Electronic vs. Non-Electronic Space: How Balanced Is Yours?

I love the convenience of my electronic devices. All of them. From the smart phone to the laptop
devicesto the Kindle, they connect me to events and people around the world. Think of all we can do without leaving home or having live contact with another person: sofa-lize with “friends” through Facebook; look up recipes; download books by the hundreds; watch movies, refill prescriptions, and shop, shop, shop. I could go on and on.

But a nagging thought I have is I’m a fool to believe electronic devices expand my world when in fact they actually shrink it. The Technology Wonders lure me away from social connections that aren’t separated by a screen and make it all too easy to become an island in the wonderful sea of humanity that surrounds me. With a little tweak to the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock,” the tune could easily be my theme song if I’m not careful to balance my electronic connections with my face-to-face ones.

I have my e-books
And my iTunes to protect me;
I am shielded with my smart phone
Hiding in my armor, safe within my world.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock;
I am an island.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. I shared my concern with a friend who’d recently moved to a large city after her husband changed jobs. Other than her spouse, she knew no one in her new fast-paced setting. To survive, she had to find her way around. Her solution was to turn to Google searches and the subway maps available online. Her dependence on electronic devices grew, and they also made her feel less alone in a city of strangers. But she soon realized she was very alone. She knew she could survive her new digs by sticking to technology, but she’d never thrive. To meet new people and make friends, she couldn’t continue to hide in the safety of an electronic world. She set a goal to connect with a stranger every day. Sometimes you get back more than you expect. Here’s her story:

I pushed my way through the turnstile and rushed onto the Metro. All the seats were taken, so I grabbed an overhead strap and hung on. Mentally, I urged the subway to get going. At the first stop, a lanky, young man strolled on and stood in place near me, his white Polo casually untucked over soft, baggy jeans. He wore the requisite book bag of a student on his back and clutched a bouquet of hopeful daisies in one hand.

Ah, young love. I forgot my hurried state of mind for a moment and paid attention, thinking of the lucky girl. I turned toward the young man and flashed my wise-woman-of-the-world smile and said, “They’re beautiful,” eyeing the white flowers in his hand.

He grinned in agreement, displaying a faint light of excitement in his Sugar Baby brown eyes.

Then I retreated, feeling good about meeing my quota of human connections for the day. I pulled out my security blanket of choice, my iPod, and connected with Norah Jones as she sang soulfully through my earbuds. Finally it was my stop. As I inched toward the door, I made eye contact with my young man and waved goodbye. Without a word, he pulled a single flower from his bouquet and presented it to me.

I smiled all the way up the elevator ride to my apartment—the first time that’s happened since I moved.

My friend’s simple act of kindness cost her nothing but a little attention and a few words to a stranger. Yet, she ended up with a feel-good glow that changed her approach in her new surroundings. After that, she rarely used electronic devices in public. It was much more rewarding to live in the moment, to notice what and who was around her, to ask a stranger for directions. In other words, to thrive, not merely survive. I’m sure we’ve all heard the news about the significance of social connections to good physical and mental health. That makes it even more important to put away the tools, get out of our comfort zones, and reach out to others.

I decided to take a page from my friend. I still love my devices and the ease they bring to my life. To succeed in today’s world, I have to connect electronically. But just as necessary is the need to invite some non-electronic space into my life. I make more time for face-to-face connections with family, friends, and strangers. It requires a little effort to balance it all. Like riding a bike, it can be a tricky act. But it’s one that’s oh so worth it.

How do you carve out non-electronic space in your life?

 

10 thoughts on “Electronic vs. Non-Electronic Space: How Balanced Is Yours?

  1. candidness Post author

    DB
    September 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm
    Ah, this is timely …. I am considering a break from Facebook and checking email from my phone. Baby steps… 🙂 I’m inspired now to engage in real life. In my community — more often. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. candidness Post author

    Tiffany Kane
    September 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm
    I have found that I have to give myself a time limit. It is too easy to get sucked in to all there is to see and comment on in social media. And at the same some of the connections I make on social media are really important to me so I do not want to ignore them completely. It is about creating a balance for sure.

    Reply
  3. candidness Post author

    Llinos (@afterillness)
    September 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm
    Non-electronic time for me is creative time – cooking, baking, painting…

    Reply
  4. candidness Post author

    Chara
    September 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm
    Yes, this is so very important, in my view. Equally important is to replace some of the technology time with time outdoors! (And I love your friend’s story about receiving the flower!)

    Reply ↓

    Reply
  5. candidness Post author

    Debra Reble
    September 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm
    Beautifully written Candi and so inspiring. I take technology breaks from everything at once to give me the time to connect within myself. Hugs

    Reply
  6. candidness Post author

    Peggy
    September 3, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    Hi Candi,

    Your post is such a great reminder for me. While I was on vacation, my connected time was greatly reduced – I was not going to pay through the nose for data charges being out of the country, so I was limited to free wi-fi spots to check email, which I pretty much didn’t, and to upload at least one photo a day from my trip. Again, the one photo a day didn’t happen every day either. It was a nice vacation from the technology. And I enjoyed the experience and the people, and my family all the more!!

    Reply
  7. candidness Post author

    debraoaklandd
    September 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm
    Candi, I agree that there needs to be a balance. I see people get lost in technology. Being online myself a good part of the day has connected me with people around the world who have become some of my closest friends. We connect via Google Hangouts, Skype and phone and when possible in person. That being said, spending time with your family, friends and community keeps things balanced beautifully. You can’t say enough about a smile and a great hug person to person!

    Reply
  8. candidness Post author

    Laurie Seymour
    September 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm
    Candi–I am most reminded of my time out of country when my electronic time is naturally limited. There is so much time for discovery and adventure! Your post will be a reminder to me to bring that more into life at home.

    Reply
  9. candidness Post author

    Sheila
    September 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm
    Love this post, Candi. You told the story in such a compelling way and your friend’s story was absolutely perfect. Thank you for the inspiration to actually interact with those outside my immediate circle. 🙂

    Reply
  10. candidness Post author

    debbie
    September 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm
    Well written, and a good time for me to read this. I have been in a new city/state only a week, and am trying to have the human contact every day.Love the story about the flower, shows what a smile and comment can do.

    Reply

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