Thursday, January 28, 2010


I recently read "Generation A" by Douglas Coupland, and I've been thinking about it a lot in my quiet moments, finding myself mulling over various ideas in it and pondering their effects upon me.

The book is filled with dystopian visions. It's initial premise is about the demise of bees on Earth, and how that impacts humans. It's a dreadful vision (needless to say), and disturbing. It only makes me further believe that growing my own food, pesticide and herbicide free, is the way to go. Eating whole foods (not the grocery chain, the concept), treading lightly on the planet, and all that.

But more than that, it is about the disconnectedness of our society and how society is so plugged in to our videophones and iPods and computers and PDAs and video games and television and every other screen that we've become disconnected from each other, communicating in fragments and blips instead of in meaning or depth. It's about how we've become "Craigs" - people who shop and look a certain way but are lacking in depth as they pursue more, more, more. It's about how we prefer drugs to make us feel safe and secure, instead of making life changes. (Disclaimer: I take Lexapro, and as my attempts to wean have proven, I need it. I think that this is more about recreational drugs, not prescriptions for medical conditions. Thin line? You decide.)

Of all of this, the idea I keep coming back to is screen time. I have spent a lot of time on Facebook lately, reading little snippets of my friends' lives. On Facebook I have something like 260 friends, and yet many of my real life friends aren't on Facebook. As a matter of fact, if I ran into some of these Facebook friends on the street, I wouldn't recognize them. Do I even know 260 people?

Facebook isn't the culprit here - it's an interesting social tool, and it's been fun to reconnect with some people. I have an online breast cancer community, and I've learned more about them. It works for a lot of people.

But it doesn't work for me, I think.

I don't want to stay on top of 260 people's daily lives. I find it completely overwhelming, and it makes me want to shut down. Or, worse, it makes me feel like I've had social interactions, and then I don't have real interactions because I'm socialized-out. People have real tragedies, and reading about them draws me in, when I am helpless to do anything or I will become consumed by them. People have small complaints, people have minutia, people have silly joys. Me, too, by the way - I was updating regularly, so don't think that I'm excluding myself from any of this.

So, in my attempts to be mindful, and in my attempts to live consciously, I've dropped Facebook. My plan is to stay away from it for a month, and see where life takes me.

Today, life took me on a walk with Shep down to Lincoln Park. The weather is gray, but dry, and very pleasant. Shep and I both needed the exercise, so off we went.

And I left my iPod at home.

I love to listen to music, and I really enjoy podcasts. But when I'm outdoors, what would I have missed if I was plugged in? Lots of little visits with others and their dogs. More birdsongs than I can identify. The little lap, lap of the waves against the shore at high tide. The squishy sound of mud underfoot. And even my observances - instead of merely watching to make sure I didn't trip, I was really looking today - after all, what else did I have to do? I saw cormorants diving, a crow carrying something that looked too large for it to carry, crocuses (in January?!), and a sculpture of a heron about to take flight that I had never noticed before. Such small, small, small things. Nothing profound. It did not change my life, and I did not reach any brilliant conclusions about anything. I just know that it felt good, and it felt right, and I'd like more of it.

I'm unplugging more and more. I don't want to talk on my phone in the car - learning more about those dangers has me convinced. I don't want to spend my life staring at a little screen. (Irony: I'm typing on a little screen. Yes, I realize that. But it isn't that I don't EVER want to use a computer, just that I want to do it more judiciously.) I want to be outdoors more. I want more nature in my life. I want to think my own thoughts, instead of plugging in to someone elses. I want to read things that I have been carefully thought out instead of posted in a moment of "what the heck."

All this from a book. Aren't books dangerous? Ahhhh - that is my kind of danger.

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