Mark Zuckerberg Broke the World
It wasn’t that long ago that once upon a time, in home nestled into the forest, I lived with my husband, my cat and my dog. Absent from our existence was the Internet, i-phones or social media. We walked in the early mornings, read the newspaper before work and devoured books that we discussed late into the night.
Two days a week we went to the gym to push around weights, then had taco bowls at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. We sat on the patio whenever possible so that we could take in the view and the beauty of Boulder’s Flat Irons. In these times, no one was on a phone. People made eye contact with each other and someone having a conversation with you never interrupted because a better conversation in the form of a text came along. I felt like we were all somehow nicer people then. Maybe that’s just nostalgia talking, but I often feel like Mark Zuckerberg broke the world.
When we first got Internet, it was a dial up service, shared with our landline. You couldn’t be on the Internet if you were on the phone. Those who got the first cell phones had the need to speak too loudly while on them, as if to say, “look at me, I’m so important on my cell phone.” At rapid speed, we entered a time of immediacy. The Internet and email would soon follow that instant access to everyone and everything, and that would be followed by stress. With an email and a phone, you could be found at any time. Suddenly there were no pauses in the day in which to catch your breath.
Social media started out as fun, but then we all morphed into avatars of our selves, posting what we had for breakfast and perfect pictures of our children, vacations and dogs. It wasn’t too long before our beliefs, politics, and neurosis crept into those posts. Did any of us hear that terrible ripping sound that literally tore us into camps? One day, I looked up and instead of seeing the Flat Irons, I saw that everyone was looking down at their phones, texting, scrolling, downloading apps – so many apps. Those apps invaded my home with panels that controlled everything from the lawn watering schedule to the home security system. I found myself longing for buttons and knobs as I tried to navigate the new digital world of touch screens. The meaning of touch became so different.
The Sunday mornings of newspapers and black tea went away because the newspapers grew too thin to hold interest. Everyone was advertising on the internet. Newspapers could be read online. We all got a website, a blog, a brand, social media handles, and again I was left with that feeling that once upon a time, we were nicer people. We had listened more and touched more. We enjoyed walking together and having a conversation about life our challenges and our delights. No more. I’ve had to ask hiking buddies to turn off their phone on the trail so that I could enjoy the peace of the forest.
Every other day I think about getting off of social media, but my own cloying sense of wanting “visibility” kicks in and I stay, yelling into the echo chamber inhabited by a million different writers to join in the chorus of “look at me,” “buy my book,” and “did you see what I had for breakfast?” And to think that I even entertain “visibility” as being a necessity in this world. “Look at me.” Does anyone see anyone else anymore?
I remember my grandmother, Julia. How in her lifetime she witnessed the advent of the automobile, the airplane, the wiring of her farm house for a phone. And I thought, I will never see those profound kind of changes in my lifetime – but then the digital age was upon us. I used to kneel in the dirt next to my grandma in the garden. We picked beans and peas, pulled out the weeds and sometimes she would finger the rosary beads in her apron pocket and pray over her plants. I miss her and more, I miss those times before the air was filled with the loneliness wrought by technology.
The old adage cautions us that we can’t ever go back, but I think we have some serious thinking to do about how we move forward. How do we connect our hearts – there’s not an app for that. How do we live life fully, out loud with our bodies and not just our heads looking at screens all day? How do we come together and care about each other, share our lives in ways that feed and nourish our souls, without glancing at our phones?
I’m having lunch with a friend today. She’s my age and I know that we will both leave our phones in our purses until it’s time to go. Then we’ll ask someone to take a picture of us with one of those phones to memorialize the lunch, to assure us and remind us that we sat across the table from one another, sharing a meal and old-fashioned conversations about where life is taking us.
In the last breaths of my life, will I ask to see the pictures on my cell phone? Will I reach for the light beckoning on the horizon, calling me to the heart and mind of the divine? At some point, you really do have to put down your phone down and look at what’s in front of you.