By Jeremy Unger
It’s fair to say that most people in their twenties still remembers when their parents told them, “Stop watching TV. It rots your brain.” But today technology isn’t just in our living rooms, it’s everywhere, and that means it is much harder to escape than by just turning off the remote. My generation lived through the tech revolution; we saw the first computers, cell phones, and video games enter our homes. I didn’t even get my own cell phone until halfway through high school. Now when you see seven-year-olds walking around with iPhones, its clear that technology has permeated every facet of society. While technology is great in making our lives easier and helping us stay connected around the world, it also is a curse, an addiction. And living in New York City makes this connection even more difficult to break since the city is so fast-paced and lively.
But last weekend, as I left the city for a water polo tournament in Utica, I decided to leave behind all technology; my phone, my computer, everything. I told my teammates not to watch TV while I was in the room, and I brought along books to entertain myself in between games. And the experience was refreshing; once the veil of technology was removed I was able to see the small things in that exist in the world. I noticed the leaves, which were changing into those beautiful oranges and reds of fall, and the manufacturing plants long abandoned in Rust Belt towns we passed on the freeway.
Then I noticed the different ways in which I interacted with people. All around me my friends would pull out their cell phones when they were talking to me. It’s almost become nonchalant to pull out your phone and check your texts or Facebook in the middle of a conversation or at the dinner table. And no one does this because they are trying to be rude. We do this because we have become conditioned to fear those awkward moments of silence, when we might actually be alone, and we escape into the connected world of technology to avoid this loneliness.
All of these observations also helped me understand why I love sports so much, and why I was taking this trip to the middle of nowhere New York. It is because sport, for myself and for many others, is my avenue for escape from my daily routine, which obviously includes technology use. And as my water polo season comes to an end, I worry about finding some other way to escape from technology. Because in that moment, when you are focused solely on maximizing your body’s effectiveness, everything else washes away, and that feeling is too important to me to let it slip away. Whether I swim, run, or do something completely different, I know I’ll figure it out, because we all need an escape from this constant tech connection.
When we finally returned home Monday, the sun was setting on the Manhattan skyline, and although I was happy to be back in the city and back with technology, I felt like I was going back to a world filled with distraction. That time in Utica felt like recharge time for my inner battery, helping me prepare to jump back into that world of constant technology.
I now think that our parents were right when they told us turn off the TV; we all need a break from technology in order to see the life that exists out there, the life right in front of our eyes. That break, more than any piece of technology, is what reminds us all that we are alive.