Recently I have been contemplating on the importance of ‘unplugging’, the idea of loneliness in society and how we are all subjecting ourselves to it by succumbing to the attractive mobile devices in our hands. In numerous ways, technology has become our new best friend. No need for physical best friends anymore, no need for people with thoughts and ideas, no need for quality time and speech: because a single device grants you that.
I see the attraction of technology, I really do. Plugging in keeps me awake, interested and occupied. It’s productivity. You see, if you have a device in your possession, in a way, choosing not to use it is like making the choice to be lazy. I don’t want to be lazy, I want to get things done. And then there’s emotional engagement, the games and applications and chats and social networking sites, a single unlocking of the phone could bring you on a roller coaster of emotions– that’s human and it keeps me alive compared to staring blankly into space avoiding eye contact.
What I feel we fail to realise, or choose to ignore, is that by plugging in and by being fixated, we build invisible walls of defense around us in public and allow for no spontaneous interactions, and simultaneously, good bye social awareness and a physically connected society. At times I practise ‘unplugging’, I try to keep the device away because someone once told me that where you keep your senses open and listen or observe while in public, you learn more. You really do and you find space for yourself (metaphorically) because the device in reality, is a distraction. We just hope to think otherwise and convince ourselves it’s the opposite.
Meet Stand Up Stacey, SMRT and SBS Transit’s initiative imaginary figure to remind us to be thoughtful, considerate and aware of each other in public. With respect to these two companies, our attitude to them more often than not is one of underappreciation, and a lack of understanding; the exchange of remarks towards them is always about passing judgement about efficiency. But when initiatives like this come along (recall the one where they had posters saying ‘99% of people say they would move to the back of a bus, would you?’; how many of us really responded and appreciated their efforts of creating a more gracious society.
And the question I think, is- do we want to be a society that values efficiency over the most basic value of respect towards one another? Whatever our answer may be, it looks like we aren’t really trying to work to either; and just falling back and allowing developments to take over.
The Cambodia trip reminded me that while the developing countries have less, they constantly dream and aspire to think about what they want and how they want to contribute to society, whereas we in the developed countries are the ones thinking less or striving less, though we are in a much better position to be pushing our society beyond all talk and no action.
When I unplug these days, I feel lonely, so I put the earpieces back on.
I’m not sure if I’m the only one who feels this way, but just in case I’m not, I think I’m going to consistently unplug whenever I feel I’m up for it. We’ve got to start somewhere.