at first, her struggling to form the proper words, but the shouting had a discernible melody. And then I heard, clearly, Let it Go. She was singing the Disney song that has become an anthem for this generation.

As I continued down the street and the singing diminished, a realization struck me. As much as we love technology, sometimes we need to let it go.

More and more, our current tech seems to be attached to our bodies such that every waking moment can be lived digitally. Soon we will get those head jacks that William Gibson was so crazy about and we can all be Johnny Mnemonic. But until that day, technology needs to come with a switch so we can turn it off.

Our digital options for media have exploded in the past decade. Back when I grew up there were three, maybe four channels to choose from. Plus cable with about thirty more. Now viewers can cherry pick literally thousands of shows and movies. All at the touch of a button. At some point we need to shut this off and go offline. Just to stay sane. 

The naturalist in me feels that all technology needs to be shut off. Get off the grid and clear your mind. I recently read an article about Christopher Walken. This man has never owned a computer, cell phone or sent an email. An admirable accomplishment to be sure. Yet it goes too far in the other direction.

If it weren’t for the internet and computers, I would only be a fraction as productive in art and writing. Never mind the limitations I would face teaching if I completely eschewed technology.

What is needed is a balance. A way to dive into the internet and digital media but then reemerge. A good example is the news. I receive a digital subscription to my local newspaper. I can quickly breeze through the articles anywhere. But here’s the catch. It has an end point. When I’m done. I put the phone down and go onto other things. I’m not trapped in doom scrolling. 

In the end, that little girl crooning on the other side of the fence was onto something. We do need technology. Without it, you lose touch with the pulse of society. But at the same time, we need to let it go. Flip the switch and just be human for a while.

Tim Kane

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