I love walking into the wind. I have an image of a man in a suit leaning forward mid step, pulling an umbrella that has turned inside out. He pushes forward, holding onto his hat. I think about that image a lot when it’s windy and consider perseverance. When I lived on the Big Island we stayed in a tent on my boyfriend’s parents’ undeveloped property, in Puako. There was a shed with a weather station and little vane that would spin violently. At night, I thought for sure the ocean was coming right over us and going to sweep us away. When the weather station said the wind was 30mph I felt I could lean my whole body into it. With all my might, I would push forward, like the man with the umbrella. That was me outside moments ago. If I had had my phone I would have looked up the weather to see how hard it was blowing but I left it home on purpose.
In the beginning, I was sure there was no way this cell phone thing would catch on. I made fun of my sister when she got one. She’s ten years older than me and we didn’t grow up together. She is my mother’s ex-boyfriend’s daughter. We lived with her and her dad when I was one for about a year. I was a teenager when the super cool people started getting phones.
“That’s so stupid!” I snorted. “Who would ever want to carry a phone around?” I rolled my eyes and silenced my beeper, successfully ignoring my mother’s second 911 message.
For years I shook my head at all the idiots and held out. I had no idea what I was in for. Then in my early thirties, I got my first smart phone. I felt like I won. I could google any answer I needed and my dad couldn’t make fun of me anymore for not knowing anything. Technology makes me more knowledgeable and feel smarter, no question. My concerns lie elsewhere.
I worked with a second grader who said when he grew up he was going to call the owner of Facebook and tell him Facebook ruined his life. He said his mom caught his dad talking to other ladies on Facebook and now his dad is gone. A fourth grader had a similar story and now it is hard to think of one broken family I learned of through work where social media had nothing to do with it. When I worked with teenagers seven years ago, cyber bullying was the norm. I knew girls to literally tear each other’s hair out and open their skin with razor blades over who called who a slut on social media. Sure, fighting and cutting was happening long before the internet but now hateful sentiments can be omniscient for those who have no interest in putting down their phones. I worry for the state of our relationships as humans when I see grade schoolers smuggling their smart phones into school.
On the other hand, many adults I meet love the convenience of sharing their lives with everyone they know. Still, nobody wants to be judged harshly, or feel like an outsider. We all crave quality connection. So, like ads in magazines promising beauty and joy, many market themselves online boasting adventures and proving they have friends. I wonder if older adults may have an advantage because they have pre-internet experience of forming close relationships.
I was watching a tribute to the Queen on Netflix. Generations of the royal family have taken videos over the years playing outdoors. Now, one could question what their connection would be like if the camera wasn’t rolling but the point was this: Playing outdoors together is good for us, a tried and true way to relate to each other. With all the advancements helping us stay in touch, our connection to ourselves and others has suffered. I think it is good to leave the phone at home, to resist the force of our changing climate and push forward toward more meaningful connections and experience.
Meira Petersen is a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LPCC). Meira received her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Southwestern College in Santa Fe, NM.