digital connection

A reminder of the past

Remember when we used technology as a tool instead of a replacement for face-to-face connection?

I found this photo on an old flash drive. I had downloaded all of my pictures before deleting my LiveJournal account. (Does anyone else remember LiveJournal?) It’s funny how I hoard some things, like letters and other memorabilia, and consistently purge others, like my online footprints.

Back to the photo. It lived in a folder called Elodie. The entire collection made me smile and not just because it reminded me of high school memories. At the risk of being overly sentimental and analytical at the same time, it brought me back to a time when technology wasn’t an addiction, a time when I used tech as a way to enhance, instead of replace, connection.

Let me set it up for you…

In high school, I studied French. The German teacher ran a well-established student-exchange program, so our French teacher wanted to start a parallel program for us francophones. (I’d like to take moment to pause and check myself. I want to recognize my privilege for having foreign language programs at my high school, that these programs were well-taught, for the availability of this exchange program, for my parents and I being able to afford to participate and for a number of other things that are conveyed in those opening statements and beyond.) After everything, our teachers paired six American students with six French students.

Our host students were the first to write letters of introduction in English. The other American girls just sent back letters or emails, but I really wanted to be different. In the era of MTV Cribs and True Life, I decided on a “Day in the Life” photo-letter… to Elodie. I took a picture in each class, showing our classroom setup, my friends, cafeteria food, band practice, school assignments, a little bit of everything. The picture here was my calculus project. (Haha–I use to enjoy math, until I met calculus.) Elodie responded with tons of questions and her own photo-diary. Our emails were animated, punctuated with lots of exclamation points and question marks.

Fast forward to a flight across the Atlantic, a train ride to a car rental center and to the moment we crawled out of a cramped 7-passenger van in the little town of La Flèche, France. Most of the host families were waiting for us, so I scanned the group. I saw that my hosts were the last ones and hadn’t yet joined the rest of us. I turned to see a few people walking towards us and I ran to greet Elodie with bisoux and a hug! The other girls stood around timidly, but I felt like I had known Elodie for a long time.

That’s the power of digital connection.

Distancing myself from digital addiction and getting back to real connection

Relationships with deep connection becomes harder to find and harder to maintain as we get older. With this in mind, I started to pay better attention and be more mindful of my screen time. A few months ago, I deleted the last of my social media accounts; Instagram was the last holdout.

Instead of texting short messages here and there, I try to call my out-of-town friends at least once a month. I’ll either sit outside or go for a walk, but I give them my undivided attention. I’m also working on listening better when I’m out with friends.

I also downloaded an app called Moment onto my phone. It’s an app that tracks screen-time and allows you to set daily limits. You can also set notifications to remind yourself of screen time at intervals. (Mine are set to remind me every 10 minutes.)

I’m not trying to condemn anyone. Tech can be an awesome resource. The problem is when it becomes all-consuming and ceases to facilitate online-to-offline time. What are your thoughts? How has technology helped create a connection for you? What tactics do you use to balance your use? Share your tips or stories!

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