By Duan Liu
Two seconds after I heard my 8 a.m. alarm, I jumped off my bed and turned off my phone. Even though I tried to do it as quickly as possible, I glimpsed the notifications from my different social media apps. But I would not check it now, not today.
I started my “Day Without Technology” in a remote lake house near Traverse City, Michigan during fall break. Sitting on the grass, I began my day with Douglas Rushkoff’s Present Shock, a book explains how our lifestyle, economy, and policy are changing because of the rapidly changing technology.
After reading the very opening, Rushkoff describes a lady in the book scrolling down her texts and uploading pictures in a bar, I instantly recalled my friend’s Facebook photos of a ferry party a few days ago. How could he enjoy the party while uploading more than 20 pictures with nice filter effects and captions? As technologies make sharing personal information so easily, it seems what we do is less and less important than what we expect others to know what we are doing. It is satisfying to us by uploading the pictures and seeing the numbers of “likes” increase on Facebook.
“Morning, are you doing some reading, too?” My friend interrupted my rambling thoughts and sat down next to me. He told me that he has a lot of readings to do for his coming history exam. Then, he turned to his laptop and logged onto his Twitter. Well, that’s usually the way I start my work, too.
At around 11:00 a.m., everybody in the house got up and we decided to get lunch in the nearest town and enjoy the autumn view of Route 31. We found a restaurant with good reviews on Yelp and located it by Google Map.
On our way to the restaurant, since I had no phone to play with, I started to see the view outside. The mountains appeared in different layers as the leaves started to change into different colors in the early autumn. The Michigan Lake expands till the end of the horizon, connected with the sky by grey blue clouds. I realized I’ve been so distracted by all the fancy things happening around me in New York that I did not pay attention to the details of nature in a long time. Without the interruption from all my electronic devices, I finally can fully appreciate this joyful moment of nature, but ironically, I wanted to share it on my Instagram.
I was quite surprised when the thought appeared in my mind: Who I want to share this moment with on Instagram? I don’t “follow” my family members and my best friends don’t really use the application. At this intimate moment, I wanted to share it with strangers instead of my true friends. It is just weird.
Am I one of those people who I just read about this morning? Since when did I gradually become so dependent on social media? I didn’t have time to really think about the question since I’ve been busy adapting to all the new apps. Yes, I feel great when my photos are “liked” on Instagram or Flicker. Meanwhile, I have a strange feeling that this way of being recognized and connected with my friends is not right. I don’t need to “tag” my friends in a photo to show how happy we are.
In the Present Shock, Rushkoff says that everything we shared online reflected and connected with something else. In this way, everyone can be connected with someone else. However, if I am connected with the whole world, what’s the meaning of those connections that I don’t even care about at all? In Rushkoff’s opinion, “[w]e’re back where we started. The ultimate complexity is just another entropy.” (Rushkoff, P199)
Maybe the whole chaos and confusions we created by ourselves are somewhat pointless. But I still feel relieved when I returned home and turned on my phone. I started to check my notifications one by one: my friends already tagged me in some of the photos we took today on Facebook, my Twitter was filled with completely new posts, several strangers liked the photos I posted last nights, I got several emails from my class and subscripted websites.
Now I can clearly see that some of the notifications were just the meaningless “entropy” Rushkoff mentioned. But I am still glad that I am back to the technology.