I was recently covering an elementary school Christmas concert in Burns Lake. It was adorable, all the little kids were dressed up, singing and having a great time on stage. But if you looked away from the stage, you would see a sea of proud parents – all holding professional cameras, smart phones and tablets. In fact, I saw one woman filming with her tablet on one hand and shooting an iPhone video with her other hand simultaneously (that is actually better coverage than what I was hoping to do; I don’t think I can compete with that).
I was actually afraid to stand up and move around because I knew I was going to ruin 50 different videos by doing that.
Although the excessive use of technology becomes obvious in children’s Christmas concerts, fortunately you still don’t see a lot of it in small towns. At least when I talk to people here, I don’t have the feeling that they are dividing their attention between me and their Facebook feed.
But are we using technology as a tool for our well being, or are we getting addicted to it? Is technology helping us create long-lasting relationships? Is it helping us enjoy the present moment with the ones we love? Or is it distracting us from what’s right in front of us?
The latter seems to be the case, at least in bigger centres.
Have you ever been to Japan? You would notice that the incredibly busy streets and subways are surprisingly silent. Everyone (and I really mean everyone) has their headphones on, and their eyes are glued to their phones. People are not making eye contact, talking to each other or paying attention to what’s surrounding them – they are not living the present moment (I am pretty sure this is what a modern-day zombie apocalypse would look like).
Sure, a lot of the behaviour I just mentioned in Japan is cultural, but the scenario doesn’t seem to be that different in cities such as Toronto. If you walk into a cafe or hop on a streetcar, people are also starring at their phones incessantly and not interacting with each other.
While it seems as if the situation is getting worse because children are now playing with smartphones before they can even speak, some experts say technology use will peak and decline. Of course, technology will keep evolving, but some experts say the next generation will start slowing down and realizing what’s healthy and what isn’t.
I completely include myself in the criticism of this column. I was recently at a Christmas party where I wasn’t allowed to take photos or make videos. The result: that’s all I could think about for hours! I still managed to take a couple of photos and one video while trying to hide my phone. And, just like most people, I find myself constantly starring at my phone.
The truth is that texting has become our main form of communication.
When people are having any kind of important moment, whether it’s a graduation, a birthday, a wedding or a Christmas party, everyone is taking photos and videos instead of actually enjoying the moment. It has become more important to show how happy we are on Facebook than to actually be happy.
The question really comes down to: Are we really capturing the perfect moment? Or are we missing the moment entirely because we are too busy holding our cameras?
If someone arrived from the past and saw us today they would probably think we are dysfunctional (and they would be right).
So think about this next time you’re with a friend or having a party and you feel the urge to stare at your phone. Take a moment to look around you and see what’s happening. Pay attention to the present moment, don’t post it on Facebook and watch how you feel.