I thought I was above complete reliance on technology. I was sorely mistaken. I am guilty. I am an addict.
I remained ignorant of the extent to which I let technology control my life until someone directly pointed it out to me. As people immerse themselves within their highly digital culture they are at risk of becoming trapped.
Techno-cocooning, as it is called, is when one increasingly absorbs themselves in technology to avoid social interaction. As a college student of the digital age, my life revolves almost completely around technology.
The first day of class forced me to notice multiple examples of how common techno-cocooning is.
There were 10 of us seated in an oblong circle of desks, we were a good 15 minutes early for class and though none of us were farther than a few feet from each other—no one spoke. I looked around taken aback by the silence. Students hunched over their desks; anxiously scrolling through the alternate universe that their Smartphone provides.
Each of us was so absorbed into this form of technology that we neglected each other. Almost instinctively we avoided interaction.
In fact, it rarely occurs to most of us that we could turn to another, look them in the eyes and ask how their day is going. What are we so afraid of? That our classmate will think us weird if we strike up conversation?
After class, I adjusted my over the ear headphones to a snug fit, plugged in and turned the volume higher and higher. I couldn’t hear anyone or anything around me. I sealed myself off and entered another world, my own world, safe from interaction with Earth.
Though it may feel safe and comforting when technology creates a barrier between us and the dangers of the real world; how safe is it really?
I couldn’t hear if a car honks as I jaywalk. I couldn’t hear if someone followed me home. We lose sight of everything that is around us, only focusing on this digital sphere we create for ourselves. Socializing becomes more of a chore, as it would be a burden to remove an earbud to have a short conversation.
Technology becomes an easy and publicly acceptable vehicle to avoid communicating or even acknowledging the people surrounding us.
In her book, Alone Together, Sherry Turkle examines how reliance on the virtual world takes away from daily experiences and encounters with other human beings:
“As we instant-message, e-mail, text and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude…Tethered to technology, we are shaken when that world ‘unplugged’ does not signify, does not satisfy.”
The more this ‘unplugged’ world dissatisfies us, the more we turn to the comfort and safety of our cocoon. I notice it constantly now-people too plugged in to notice what is really going on.
What would happen if we all took a step back and unplugged more often?
My feeling is we could each take away something valuable from this effort. Forcing ourselves to communicate (face to face) with classmates, co-workers, strangers and friends could prove beneficial.
Up close and personal encounters ask us to not only learn about another person but ourselves as well. We become more involved in our communities and stray away from ignoring others. We could make a new friend, learn an intriguing fact, spread an idea or thought we have, we could open our eyes to our surrounding and see them in a new light.
Unplugging allows you to observe the world we live in, it allows us to experience rather than simply exist superficially. You can hear and see things you might never have before. This opens another realm, the natural, which is full of endless exploration and opportunity that technology distracts us from.
Distancing ourselves from technology can lead to reflection upon how we spent our time on phones and laptops. Evaluating our previous contributions can help us to stray away from disseminating average content. As we become aware of our presence on the internet and with technology we learn to think before we click which can in turn force us to contribute more meaningfully instead of just a fix to our boredom.
I challenge you to reconsider the next time you are about to create a techno-coccoon. Before you plug in pause to ask your self how you could benefit from powering off your beloved techie device until it is necessary to use it.
Hayley is studying journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can.