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Learning to Disconnect

Learning to Disconnect


It’s 2023. We (the world) are hopelessly attached to our smartphones, tablets, and virtual assistant technology. The thought of leaving home without our iPhone is almost as terrifying as waking up in a room full of clowns. If we didn’t have Alexa on standby, how would we know a package had been delivered? Open the door and look? No thank you!
Jokes aside, it’s easy to see why everyone has become so enamored with and reliant on modern technology. It makes life easier. Well, in some ways. Having a GPS system built into the dash or on your smartphone is way more convenient than pulling off to the shoulder and unfolding a map that covers the entire square footage of your car. A fob only requires a quick swipe where often in the past we had to turn a key upside down, wiggle it side to side, and balance the day’s mail and takeout container in the other hand. Social media and text messaging have made keeping in touch much easier in the 21st century.
Yes, technology has revolutionized the way we live, but have we become too dependent? Are we doing ourselves an ultimate disservice by not learning some of the rudimentary tasks we’ve now assigned to our machines? Is it affecting our health, both mental and physical, and our ability to socialize and form tight interpersonal relationships? With AI (Artificial Intelligence) being the talk of the town right now, it’s safe to say such pitfalls could be exacerbated in the coming years. Conversely, it’s easy to become a full-on luddite and resist innovations that may very well be beneficial to our health and well-being. What we need is balance. A novel concept these days, I know! Let’s look at some of the ways we can stimulate our own bodies and brains, without discounting the valuable tech that has given us the option not to.
One of the greatest developments in car tech over the last decade and a half is the backup camera. We all use it. However, did you know the majority of backup cameras are limited to an 80-degree view? That leaves room for error. Most of the time, you’re going to be just fine but if something slips into a blind spot… Plus, what if the backup camera is on the fritz or you have to back up in a car that for some reason doesn’t have one? Take some time to acquaint or reacquaint yourself with your left, right, and central mirrors. If you need extra assurance in a challenging situation, turn your head around and take a look for yourself! I guarantee your neck still pivots, even if it’s gotten more used to looking down.
You’ve heard the cries of vinyl snobs, “It sounds warmer, less compressed, and it has more dynamic range!” Newsflash, they’re right. Removing the quality of the sound from the equation, if one listens to music algorithmically through a streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora, you’re foregoing more than a high-fidelity experience. You’re forgoing an entire sensory experience. Music today seems more disposable than ever and not because nostalgia has blinded us into believing the music of yesterday was just so much better. It’s because we no longer engage with it. It’s on in the background, on shuffle, or consumed as a passing fad on social platforms. Head over to Target, buy the vinyl. Soak in the whole experience of perforating the cellophane, removing the LP from its sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and setting the needle. The smell of the new product, the first few cracks as the stylus moves to the starting point of the song and… boom! The sound hits you like a ton of bricks. Alphabetize your vinyl, CDs, or cassettes. Grab the album you want to hear when you want to hear it and listen to it as an album. As a collection of songs telling the story the artist wanted to tell. Not as a single to be eaten, regurgitated, and forgotten. See the artist in concert and don’t leave until you’ve purchased a tour shirt. Engage with music auditorily and visually, as a work of art. Not as an expendable commodity.
Yes, some people are better at retaining knowledge in a much shorter window of time. However, the key to memorization for almost anyone is repetition. Earlier in the article we talked about GPS. It’s an incredible tool that I, myself, use frequently. However, that’s reliance. If you’ve been somewhere 3 or 4 times, try memorizing the route on your own. Remember road numbers or town or street names. Familiarize yourself with cardinal directions. For example, Cleveland is Northwest of Pittsburgh. Create memory markers using natural formations like rocks, trees, lakes, or rivers and manmade ones like businesses, parks, or highway structures. “Ah yes, I remember we crossed the bridge then made a sharp left by the old gas station.” This both trains your mind to be more observant and increases your memorization ability. Place 8-10 random objects in a box. Close the lid, leave the room, and wait 90 seconds. At the end of that 90 seconds, see if you can write down the objects you placed in the box. This forces your mind to retain more information, even information it would otherwise deem frivolous. So, if you leave your phone in the car, you can still remember what you came to the store for.
Finally, for today, let’s talk about communication. When Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, he could’ve never imagined that modern phones would be used for everything but phone calls. Let’s not forget, however, they can still perform that function. While texting and direct messaging on social and email platforms are convenient, they don’t always allow us to convey the clearest or most sincere message. Try replacing, say, ¼ of your text or email threads with a conventional phone call. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you could solve an issue that was taking a week of back and forth to resolve via email. Plus, it’s great to hear the human voice. There’s no better way to detect irony, sarcasm, romantic interest, wit, or disgust!
As you can see, there are a number of conventional (some would say outdated) methods and technologies one can utilize to increase personal engagement and independence. You might be surprised how much happier you seem after checking out from the virtual world for just small increments of time. The feeling of accomplishment you’ll gain from learning a new skill or strengthening your capability. Technology is incredible, but don’t lose yourself in it. Oh, and don’t be afraid to flip on your own light switch. It doesn’t bite; I promise.