Dec. 21, 2012: Slow down, unplug — and reconnect with others, by Siri McGuire

December 21, 2012 by

Siri McGuire is surrounded by the children of her host family during a five-week visit last year in the village of Stahabu, Tanzania, where she taught in a local school.

We live in an age of unprecedented connectivity. Cell phones, televisions and computers make communicating with others possible within seconds, even with those on the other side of the globe. Though living in such a technologically centered age certainly has its benefits, the value of shutting down the computer and turning off a cell phone in favor of developing substantive relationships with those around us has been lost.

To nurture healthy relationships with those we love and other members of our community, it is essential to know when to power down.

The scene is familiar to us all: We’re having dinner out with friends and family and there’s some sort of technological disruption. The culprit here is most commonly cell phone use, where the buzzing temptation of a new text message is, often times, too much to resist. Removing yourself from the conversation in front of you to focus on the new message not only disrupts the feeling of personal connectivity and engagement with the people around you, but it also removes you from the present moment.

While yielding to such a temptation may boost your technological communication skills, it does nothing to improve the quality of conversation you are having with those around you. It’s hard to feel connected with somebody who is alternating between looking at her phone, computer or television and talking to you.

Taking time off from technology gives us the opportunity to focus in on the present moment and the people around us.  Getting away from the constant noise and distraction of technology gives us the chance to reconnect with loved ones, with nature and with ourselves. It gives us the chance to focus on the things that matter in life that occur in the present, like family and community.

Technology has its place, and the mere invention of new phones or gadgets should not cause despair. The pieces of technology themselves are not at fault; rather, individuals who make the technology more important than capitalizing on opportunities to connect with others are at fault.

Nor is all technology use bad, but like all else, too much of it inhibits growth by distracting us from what’s really important.

So try powering down, even if you are skeptical. You might discover that by finding times to disconnect technologically, you can reconnect interpersonally.

— Siri McGuire is a senior at Concordia High School and the president of the high school’s Friends of Rachel chapter. She is the daughter of Anne and Bill McGuire.




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