Smartphones are embedded in our daily life, they just are. Depending on where you live, it's almost a necessity. Everything becomes easier and more convenient with these little devices in our pocket.
Smartphones and screens of all kinds have completely transformed our lives and the way that we interact with each other. There are certainly upsides to this, but there are negatives as well. I looked at the ways that screens and smartphones are impacting our daily life and what we might be missing out in this highly technological time.
In our Social Interactions…
Do you need a date for Saturday night? Are you looking for a best friend? Maybe you want to hang out and meet a whole group of friends. Don't worry, there's an app for that.
In theory, these are great. They have the ability to connect people who might not normally cross paths. However, I believe that those we are meant to meet in this life will be brought to us somehow. The universe will find a way. I happened to meet my love (who is German) on the beaches of Indonesia, no app needed.
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can help us stay connected, and it is great if used in this way. However, there can be times when we allow a Facebook comment to take the place of a phone call. Social media should enhance our connections to each other, not take the place of real face to face encounters and further alienate us from each other.
In the Classroom…
Technology in the classroom is a tricky subject to tackle. There are certainly pros and cons to this. As an English teacher working in Asia, I have had some experience on both ends of the spectrum here.
In China, the training center I worked at was brand new with state of the art smartboards in every classroom. We had access to iPads for each student, and pretty much any resources requested were made available. It certainly made my job easy.
However, technology was used to always track the progress of the students and update the parents. Taking videos in the classroom was not only encouraged, but required. Constantly having a phone out recording photos and videos in the classroom are distracting to the kids and can be detrimental to their learning.
This year I have started a new position in Myanmar. It is at a very reputable school, but the resources and technology are much more limited. There are no smartboards or even video monitors in the classroom.
What I though would be an obstacle ended up motivating me. This lack of technology has been refreshing. While I admit it was a challenge at first, I am now grateful. I am forced to be creative and think outside the box. How can I do more with less?
In my opinion, my lessons have been even better and I've begun to blossom more as an educator. Meanwhile, the students get a break from being in front of a screen all the time.
In the last few years, I have done a lot of traveling. I made a conscious effort to step outside of my comfort zone, explore new places and even live in foreign countries. I have seen and experienced so many wonderful and unforgettable things; majestic mountains, incredible wildlife, and stunning sunsets.
Through all of my travels, there is one thing that I couldn't help but notice… cameras, selfies, and smartphones everywhere!
There was one particular instance that stuck with me the most. In China, I had climbed for 12 hours to reach the top of a sacred, Buddhist mountain. It was just before sunrise and there was a group of people gathered around looking onto the horizon.
As I was looking out waiting for the sun to rise, I saw a woman who was taking photos and selfies…the entire time! Throughout the whole sunrise, she didn't once put her phone down to watch the beautiful splendor with her own two eyes. Now, I am also to blame here because while I could have just ignored this, I found myself distracted as well.
Now, I'm not claiming that I am a tech-free person. I also like to capture moments. I too was snapping away with my camera, trying to capture this beautiful moment. There came a time though that I stopped to think about what I might be missing in the attempt to capture and remember.
Cameras will certainly be an integral part of your travel experience, but it shouldn't overtake your experience of the moment. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you to act more mindfully.
What is the reason for my photos?
Are you taking these photos to have as memories later, or are you using them to showcase your "fabulous" life on social media?
If you find it's the latter, consider this; living your life for other people will only make you unhappy. If you are constantly traveling to the hotspots to get that perfect Instagram shot, you may wake up one day to realize that none of those things were really you in the first place.
Most people however probably take vacation photos to document their trip so they can remember it months and years later. If this is the true motivation and reason behind all of these photos, perhaps there's a better way of achieving that goal. It takes mindfulness and work to stay present and fully experience life.
Instead of going someplace and immediately pulling out your camera, allow yourself to observe and experience the place and the feeling of being there. Once you've allowed yourself to be present, then take out your camera and capture what calls to you. I've found that this is how I've gotten some of my most memorable shots.
What will I remember most anyways?
If you're anything like me, it's the unplanned moments that end up being the most memorable. It's not those perfectly staged photos, it's the ones in between when life just happens. It's the small blunders, random encounters and happy surprises that comprise most of the things I remember most vividly.
It's swimming with glowing plankton under a blanket of stars in Cambodia. Or sleeping on the sand dunes in the Thar desert in India. It’s swimming through a pitch dark cave in the jungles of Vietnam. It's the angry bull that sideswiped me on the streets of India.
No photos or videos exist of these experiences, yet they exist in my mind most clearly. All of these experiences, both good and bad, are what comprise traveling and life in general.
Documenting your life can be great, to a degree. But if we are always trying to get the perfect photo of the flower, of us with the flower, deciding on a filter and adding it to our Instagram story, sometimes we completely forget to smell its sweet aroma.