Luckyday is challenging the University of Southern Mississippi to a 24 hour technology fast!
Can YOU handle the challenge??1
I know what Luckyday is trying to accomplish by holding this "technology fast." They're trying to get us (read: Generation Y) to look up from our iDongles and Samsung Universes and experience life, to make connections with those around us. As if this isn't what we're doing already.
In one of his TED talks, Ze Frank argues that life is being lived in those devices.2 And while it may seem that a person is ignoring the people and things around them, they are connecting with other humans in ways no different than if it was IRL. Jeff Jarvis goes a step farther and dismisses the whole idea of it being rude to use a phone in front of friends, saying, who's to determine which connection, be it physical or electronic, is more valuable?
Technology allows me to send pictures of stupid little stick figures to my girlfriend when she's feeling sad. Technology allows me to talk face-to-face with someone in the Netherlands. Technology allows me to read, in real time, what Steve Martin thinks about the Super Bowl.
A few days ago, I put out a small service built on Snapchat. I called it "Need A Puppy?" The basic gist of it was that whenever a person sent a snap to the handle "needapuppy", they would instantly receive a cute photo of a puppy. It's just a small script, something I cobbled together after wanting to build a thing using Snapchat's unoffical API. I posted about it and thought that I might get a couple of people to snap me, probably just friends. As of this writing, sixteen people have snapped me a total of thirty-one times. They send snaps of sour gummy worms, their own expectant faces, and their pets. I even got sent a picture of a baby! Without the internet, I never would have been able to connect with these people and see them smile. And this is what the internet is great at doing: bringing people together and letting them connect3.
Whether it's by catching up with a lifelong friend over coffee or sending a picture of a puppy to internet strangers, we're still interacting with flesh-and-blood humans. Humans that have hopes and dreams and irrational fears and inappropriate jokes. Humans be-ing.
To limit the ways we communicate with one another because they're new or because they're not the way we used to does a disservice to all of us.
I'd read enough blog posts and magazine articles and books about how the internet makes us lonely, or stupid, or lonely and stupid, that I'd begun to believe them. I wanted to figure out what the internet was "doing to me," so I could fight back. But the internet isn't an individual pursuit, it's something we do with each other. The internet is where people are.
Baratunde Thurston left social media for 25 days and praised the experience on Fast Company. He argues that technology has its place in our lives but it's a dangerous line to toe.
The greatest gift I gave myself was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness. I don't need to fill every time slot with an appointment, and I don't need to fill every mental opening with stimulus.
I am still a creature of my technological time. I love my devices and services, and I love being connected to the global hive mind. I am neither a Luddite nor a hermit, but I am more aware of the price we pay: lack of depth, reduced accuracy, lower quality, impatience, selfishness, and mental exhaustion, to name but a few. In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them. We have collectively colluded to take this journey, but we've done so inches at a time, not realizing that we have traveled leagues in the process.
While I'm not sure I agree completely with him, I can appreciate taking a break, from real and virtual life alike.