I always get a chuckle when I hear talk of the impending Zombie Apocalypse. Although… as I am composing this I am aware of how hyper-focused I am on writing this article and feeling the pressures of completing it on-time for the newspaper’s deadline. I am dead to the world right now. Somewhere off in the murky distance of my peripheral mind, I vaguely remember that my best friend was just sitting next to me. I think that she was talking to me. I am not sure how long ago she left or what it was that I had agreed to. As I take a break from writing and look around me to see where she went, I see a coffee shop full of smartphone, tablets and computer users. Each one as clueless to the world around them or the company in front of them as I just was. The apocalypse has arrived. We are the zombies. 😉
My good friend Wayne used to tease me about my addiction to my “devil machines” (only he purposely pronounces it debil). I never drive and use my smartphone, but I am horrible about meeting him for coffee only to spend the majority of the time answering texts and emails. Like a true zombie, I have not changed my behavior. Instead, he is infected too and now he has joined me as one of the living dead. He snapchats, tweets and Instagrams with a vengeance. Our coffee get togethers have turned into “quality time” of ignoring each other with our heads buried in our “debil machines.”
Wayne’s life has recently taken him home to Pennsylvania, and in June I drove cross country with him to help with the move. As we began our trip, I was all set with my mobile office. Thanks to my smartphone, I can create a wifi hotspot anywhere. I didn’t have to take a week off from work to make the trip, I could do both. Fortunately, I had an epiphany a few hours into our 3,328 mile trek. I had my head buried in my computer and was missing out on a long time dream of making a cross country road trip. I was missing the beautiful scenery all around me. More importantly, I was missing out on the limited time I had left with my dear friend. I shut the mobile office down and enjoyed a once in a life time adventure. I will never forget our mellow dramatic reenactment of Thelma and Louise, holding hands screaming as the highway we were on changed without warning to a gravel road with switchbacks.
Our brain’s amazing ability to multitask and the convenience of smartphones make it easy to stay “connected” anywhere, anytime. However, this leads to the question, are we using our talents and technology responsibly?
WWU professor, Dr. Hyman, offers a very interesting correlation between cell phone related accidents and inattentional blindness. You can view his presentation on line at http://youtu.be/QLgmbPsr1RM. He explains that yes, we are capable of multitasking, but this leads to not fully registering what is happening right in front of us. I am sure that many of you have seen the headlines of the sometimes funny and other times tragic examples of cell phone related accidents.
How much of my life I am a zombie going through the motions, being productive, but not actually living? What am I missing? Through his driving simulator and cell phone usage studies at the University of Utah, David Strayer points out how participants in his study are completely unaware of their unawareness. They think that while multitasking and using their cell phones, they are paying attention to what is going on around them, but it is only an “illusion of awareness.”
I know for myself, that when I am present; colors are more vibrant. I see things with crispness and clarity and I am more aware of my surroundings. Even food tastes better. I don’t know how many times while eating and working I have eaten my entire meal without tasting a single bite. Dr. Oz in his book, You on a Diet explains that if we are not consciously eating our food our brain thinks that we have not eaten enough and can lead to over eating.
I am certainly not advocating a boycott on technology, only encouraging the question of balance. I am thankful that modern technology allows Wayne and I to be in contact at any moment and I look forward to his electronic commentary on life. He is hilarious and his snapchats are always good for a full belly laugh. Instead, I encourage you to ask yourself the questions; am I enjoying life, am I savoring each moment or am I moving through life half asleep; a member of the living dead?
To check if I am maintaining balance I ask myself, ‘Am I using the technology as a useful tool or am I being a tool?”
Have you seen this video, Look Up”? It is worth a look. http://youtu.be/Z7dLU6fk9QY