As communicating with people became more convenient with the help of technology, it actually made people feel more lonely. I picked that up somewhere I just don't remember where.
It is true though.
When I was in the states for almost half a year, my family and friends could easily contact me through variety of instant messaging medium. It was as if I never even left. There's iMessage, What's App, Viber, Voxer, Facebook, Skype, Twitter ... You would think that it would make me less melancholic, but it was otherwise.
Eventually, I grew sick of virtual communication and I wanted to socialize with people in person. The digital means of communication just highlighted the fact even more that I was very far away from the people I was so attached with, making me a lonely person in the other side of the world. (Not that I hated being in the states though, I just felt lonely at times).
So I put myself out there and tried to take advantage of being in the states and meeting people who I can physically interact with and it has even given me a lot of growth, may it be because of socially interacting with people of a different culture or may it be gaining new friends.
It came to a point that I told myself, when I get back to the Philippines I will detach myself with virtual communication and actually meet people in person if I wanted them to be updated with my life (and vice versa). Of course I already considered the fact that we cannot completely remove virtual communication in our present lifestyle, but I was determined to lessen it. It is still also more convenient for virtually communicating to those people who are geographically far away. But for those who I can afford to meet in person, I would rather meet up with them, no doubt about it.
I am no longer active in Facebook as I used to be (even if the Philippines has been named social networking capital of the world because it really is now PART of our culture). That is a very huge step already. A lot of my friends have told me to stop deactivating my facebook because I've gone missing. In the Philippines, everybody seems to have Facebook. And if you come across somebody who doesn't have Facebook, they'll be surprised and ask,"Why?".
Next, is my mobile phone. When I came back to the Philippines, I had to get myself another number. I left my iPhone in the states (don't ask why because it's a stupid story) and now, I am back to using a not so smart phone which solely provides a primary usage of merely texting and calling. I would buy myself a new iPhone, but then... it made me think that my life would be better if I didn't have 24/7 access to unlimited data anywhere. I still have my iPad but it's not 3G. I love my iPad because it really has been very helpful with school, work and travel. But to have an iPhone again... would give me access to 3G, and would succumb me to a temptation of being socially connected to the internet wherever I go and whatever I may be doing and be mentally absent to where my body is actually is.
I have regretted that during my first month in the United States when I had made a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends. While I was at this new friend's house, a friend gave me the wifi password and I ended up virtually talking to my other friends while being in this new friend's house. Later on, when circumstances did not give us another chance to hang out again, I regretted that I didn't grab the opportunity to actually get to know these new people when I had the chance. I was totally mentally ABSENT because I was virtually talking to people. From then on, I made it to the point to tell myself to live in the present and not to take the physical presence of people for granted.
I eventually grew the habit of not being attached to my cellphone. Which is why leaving my cellphone in the states did not need so much of an adjustment (but I am still devastated). And ever since I arrived here in the Philippines, I keep forgetting where I placed my phone. One time, my best friend picked me up and I realized I forgot my cellphone at home. And even after a few days, I had to tell her to call my phone because I cannot find it... only to remember I left it in my car.
My cellphone number was new, so roughly less than 15 people know about my new number. The only texts I annoyingly receive everyday was info texts from my network provider which is really SO ANNOYING. It has come back to a point where my cellphone's purpose is primarily for emergencies when I am outside the house. Ironically, I keep forgetting to bring it when I am outside.
I do not have a smart phone but it has given me much more freedom.
Last weekend, my high school friends and I went on an out of town trip. Every time I see one of them drowning their faces in their smart phones, I would make a remark "Why are you on your cellphone?!??". It may sound bitterness of not having a smart phone (maybe partially.. but no.. I really don't care anymore)... But I was merely trying to point out that we should have fun and enjoy the fact that we are physically together because it wasn't always that we had a chance to have a reunion like that.
Ah. the simple things.
Not having a smart phone did have it's benefits. And maybe, in the long run, I would be deserving of giving myself a new iPhone, just because I can be "responsible" enough to use it only when it is appropriate and necessary.
I would always go back to that memory of losing the opportunity to gain awesome new friends because of being mentally absent.
When I told another friend about my attempts to digitally unplug myself in virtual communication, she said that it was a good idea. She said that probably the reason why she and her boyfriend are becoming so distant with each other is because they spend too much time talking virtually that barely there is a reason to meet (add the fact that instant messaging can lead to a lot of miscommunication). But if there was less virtual communication, people would actually make time to meet somebody up even for just a quick coffee.
Face-to-Face interactions still make a huge difference.
I remember the first time I met with my best friend, a day after I arrived in the Philippines.
She went to my house at 9:00pm and we were talking for hours until 1:30am, on a weekday! (which means she had to go to work the next day). We kept talking for hours and I was so overwhelmed that I could express myself with hand gestures and facial expressions. Nothing that instant messaging and emoticons could ever justify.
There's an iOS application that I discovered over 3 years ago called POSTAGRAM and it allows users to turn photos into postcards and send it to friends via post-mail. Every time my friends would receive my postcards they would be delighted! Nobody gets real mail nowadays... if it isn't bills or junk mail that is.
Digital Age has pros and cons, and it really does depend on how we make use of it.
Either we control our digital usage and decide how we use it, or it will control us.
I am glad that I was able to experience the feeling of being lonely and realizing that talking to people virtually really sucks. Because it made me change my perspective of how I want to run my life. For a moment there, technology almost dictated my life, but no... I am still HUMAN!! with a FREE WILL.
I DON'T WANT TO BE A ROBOT.
*EDCMOOC stands for E-learning & Digital Cultures Massive Open Online Course provided by Coursera